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United were held to a 1-1 draw by Partick Thistle at the Energy Check Stadium, Glasgow, on Friday night. Brian Graham opened the scoring for Partick in the first half, but Alan Forrest equalised through a penalty shortly after the break and the teams had to share the spoils.
Both sides struggled to find their feet and get to terms with the windy and damp conditions and, in the opening stages of the game, much of the build-up play eventually came to nothing.
However, as the match progressed, Thistle started to gain the upper hand. On 16 mins, Reece Cole was first to underline the Jags' intent with a powerful drive from 25 yards that went inches past the post.
5 mins later, Cole again tested Ayr when he curled a powerful free kick from near the goal line on the left towards goal. Keeper Ross Doohan reacted well to block but couldn’t hold onto the ball and it was up to Aaron Drinan to step in and clear.
On 22 mins, Lee O'Connor connected with a James Penrice cross and booted the ball in the air from inside the box. Doohan and Steven Bell both attempted to clear but collided with the attacking Brian Graham allowing the ball to fall to Joe Cardle who volleyed over from 12 yards.
Ayr started to look frustrated and their play became increasingly scrappy and sloppy. United's best chance of the first half came on 30 mins when a Stephen Kelly corner from the right was met by Aaron Muirhead in the box, but the defender headed it just over the bar, though a jersey pull from Partick captain Tom O'Ware might have played a part in that.
The Jags were pressing for a goal and finally took the lead on 33 mins. Cole clipped a free kick from 35 yards into the box and while Bell and Daniel Harvie initially stopped Penrice from meeting it, the ball was swiftly picked up by Cardle. His fine delivery to the left post caught the Ayr defence sleeping and Graham was left with the simple task of knocking the ball home from close range.
Thistle almost doubled their advantage just before half time when Graham chased down a long forward ball, but Doohan came off his line to defend and it remained 1-0 at the break.
6 mins into the second half, Kelly played a short pass to Alan Forrest that allowed him to break forward into the box where he was brought down by O'Connor. Referee Euan Anderson did not hesitate to award a penalty and Forrest brushed himself down and stepped up to take it. The winger sent Thistle keeper Scott Fox the wrong way from the spot and levelled the game with 52 mins on the clock.
United's spirits seemed lifted after the equaliser and the game opened up with both sides looking threatening and showing attacking intent.
Thistle came close on 66 mins when Dario Zanatta broke down the left and curled a high ball at goal but Doohan rose to comfortably collect.
Times got dangerous for Ayr again only 2 mins later. Cardle lifted a cross in from the right and Doohan initially punched the ball away, only for the rebound to be picked up by Thistle who immediately started another attack. Yet again it was Cardle who sent the ball in from the right and forced Doohan to a save at full stretch. The rebound then fell to Zanatta who put the ball over the bar from 12 yards.
A great chance came United's way on 75 mins when good play forward between Scott Tiffoney, Jordan Houston and Forrest set the latter up for a drive from inside the box, but Fox got down to collect near his right post.
Thistle looked determined to retake the lead and put Ayr under serious pressure in the final minutes of play. With 2 mins of added time played, Cole swung in a corner from the left, which was headed out by Drinan for another corner, this time on the right. Cole delivered into the box, but Doohan came off his line and collected to deny the hosts a late goal and secure a point for the Honest Men.
United sit third in the league table, still one point adrift of Inverness and four ahead of Dunfermline who moved into fourth.