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After a 24 day absence, United returned to Championship action at Somerset Park with a 0-1 defeat to Dunfermline Athletic on Tuesday night. The Pars picked up pace after a scrappy first half and a decisive goal from Kevin Nisbet on 68 mins guaranteed the visitors the full three points.
Ayr looked rusty after a lengthy run without competitive games and while Dunfermline came to Somerset Park on the back of a 5-1 win over Partick Thistle at the weekend, they also struggled to find their feet in a dour first half.
Both sides failed to impress, with passes going astray, players treating the ball like hot coals, and long balls becoming the order of the day. Quality was absent with neither team showing an ability to maintain possession, and that resulted in few chances being created in the opening 45 mins.
The best chance of the first half came Dunfermline's way on 33 mins. Ryan Dow played the ball into the path of Kyle Turner who attempted a shot from 10 yards but saw his effort blocked by Ross Doohan and the scoreline remained 0-0 at half time.
It was a more spirited start to the second half, but Ayr struggled to maintain momentum from the opening skirmishes and allowed Dunfermline to pick up the pace and gain the upper hand.
The visitors should have taken the lead on 54 mins when Turner looked certain to open the scoring from an Aaron Comrie cut back, but he hit the post from a yard out and Doohan gathered the ball on the line.
Dunfermline were pressing for a goal and finally broke the deadlock on 67 mins. Half time substitute Joshua Edwards intercepted at the halfway line and broke forward before passing to Greg Kiltie on the left. Kiltie sent a cross into the box where the on-rushing Kevin Nisbet headed into the net.
Ayr re-jigged their line-up with a substitution that saw Mark McKenzie come on for Alan Forrest. McKenzie made an immediate impact and was involved in United's best chance thus far on 67 mins. A Ross Docherty shot from inside the box took a deflection and fell to McKenzie who controlled it but saw his strike on goal well saved by Dunfermline keeper Cameron Gill.
Ayr almost equalised in the dying minutes of the game, but Gill spectacularly denied them twice in stoppage time. Craig McGuffie lifted in a cross for Andy Geggan whose header was just cleared off the line. The resulting corner was taken quickly and ended up with Docherty who forced Gill to another great save with a header on target.
It was not to be for the Honest Men as the final whistle sealed a 0-1 victory for the visitors from Fife.
United sit third in the table, two points behind Inverness and two ahead of Dunfermline, with a game in hand over their closest competitors.