Ayr18’s determined to get ‘back on the rails’ against St Johnstone
After a disappointing performance the previous week Ayr were determined to get ‘back on the rails’ when they welcomed Premier League rivals St Johnstone to Townhead Park, Cumnock.
The previous match had produced an exciting 2-2 draw earlier in the season and this one certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of action or goals.
In fact Ayr were to produce their best 40 minutes for some time in the first half with the story of the missing 5 minutes to follow!
The home team started quickly playing with a high press and fast tempo which was to pay dividends in the 2nd minute of the game.
Ayr won the ball back well up the pitch and as Owen McGinty flew past the Saints No 2 he was brought down unceramoniously. The referee pointed to the spot and skipper Ross Love stepped up to slam the ball past the keeper and put his side a goal to the good.
It does somewhat prove the point it is actually worth practising penalties at training!
As Ayr pushed forward yet again Andrew Heaney picked the ball up some 30 yards from goal and drove towards the away side’s penalty box. Heaney fairly let fly from some 22 yards out and the ball beat the despairing fingertips of the keeper to nestle in the right hand corner of the net.
Ayr 2 goals to the good with 25 minutes played were dominant in terms of possession of the ball but the next 15 minutes levelled itself out as the away team settled down.
However, it was to be Ayr who further extended their lead in 40 minutes when Owen McGinty stepped up to rifle a free kick from twenty five yards out into the postage stamp. A superb strike and ‘a goal fit to win any game!’
The above was to prove a prophetic statement as things turned out.
With 43 minutes of the half gone Ayr’s game management let them down when they most needed it.,Whether down to concentration lapses or some complacency the away side proceeded to score twice in 2 minutes to reduce the leeway to a single goal at the interval!
Firstly a slip by an Ayr defender out wide allowed the cross to come in and it was fairly tucked past Ayr keeper Graham who had no chance. A minute later a replica of the first goal when a Saints player again evaded a challenge out wide and his cross was again met by the away team’s No 9 to make the half time score much closer tha it should have been.
In the 50th minute Ayr keeper Graham made a superb one handed save to parry a goal bound shot and the follow up fortunately saw the ball then crash off the far post to safety.
The second half saw the intensity of the game increase as individual duels took place all over the pitch. The match referee did extremely well to maintain control as on occasion tempers became frayed.
Ayr then replaced wide man Logan Angus with striker Nathan McSkeane as they looked to add to their lead.
This very nearly paid dividends on 75 minutes when after good work from McGinty on the right saw his front post cross narrowly missed by McSkeane as a defender made a ‘last ditch tackle’ to concede the corner kick.
With 12 minutes left St Johnstone were reduced to 10 men when their centre back was late with a tackle on Andrew Heaney and paid the price as the red card was produced.
Ayr then replaced Paul Smith with Hamish Brown as they stiffened up the midfield area to see the game out.
With the high number of stoppages for injuries and substitutions the referee added on an extra 10 minutes over the normal 90 but there was no further scoring and Ayr emerged with a valuable 3 points after a very hard fought encounter.