Ayr United Under-20s won a 5-3 thriller against Clyde at Somerset Park to gain their first Development League West victory of the season.
Ayr started with purpose. James Hilton saw a shot on the edge of the box saved on five minutes and seconds later looked set to tap in David Waite’s cross, but failed to get the telling touch when sliding in at the back post. There was a scare on 14 minutes when Ellis Reid sprinted off his line sharply to get a crucial touch of the ball at the Clyde striker’s feet. It proved an important intervention as Ayr took the lead two minutes later.
James Hilton’s swirling corner from the right side was chested down by Scott Granger. The centre-half miscued his shot but it didn’t matter as it bobbled into the bottom right-corner of the net to give Ayr the lead.
The visitors almost levelled immediately when Ayr were caught out by a long ball but Reid stood tall and stuck out a leg to make a great save.
United doubled their lead on 21 minutes. A Jamie Ballantyne clearance was flicked on by Jamie Martin to Hilton, the striker slipped an exquisite reverse pass back through for Martin to race on to and power a cool finish beyond the Clyde keeper from eight yards out.
Ayr appeared to be in complete control. Stuart Faulds, Martin and Hilton all tried their luck from distance and the latter had a goal ruled out for handball when he smashed the ball in from six yards out.
Another goal would surely have put Clyde to the sword but the Bully Wee halved the deficit on 38 minutes. Clyde burst clear down the right and the offside flag stayed down. The cross was perfect for the forward to head home from six yards out.
Hilton tested the Clyde keeper again just before the break but a dominant United would go in at half-time 2-1. It was a setback that hit the confidence of United. On 50 minutes, Clyde levelled. A cross from the left looped into the net to shell-shock the hosts.
Finn Ecrepont bulleted a header wide from a Luke McCowan free-kick and Kieran Balfour saw a goal-bound effort cleared as United looked to respond but there was familiar frustration when Clyde completed the comeback.
A simple long ball saw Clyde race through on goal and tuck the ball past Reid to lead 3-2 after 62 minutes.
Ayr fought back and Murphy lashed home an 18-yard drive with his right foot after fine wing play from the left, cutting in and poking the ball into the far corner.
The quick reply energised Ayr and Clyde’s No 6 took offence to a Balfour challenge on the centre circle. The referee gave no foul and the Clyde player saw red for hitting out.
Ayr utilised their man advantage to control the final 20 minutes of the game.
Mark McKenzie knocked the ball down for Murphy, who put on the afterburners to charge clean through. He was denied by an excellent save on 72 minutes after waltzing clear of three defenders. Nathan Baird had to be alert on the six-yard box and hacked the ball clear on 76 minutes when Clyde offered Ayr a reminder of their threat on the break.
However, two minutes later, Ayr regained the lead.
The tireless Martin chased a lost cause and forced an error on the bye-line from Clyde’s full-back. His low cross was dummied by Murphy to allow McCowan to crash a cool side-footed finish into the net from 16 yards out.
It was another classy goal and Ayr could finally breathe easy on 85 minutes when substitute Maclean Simpson struck home a fifth to seal a thrilling victory.
Before that, Martin hit the post from the edge of the box and the 20s showed determination to get their first win of the season.
David White said: ‘I’m delighted for the players to get the win. It just seems that we need to score three, four or five goals to get it. It was a good game for us. We were dominant and we had to show resilience to win in the end. It was a hard-fought three points. In a weird sense, it was a good win for us.
‘We are showing signs of character and we’ve been getting there after a tough start. We managed the game really well in the final 20 minutes when they went down to 10-men. We were able to take control, keep our discipline and go on to win.’
Ayr’s attacking game was on point with five different scorers chipping in for all the goals, with Jamie Martin impressing. A fact not lost on White.
‘Jamie has been absolutely fantastic. His energy and attitude is excellent and he has impressed with Annbank. If anything, sometimes he does too much but that’s because he’s enjoying his football and is enthusiastic.
‘It’s also brilliant to see so many different goalscorers. We commented on that in the changing room. They were all great goals, too. We need to sharpen up defensively but some of the goals were fantastic.’
‘They have a wee bit of buzz about them now. So, hopefully we can take that momentum to Albion Rovers on Monday night.’
Reid; Waite, S Granger, Ecrepont (Baird 63), Ballantyne; Faulds, Balfour; Martin (Simpson 83), McCowan, Murphy; Hilton (McKenzie 45). Subs not used: Brotherston, Sherrie, Millarvie.
Reporter: Calum McClurkin