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United bounced back from their cup exit last week with a 2-0 victory over Alloa Athletic at the Indodrill Stadium on Saturday. Luke McCowan chested in the first goal in the opening half before Andy Murdoch sealed the welcome return to form. Despite going down to 10 men late in the game, Ayr handled Alloa's attacks well and left their opponents without a chance.
Aaron Muirhead, Cammy Smith and Bruce Anderson returned to the starting XI for Paddy Reading, Michael Miller and Innes Cameron, meaning Muirhead started at right back with Houston switching to left back in place of Reading. Tom Walsh was back on the bench after a lengthy absence due to injury.
Both sides looked well up for the match with patient and organised build-up play at a fast pace. Luke McCowan and Smith were lively for Ayr and combined on 8 mins to set Michael Moffat up for a tight-angled shot, but Alloa keeper Neil Parry tipped the effort wide at full stretch.
Smith forced another smart save off Parry with an attempt from long range after Alloa failed to clear a corner. Meanwhile on the other side of the park, Ray Grant called Viljami Sinisalo into action from the edge of the box.
United came close to an opener on 18 mins as Joe Chalmers' free kick from 25 yards looked goalbound, but the ball clattered off the underside of the crossbar and bounced out and away from goal.
It was end-to-end stuff at the Indodrill with neat passing play and flowing football across the park. Alloa got themselves in a dangerous position on 31 mins with several players in the Ayr box. Sinisalo fumbled, but Jack Baird was on hand to block and clear.
On 35 mins, Bruce Anderson beat the offside trap and found Smith in space, but the forward flashed his shot inches past the left post.
The opening goal eventually arrived with 38 mins on the clock following a great team effort from United. Neat play ended with Chalmers sending a pinpoint cross towards the back post where McCowan chested the ball over the line.
Alloa had a penalty shout for handball just before half-time as Kevin Cawley's attempt on goal was blocked by Andy Murdoch. Play went on and Liam Dick challenged Sinisalo from close range, but the keeper held and it remained 1-0 to Ayr at the break.
The Honest Men were almost caught cold after the restart when Liam Buchanan delivered a cross into the box that should have been an easy tap in for Innes Murray, but the on-loan midfielder narrowly failed to connect.
After the scare, Ayr regained control and put the game to bed on 61 mins. In a great one-two, McCowan backheeled Muirhead's pass back to the defender who sent a shot into the path of Murdoch to knock the ball under Parry and make it 2-0.
The game lost its flow and United were close to cruise control while Alloa started to look deflated. Good play between Moffat and Anderson on 67 mins saw the ball fired across the face of goal and Murdoch came sliding in but just missed the connection.
The Wasps came close on 82 mins but Sinisalo just held onto the ball under pressure and stopped it crossing the line after Alloa won the header in the box.
Ayr's so far immaculate afternoon suffered a dent on 84 mins when Smith was sent off for a second yellow card after a flailing arm caught Scott Taggart.
Alloa almost capitalised on their numerical advantage with a late chance in the dying minutes. Buchanan delivered a dangerous header towards the goal, but Sinisalo collected and the 2-0 result was sealed by the full-time whistle.
United sit fourth in the Championship table on equal points with Raith Rovers. Inverness are one point adrift in fifth while Dunfermline hold a three points advantage in second.
All Images are © David Sargent, Alan Graham and Ayr United FC and may not be used without permission