The draw for the 2nd round of the Scottish Youth Cup Cup daw saw two championship under 18 sides squaring up at Townhead Park on Friday evening.
With two home defeats to St Mirren and Fife Elite fresh in the Ayr players’ minds the home team were keen to get a ‘fresh start’ in the National Competition.
Ayr made three changes to their line up with goalkeeper Craig Burns coming in for regular starter Danny Graham, replacing their suspended centre back Blair Richardson with the returning Hamish Brown and Paul Smith coming into the front line for Kaylum Ferguson.
Ayr started well with Paul Smith testing the away keeper from twenty yards and Owen McGinty causing problems with some of his now trademark runs. From one of those runs deep into the QOS penalty area McGinty went down under a defender’s challenge but appeals for a spot kick were quickly waved away by the official.
Queens had a real physicality about them with several players over or around the 6 foot mark. This promised to be a tactic the away side would use and they did so with great effect in 15 minutes. A cheap free kick given away on Ayr’s left saw the ball flighted into Ayr’s box and disappointingly Queen’s tall No 7 was given a free run to head the ball firmly past Ayr’s keeper Burns.
Simple but effective and a salutary lesson not to concede unnecessary free kicks in dangerous areas and for defenders to mark and match their opponents’ runs properly.
Ayr continued to make inroads toward the Queens goal and on 22 minutes Owen McGinty went close with a free kick which he curled into the side netting. McGinty was again upended when in full flight but this time his free kick was well saved by the keeper.
Paul Smith was next up for an attempt at goal but his lobbed effort dropped over the crossbar to safety.
Ayr were dominant in possession without carving out any real clear cut opportunities.
With the half moving towards its conclusion Ayr continued to press forward and again Owen McGinty almost put his side level when his fierce shot cannoned off the keeper’s legs to safety.
Ayr continued to force their opponents back but several corner kicks were well defended by the away side.
Ayr’s pacey wide man Joy Goma who had now switched to the right also started to cause problems and from one of those runs the ball unfortunately just flashed past the near post.
As the interval arrived Ayr were left to wonder quite how they were behind in this match.
Half Time Ayr United 0 Queen of the South 1
Ayr started the second half well and almost got the goal that would have levelled the tie. A clever flighted ball over the top of Queens back four from Joy Goma saw Ayr’s midfielder Andrew Heaney beat the offside trap but unluckily his connection just failed to beat the goalkeeper.
Ayr then made their first change replacing midfielder Joe Barker with striker Kaylum Ferguson and with Paul Smith moving into the number 10 role.
Ayr continued to press and probe causing their opponents to retreated further and further back.
Euan Griffiths was next to have a go but his shot from some 25 yards out flew just over.
Owen McGinty and Joy Goma continued to stretch the away defence with their darting runs but despite heavy Ayr pressure a goal would just not come.
A succession of corner kicks were defended well by the tall Queens defenders as Ayr continued to knock on the door.
Striker Nathan McSkeane was then brought on for Paul Smith as Ayr adjusted their shape to having two strikers through the middle.
With just over ten minutes left Ayr looked to have won a penalty kick as Joy Goma went down under a heavy challenge.
This time it looked of the ‘stonewall variety’ but again Ayr were denied by the official.
The game was now being played exclusively within the last third of the pitch as Ayr forced Queens back towards their goal.
Further succession of corner kicks were earned in the closing minutes as Ayr turned the screw but a combination of resolute defending and the lack of a real cutting edge in front of goal was to prove Ayr’s undoing on the night.
Ayr’s Logan Angus then received a nasty leg knock under a heft challenge and Aidan Moffat came on for the final minutes.
Ayr’s captain and centre back Ross Love joined the attack as the clock ran down but all was to no avail as the all important goal failed to arrive.
Full Time : Ayr United 0 Queen of the South 1
Ayr’s Head Coach John Crawford was hugely disappointed with the final outcome. He said, ‘ Unfortunately we were undone with one free kick which regretfully we failed to defend properly. After that we have had approximately 65/70% of the possession and our keeper Craig Burns has not had a save of any note to make in 90 minutes. We spent the entirety of the second period in their half but on the night lacked any real quality with our final ball. Massively disappointing to be out of the competition at this stage but we now need to focus on improving our league position going forward’.
Ayr United : Burns, Angus, Brown, Love, Bilham, Griffiths, Barker, McGinty, Heaney, Goma, Smith.
Subs : Ferguson, Moffat, McSkeane, Laurie, Wamuziri, Kirkland.