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United moved back up to third in the Championship table with a 2-1 win over Alloa Athletic on Saturday at Somerset Park. Two early goals from Ross Docherty kept the Honest Men in the lead and gave them the full three points despite Kevin O'Hara pulling one back after the break.
Ayr got off to a perfect start, opening the scoring after only 6mins. Luke McCowan lifted a corner from the right into the box and, although Kevin Cawley initially headed the ball clear, it was picked up by Alan Forrest on the left. Forrest controlled the ball and beat Scott Taggart and Robbie Deas before sending a cross back in. This time, Alloa failed to get to the ball which was met by Ross Docherty for an open header into the net.
Forrest almost doubled United's lead on 11 mins with a powerful shot from the left wing but saw his effort tipped over the bar by Alloa keeper Jamie MacDonald.
Only a min later though, it was 2-0 Ayr with United again capitalising on a set-piece. A corner from the right went straight through the box to Forrest on the left. The winger flicked on to Stephen Kelly some 20 yards out. Kelly lifted a high ball over the defence back into the box where it was, yet again, headed past the keeper by Docherty from close range.
The Honest Men had the wind at their back and the upper hand in the game as they dominated possession with the majority of play taking part in the Alloa half. While the visitors struggled to create chances, Ayr were pressing for another goal and only keeper MacDonald denied them a higher scoreline with numerous good saves.
Craig Moore got on the end of a short pass from Forrest on 23 mins and slammed a drive at goal from the edge of the box, but MacDonald blocked his effort at the left post.
On 32 mins, McCowan intercepted the ball 20 yards out for an attempt on goal which went inches past the right post. The keeper's biggest challenge of the first half would come 5 mins later. Good play down the wings and through the midfield from Jordan Houston, McCowan and Daniel Harvie set up Kelly for a stinging shot from 40 yards that looked goal-bound, but MacDonald pulled off a fantastic save to tip it over the bar.
Only seconds later, the keeper was tested again by a Docherty shot from the right wing. The keeper fumbled but eventually cleared and denied Ayr yet again and it remained 2-0 at the break.
Now with the wind advantage, Alloa looked more comfortable and the game opened up. However, despite the play now being more balanced, it was a cagey, steady start to the second half where neither side created clear-cut chances and the teams cancelled out each other’s efforts.
Ayr were first to create a significant chance with 64 mins on the clock. McCowan broke through and sent a shot at goal from 8 yards which was blocked by MacDonald at the right-hand post, but Kelly picked up the rebound and forced the keeper to another fine save with an attempt from the centre of the box.
Moments later, on 67 mins, Alloa found the back of the net. Taggart played a long ball forward and as United failed to clear, Alan Trouten flicked it on to Kevin O'Hara who struck home over Ross Doohan from 20 yards. 2-1 and the visitors were back in the game.
United reacted promptly and, on 68 mins, Kelly intercepted in midfield and played the ball out to the right for McCowan who, despite being challenged and taken down by Deas, passed the ball through to Craig Moore. Moore unleashed a powerful drive but yet again MacDonald was there to block the effort at the bottom right-hand corner.
Alloa were searching for an equaliser, pushing towards the United goal and utilising the still strong wind at their backs.
The script was set up for a late comeback for Alloa in the third min of stoppage time when only great goalkeeping from Ross Doohan kept the scoreline down. Robert Thomson got on the end of a sloppy clearance near the goal line and crossed the ball back in where it was met by substitute Liam Buchanan. His shot from near the penalty spot looked certain to find the back of the net, but Doohan produced a terrific one-footed save to turn the ball wide and deny the visitors a point.
With this victory, Ayr move back up to third in the Championship standings, 3 points ahead of Dunfermline and just one behind Inverness.