Saturday 25 November 2017
Scottish League One
HT   0 - 1
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Alloa Athletic v Ayr United | Team Lineups

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Alloa Athletic v Ayr United | Match Report

For the second week in a row, United faced a journey into cold and inhospitable climatic conditions on an artificial surface, this time at the Indodrill Stadium, home of Alloa Athletic. An early inspection of the ‘all-weather’ pitch gave the go-ahead, and the Honest Men, with their army of 374 vociferous, travelling supporters, set out to extend an impressive run of league victories to five.

Alloa, also on a 4-game winning run, had garnered an air of high confidence from their recent form and were confident of their ability to grab all three points. With former Ayr striker, Craig Malcolm, hitting a goal-scoring purple patch with four goals in the last four games, another past United favourite, Andy Graham, strong and thrifty at the back and Iain Flannigan in top form in midfield, this Alloa team had the look of worthy challengers at the top of the league.

As it turned out, this was to be an encounter that tested the resolve, resources and persistence of the Ayrshire men.

Alloa came out with a determined attitude that would describe their play through-out; high intensity, quick passing and closing down with speed and numbers.

On 2 mins Alloa showed their attacking intent. Crossan turned Higgins beautifully on the right wing before curling the ball into the centre where Malcolm, free from his marker, watched his poorly timed header lift over the bar.

Just 1 min later and it was Ayr’s turn. Shankland lifted the ball to Moffat who in turn flicked over the head of defender Crane to McDaid on the wing. Moffat turned and ran into the box where he directed McDaid’s perfectly flighted cross into the net and Ayr were one up.

On 6 mins Alloa went close. Crossan dispossessed Rose on the line and appeared to take the ball out of play but referee Munro waved play on. Crossan’s attempted shot was blocked by Reid and spun wildly into the air and was met first time by Robertson at the edge of the box on the opposite side of the pitch. Robertson’s volley looped goalwards and struck the top of the bar before going over.

Ayr were then hit with a double blow in just 3 minutes as they lost two key players with leg injuries. On 10 mins Geggan was replaced by McGuffie and on 13 mins Moore came on for Crawford. United were forced into an unfamiliar shape with Moffat dropping back into the much-depleted midfield.

Alloa intensified their pressure and should have found the equaliser just a minute later as Hetherington’s curling freekick from 25 yards reached Taggart at the back post. The defender turned the ball along the goal line but both Docherty and keeper Hart combined to block as Cawley waited to pounce.

Ayr slowly began to get back into their stride and on 18 mins an in-swinging McDaid freekick from the left was met by Higgins at the back post, but keeper Parry pulled off a spectacular one-handed reaction save to put the ball out. From the resultant corner Rose came close again, running into space in the box to meet the ball but side flicked over the bar.

It was becoming end to end stuff in this exciting encounter and on 19 mins, United defender Reid first blocked a Crawley drive then threw himself in front of Crossan, distracting the midfielder, who miss-hit his shot wide. With a bit of composure, the Alloa man would have brought his side level.

With 20 mins on the clock, Alloa thought they had found that leveller when Crossan was slipped through behind the United back four and chipped keeper Hart but the assistant referee’s flag was raised for offside.

Michael Moffat was working away diligently in the centre of midfield, showing a range of passes and determined tackling but this didn’t mean that he had lost his eye for goal. With 25 mins gone, Reid picked up a slack pass from Hetherington and slipped it inside to Moffat who controlled, turned and smashed a drive from 20 yards off the face of the bar and although Shankland tried to turn the ball home Alloa somehow managed to scramble the ball clear.

On 33 mins referee Munro sent Alloa manager and substitute, Jim Goodwin, to the stand after a ‘disagreement’ over the official’s decision to give United a throw-in when Alloa had repeatedly failed to take it from where they had been told.

On 39 mins Ayr created a move of great quality that came within inches of putting the Honest Men two up. Higgins played the ball to McGuffie on the left and the youngster turned and twisted before getting away from Robertson and Cawley and moving inside. There he found Moffat who stroked the ball forward to Moore who tapped it to Ferguson. Moffat moved to give the fullback an angle and received the ball again, passed to McGuffie at the edge of the box. McGuffie then returned the ball to the ‘Müller turned Beckenbauer’ who spun, evaded Cawley and again laid off to Ferguson. Ferguson immediately poked the ball through to Moffat who controlled, turned stepped to the side of Fleming and made his way towards the edge of the box before releasing a drive that warmed the post as it went narrowly wide.

Alloa had the last chance of the half when on 44 mins, after a clearance by Ayr from a Flannigan corner, left back Crane smashed a first time shot from 25-yards which just went over the bar.

United 0 – 1 up at half time, but it was close. A huddle round the dressing room heater and some wise words from the gaffer and it was back out for round 2.

First to try their luck in the second 45 were United. 48 mins gone and McDaid slipped the ball to his right and found Shankland who powered through into the box. The striker steadied himself before firing a low angled drive which Parry got down to save.

3 mins later and Shankland slid the ball right to Moore who overlapped and made his way to the corner flag before sending an outward curling cross to McDaid whose header hit off the top of the bar.

Next it was Moore’s turn, first imposing himself on Taggart who failed to control, letting Moore nip in and run clear into the box. With Graham desperately trying to get across to block, the Ayr man hit the ball goalward, but Parry did well to save. With 56 minutes gone it remained 0 – 1 and Ayr were having their best period of the game.

12 mins later and Ayr went close again. A high lobbed ball in from Ferguson was flicked into the path of Shankland by Moore, but his drive was blocked by Robertson and flew up over the bar. From the corner the ball was knocked out to Moffat at the edge of the box, but his hooked volley was saved by Parry at the second attempt.

With Ayr looking good for the win, the roof fell in. A corner from the right reached Taggart who saw his shot blocked by Shankland on the 6-yard line. Taggart was first to react and stabbed the ball home. 1 – 1

The equaliser appeared to reinvigorate the Wasps and on 87 mins they almost stole the winner. Ayr struggled to clear from the edge of the penalty area and the grounded Malcolm flicked the ball to Cawley. Cawley stepped left before shooting the ball around Reid and across the front of goal before hitting off the post and out. The collective gasp of relief from United fans was audible across Clackmannanshire and possibly as far north as Perth.

Gasps turned to jubilant cheers and dancing 4 minutes later when Ayr grabbed all three points and dashed the hopes of a battling Alloa side. With dreams of car and bus heating on the minds of most on-lookers, the Honest Men showed that they just don’t give up and their captain’s delicious through ball into the box followed by Moore’s blasting drive between the legs of keeper Parry into the back of the net triggered a celebration of cup winning proportions from both players and fans.

This meant everything to this band of brothers, a team who worked their socks off and showed their mettle. And for the fans, their celebrations did much to ward off that biting cold.

Next match, Saturday at Somerset Park where Ayr face Albion Rovers.

Alloa Athletic v Ayr United | Match Timeline

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Alloa Athletic v Ayr United | Match Stats

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Alloa Athletic v Ayr United | Media

All Images are © David Sargent and Ayr United FC and may not be used without permission

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