Ayr United 18s kicked off the new season on Friday evening at the excellent Cumnock Juniors Astro Pitch.
Following a testing 6 week pre-season programme Ayr were ready for their first league game but knew visitors Greenock Morton would provide a stern test.
The match kicked off in near perfect conditions but the first 45 minutes was to prove a real physical test for both sides as they battled hard to get the upper hand. There was no time on the ball for anyone as both teams pressed hard whenever out of possession. Ayr started brightly with front players, Nathan McSkeane, Kaylum Ferguson and Joy Goma causing the Morton rearguard problems.
With 20 minutes gone a good run from Goma on the left hand side nearly unlocked the door. However 2 minutes later Morton’s no 6 appeared fortunate to stay on the pitch for a robust tackle on Goma which left him in a heap. Only a yellow card on this occasion which was to became a theme as the referee worked hard to keep control of the game. Not an easy task given he had no assistants on the night. With tackles flying in and no quarter given there were very few passages of play from either side. Both teams fought hard for ascendancy in midfield but the closest either team got to a goal came from either free kicks or corners.
Half Time : Ayr United 0 Greenock Morton 0.
Ayr started the second half much better then the first period and started to play more in the opposition half. Ferguson and McSkeane were linking up well and with Joy Goma’s pace on the left unsettling the away side’s defence.
As the first ten minutes of the half sped past Ayr continued to knock on the door and eventually made the all important breakthrough.
Good build up play from Ayr saw the ball worked out left where full back Kinlay Bilham produced a terrific first time cross which Kaylum Ferguson controlled and then finished well from eight yards out.
With their noses in front Ayr may have thought the game was turning their way but Morton had other ideas and levelled within 4 minutes of going behind.
A corner kick was headed out by Ayr’s central defender but sat up nicely for a Morton midfielder to hit the ball sweetly past Ayr keeper Danny Graham from 20 yards out.
All square again with the game right in the balance. Ayr replaced tiring midfielder Joe Barker with Robbie Laurie to inject more energy in the middle of the park.
Ayr again took some control of proceedings and in the 68th minute got their noses in front. It was that man Ferguson again who this time provided the assist. Good link up play with co-striker Nathan McSkeane saw Ferguson force his way to the byeline and his cut back was met by Joy Goma who finished from close in.
However, the away side introduced a wide player with real pace and in 75 minutes he evade a couple of challenges only to see his fierce shot from outside the box came back off the far post to safety.
Ayr then replaced injured full back Kinlay Bilham with David Oliphant to tighten up on their left side.
With 10 minutes remaining Ferguson nearly put the game out of Morton’s reach.
An audacious chip over the keeper’s head was equalled only by a superb fingertip save over his crossbar for a corner.
Ayr replaced goal scorer Joy Goma for the remaining minutes in order to see the game out. When the referee blew for full time Ayr had secured all 3 points in a hard fought encounter with a good Morton side. The referee should be complimented for keeping all 22 players on the pitch although the yellow card count only just fell short of double figures!
Full Time : Ayr United 2 Greenock Morton 1.
Head Coach John Crawford was understandably delighted with the result and the gritty performance from his team. Crawford said, ‘This was a very well earned 3 points from a difficult first game which saw every player fight his corner well. Crawford added, ‘I am delighted for the players tonight as we have had a great pre-season. The team spirit is high and we came through as a group to win 3 valuable points.’ We are on the road next week away to St Johnstone and more of the same will be required if we are to return with full points.’
Ayr United :
Graham, Moffat, Richardson, Love, Bilham,
Griffiths, Heaney, Barker, Ferguson, McSkeane, Goma.
Subs : Smith, Laurie, Frew, Angus, Brown, Oliphant, Burns.