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Mark Kerr’s new look Ayr United started the new season with an entertaining and emphatic victory against Albion Rovers in the Betfred Cup. Goals from Luke McCowan, Tom Walsh, Dario Zanatta, and a double from Bruce Anderson on his debut put the game well out of reach for Albion who replied with two from Michael Aitken.
United dominated from the off, surging forward in the opening seconds to put pressure on the Albion backline. United’s fast paced approach with delightful link up play was a joy to watch as they stretched and harried Albion’s defence.
Tom Walsh, on the left, was in particularly fine form and continuously tortured the home side’s back four before releasing pinpoint crosses into the box.
United created chance after chance and it seemed like only a matter of time before they would grab the opening goal, but on 22 mins it was Albion who took the lead.
Sam Roscoe failed to shepherd the ball out of play under tenacious pressure from Michael Aitken who stole the ball and darted along the line towards the penalty area before going down as Roscoe tried to recover the ball. Aitken picked himself up and then sent keeper Sinisalo the wrong way from the spot.
Although this seemed to add a spring in the step to the Albion players, Ayr went back to business putting pressure on the Coatbridge men’s back line, United’s pace causing all sorts of problems. On 25 mins Albion’s Lewis Wilson picked up a yellow card as he clattered Bruce Anderson on the shins as he darted forward. This was a yellow card that would come back to haunt the defender in the later stages of the game.
Ayr had again set up camp in the Albion half and again it seemed like a stick on that they’d find the net, and on 29 mins they did.
Joe Chalmers picked up the ball at the edge of his own penalty area then lifted the ball towards the halfway line where Michael Moffat touched the ball into the path of Tom Walsh. As Ayr charged forward Walsh played the ball to Anderson who had moved out wide to the left. A cute outside of the boot pass by the striker took out defender Adam Fernie and Moffat eased into the penalty area before finding Walsh at the edge of the box. Walsh’s shot was blocked but landed at the feet of Luke McCowan who controlled before slamming the ball home. United were level.
Ayr’s pressure didn’t let up and they got the second goal their play deserved on 35 mins.
Joe Chalmers played the ball over the Albion defensive backline into the path of Mikey Miller who did well to stop the ball from going out for a goal kick. Miller then found Walsh who went past defender Burke and into the penalty area before blasting the ball home diagonally to the back post. A thing of real beauty.
But just when it looked that Ayr’s dominance would had now seen off any real threat from Albion, they showed they were still a threat with a beautifully worked goal on 38 mins.
Albion worked the ball forward from the halfway line and Aron Lynas deliciously dinked the ball behind the United defence into the penalty area where the on-running Aitken controlled before turning the ball under keeper Sinisalo to make the score 2 – 2.
Ayr had it all to do again and do it they did. Just 2 mins later and United were in front again with a move that oozed class. Ayr switched the ball from right to left in three passes, McCowan to Chalmers, to Miller then to Walsh. Walsh used his strength to maintain the ball, twisted and turned bamboozling the Albion right back before laying off to Miller. The midfielder played the ball inside to Moffat who turned and slid the ball back into the path of Miller who had continued his run into the box. Miller next played the ball across the face of goal giving Bruce Anderson a tap in to open his account for the Honest Men.
At the break it remained Albion Rovers 2 v 3 Ayr United and much was expected from the rest of this entertaining match.
Ayr started as they had in the first half, racing forward, and pressurising the Albion Rovers’ defence and again dominating the early stages of play.
On 49 mins Ayr were dealt a blow as the impressive Tom Walsh limped off with an apparent hamstring strain. He was replaced by Dario Zanatta who immediately created a chance by slipping the ball through to Moffat in the box, but ‘the Moff’s’ first time effort was well saved by keeper Ryan Goodfellow.
On 59 mins Zanatta received the ball some 25 yards out, in the centre of the park, took two touches a fired a screamer into the net. Something from the top drawer and a sight to behold. United now had a two-goal advantage, and still they dominated.
Albion were restricted to break outs and distance shots which caused keeper Sinisalo little concern.
With 66 mins gone, Ayr created a speedy end-to-end attack that was unfortunate not to add another to their tally. Sinisalo collected the ball following a corner, threw the ball out to the halfway line for McCowan who played the ball forward to Andy Murdoch who turned the ball out wide on the left to Anderson who drove into the box where the Albion keeper blocked his shot. The ball rebounded to Zanatta who played it back to Anderson whose next attempt was blocked by defender Adam Fernie throwing himself in front of the ball. The ball looped goalward but there on the line was Sean Fagan to head clear.
This seemed to spur Albion on and shortly after they created their best two chances of the half. First, Aitken drove the ball just over from 18 yards and shortly after a cross-come-shot from Lynas on the right evaded Sinisalo and touched off the top of the bar before going out for a throw.
On 71 minutes the hard-working Murdoch was replaced by Michael Hewitt.
Ayr again turned up the pressure, Aaron Muirhead charging forward as if jet assisted, linking up with Moffat and Zanatta before thundering a drive just over, and shortly after McCowan skipping past defenders in the penalty area before being blocked just 6 yards out.
Next it was Albion’s turn, breaking forward and Callum Wilson trying his luck from 20 yards, but his shot went high and swerved away.
With 77 mins gone Albion were reduced to 10 men when Lewis Wilson picked up his second booking of the night, and he could have no complaints. Struggling to cope with Dario Zanatta who dropped the ball out of the air and went past him in one tough he decided to pull the Ayr man back as he darted towards the penalty box. Zanatta’s jersey stretched like a tightened spinnaker but referee David Low gave him the chance to break free and only called play to a halt when Wilson decided to end Zanatta’s run by tripping him in the box. Zanatta claimed for the penalty but Low called play back to the initial tug on the jersey some 25 yards out. His second yellow card issued neatly highlighted with a red; Wilson trotted off the field leaving his team one short.
On 82 mins Ayr ended their scoring for the night. A beautiful back heel flick by Moffat allowed Zanatta to slide the ball behind the Albion defence and into the box where Anderson ran on and slammed the ball home at the keeper’s left-hand post. A brace for Anderson on his impressive United debut.
With the game sown up it gave Ayr the chance to give a run out to youngsters Mark McKenzie and Paul Smith as they replace Moffat and McCowan who could be pleased with their performance.
Although no more goals were scored, Ayr maintained their control and dominance till the final whistle.
All Images are © David Sargent, Alan Graham and Ayr United FC and may not be used without permission