Dingwall in their furthest away fixture of the season
Ayr set off early on Tuesday morning to take on Ross County at The Highland Academy, Dingwall in their furthest away fixture of the season.
Some of Ayr’s players leaving places like Dumfries, Largs etc at 5.30am which meant an extremely long day for the Honest Men.
On arrival the Ayr men had a good warm up and were ready to go.
Ayr were however to find the first 45 minutes of this game a very real test!
The pre-match reports on their opponents had predicted Ayr would face a ‘very direct’ style of play, back to front with quick pressing and a strong, physical presence to their game.
With the wind in their faces Ayr were pinned back from early in the game and had to fight hard to keep their goal intact.
The away side were however largely lethargic throughout the first half and failed to win enough first and second balls against their opponents.
Trialist goalkeeper Laughlan’s Kirkland made a smart save with his feet in the opening minutes and was to go on and have a fine game.
County were mounting wave after wave of attacks and on 14 minutes there were fortunately no takers as a ball from Ayr’s left hand side fizzed across their 6 yard box.
However, Ayr were not out of the contest and always carried a threat on the counter. Joy Goma did well to get to the bye line but was just thwarted by force of numbers. Next up, the County No 9 had a decent opportunity but placed his shot past the post.
Then Ayr suffered a blow when centre back Hamish Brown went down injured after 25 minutes and was replaced by Blair Richardson, just returning from suspension. Just as the change was made the hosts went very close to going ahead. Again their big striker should this time have scored when he got in too easily behind the Ayr back four only to pull his shot wide of the far post.
Owen McGinty was however causing the home defenders numerous problems with his eager and unselfish running. When brought down for the third occasion a free kick was awarded. McGinty fired in his shot which was partially blocked by the home keeper but as the ball rebounded Blair Richardson just failed to get the touch which would have counted some four yards out.
However, a goal had been threatening to come for some time and it duly arrived in 32 minutes.
A simple ball from just inside the Ross County half saw their striker in behind the Ayr defence and as the ball bounced near the edge of the 18 yard line his header just evaded Ayr keeper Kirkland to bounce into the net.
County nearly scored a second goal minutes later when a wind assisted shot from their No 8 moved in the air but was superbly parried by keeper Kirkland who kept his team in the game.
A moment of some concern for Ayr when winger Joy Goma went down under a robust challenge from behind but after some treatment was able to carry on. However, Ayr managed to limit their opponents to a single goal as the interval duly arrived.
This was mainly down to some fine goalkeeping by keeper Kirkland and some profligacy by their opponents in front of goal.
Half Time : Ross County 1 Ayr United 0
The half time break proved to be a ‘lively affair’ and the Ayr players went out for the second half with a renewed determination.
However, before the Ayr men could get going they had keeper Laughlan Kirkland to thank once again when he made a great block when left 1-1 with a County player.
That was to be the last real threat of any note from the home side for the majority of the second half as Ayr produced their best performance for many weeks.
The good passing movements that had been absent during the first half suddenly began to appear as the Honest Men relentlessly pulled their opponents all over the pitch.
Owen McGinty was instrumental in nearly every forward move and was fouled on numerous occasions as the County team struggled to contain the wee striker. As Ayr applied the pressure Joy Goma began to also have an influence on the left with Danny Wamuziri also on the right.
The Ayr movement off the ball and quick passing began to create chances.
A corner to Ayr was narrowly missed by central defender Ross Love who just failed to make contact.
Owen McGinty continued to lead defenders a ‘merry dance’ with his dribbling skills and continually made runs into the County last third of the pitch. An Ayr equaliser was on the cards and on 63 minutes it duly arrived. Another terrific run by McGinty down the left side saw him go past three defenders and when his cut back from the bye line arrived at Kaylum Ferguson’s feet the midfielder picked his spot and the scores were suddenly level.
Quite how the County goal remained intact under continued constant Ayr pressure was hard to believe. A good passage of play involving Wamuziri, McGinty and Goma saw the latter’s shot just kept out by the home keeper.
Another powerful run from Goma going past a number of players saw him cut inside and unleash a fierce shot which cannoned off a defender with the keeper looking well beaten.
Ayr replaced Wamuziri with Paul Smith and Kinlay Bilham with Lewis Nohar as the one way procession to the County goal continued.
When Owen McGinty was again brought down by a County defender a free kick in a central area some 22 yards from goal was awarded. Up stepped McGinty to send a powerful dipping shot which beat the keeper all ends up but unluckily crashed back off the crossbar.
Ayr made their final change of the afternoon replacing Joe Barker with promising midfielder Ryan Hannah. Chances and half chances continued to come and go for the Honest Men and on at least two occasions only a touch needed to put Ayr in front. As the game entered the 90th minute the home side incredibly managed a winning goal out of nowhere.
There appeared little threat when Ayr played the ball forward into the right channel but failure to hold the ball in saw another long ball played forward by the County left back.
As the ball arrived just outside the United 18 yard line for perhaps the only time in the second half Ayr’s central defenders looked too far apart.
Ayr defender Ross Love in attempting to cover the ground lunged into the tackle and the County midfielder went down.
A free kick certainly and one that was unfortunately to prove costly. Ayr’s four man wall jumped as the kick was taken and fortuitously for the home team diverted off the underside of a defender’s boot and straight to the feet of their midfielder.
A relatively simple task to knock the ball home from close in put the hosts in front. There was hardly time to re-centre the ball when the referee blew his whistle for full time.
Final Score : Ross County 2 Ayr United 1
Manager John Crawford was hugely disappointed for his players who on their second half performance more than deserved something from the game. Crawford said, ‘A poor performance from us in the first half could on another day have seen us at least a couple of goals behind at half time. However, the second half was night and day as we produced our best football for quite some time but failed to get what would have been an all important second goal. The disappointment is more about our game management and not seeing the game out as opposed to how we performed second half. You make sure you come away with at least a point and today was a huge learning curve for the players going forward’.
Ayr United : Kirkland, Moffat, Brown, Love, Bilham, Griffiths, Barker, Wamuziri, Ferguson, Goma, McGinty.
Subs : Smith, Nohar, Richardson, Hannah.