Ayr United 2 Dunfermline Athletic 4
Sometimes conditions can spoil a game. Occasionally they can make for a thrilling encounter as was the case on a foul day at Somerset Park. Gilmour shot the home team ahead with a wind-assisted effort from the half-way line before Moffat took advantages of a slip by Williamson to score the second. A tremendous strike by Husband pulled one back before the interval, Wallace equalised from the spot before cracking in a fine third, and Moore wrapped things up with a superb finish on the 90 minutes.
I wasn’t looking forward to this. After a week of forgotten lap-tops and fog-bound airports, I had had more than my fair share of wasted journeys, and I wasn’t convinced that this game would be on. Debris strewn motorways and floods in East Kilbride brought back memories of an aborted trip to Dumfries a few years ago, and news of late call-offs elsewhere didn’t help my mood. Besides, this was the third recent meeting of these two sides, and such frequency normally results in both teams cancelling each-other out. Thus I was confidently predicting a result of 0-0 (abandoned at half time).
Things didn’t look too promising when storm damage meant entry to the main-stand was by a rather convoluted route, and a leaking roof deposited occasional rain-drops on my note pad, but then I wasn’t going to have too much to write about, would I? At least there would be the performance of a debutant to provide interest.
After a subdued performance in the last match some more freshening up was done to the Pars line-up. Ross Millen was out with a stress fracture of the heel, so there would be no conflict with his dad Andy, sitting on the home bench as part of the Ayr backroom staff, Allan Smith was given a not unexpected rest , but there was a surprise when 17 year old Lewis Martin came in for his first start in place of Kerr Young. So to recap, the Pars started with Scully; Williamson, Morris, Martin and Whittle; Byrne, Husband, Falkingham and Geggan; Wallace and Ryan Thomson. The seven possible replacements were Moore, Ferguson, Dargo, Smith, El Bakhtaoui, Young and Goodfellow.
As for the home team, Mark Roberts had tinkered some more as he searched for that elusive winning formula, but had of course retained the potency of his Kyle and Moffat strike-force.
As the Pars kicked-off, it seemed the wind was blowing from both directions at the same time, although as the game evolved, it seemed that on the whole Ayr were playing with the elements. Given this unpredictability, the Pars tried to keep the ball on the deck as far as possible, with Ayr happy to hit it long for Kyle, with the predatory Moffat ready to feed off any scraps.
Sure enough, Kevin Kyle did have a couple of early chances, forcing Scully to save a glancing header and a long range shot, each time at the second attempt. Meanwhile at the other end there was a flashpoint when Falkingham played his way through a crowd of players and was chopped by Pope. This prompted a bout of handbags with the linesman having to run on the field, but referee O’Reilly calmed things down by booking the Ayr player, but merely lecturing the Pars’ skipper. The seeming inequity of this justice failed to endear the official to the home support, and matters failed to improve in this regard.
Nevertheless, the Pars had a free-kick in ideal Husband territory, but Stephen, just as he had done with an early attempt from further out, blazed the ball well over the bar.
We soon had a goal, and a bit of a freak at that. Scully had cleared to the half-way line, where the ball broke to Gilmour. He took a touch, looked up, then fired a long-range effort over the retreating keeper. A fine strike.
Ayr United 1 Dunfermline Athletic 0
Falkingham had a half-chance to equalise but didn’t quite catch his shot from a loose ball in the box, Hutton saving low to his left, before the Pars conceded a second in a manner that was personally disastrous for young Ryan Williamson. Half way through the half, mopping up a loose ball, the right back showed a little burst of pace to take him away from Moffat, only to undo all the good work with a slack pass-back. The ball seemed to stick on the surface, Scully and Moffat went for the same ball and it broke for the Ayr man who rolled the ball into the empty net. Meanwhile the disconsolate full back had his head in his hands
Ayr United 2 Dunfermline Athletic 0
The Pars needed a goal back, but spurned a chance a minute later – Geggan and Byrne getting in each other’s way before Byrne’s soft shot was cleared off the line.
The gusting wind meant mistakes were always likely, and the play was more entertaining for that, with play going from end to end. Ayr went looking for a third, but Whittle was alert to track his runner and get the ball out, before Falkingham went down in the box after a tackle, although no penalty was given and it was Wallace who got booked.
However, with the period coming to a conclusion, the Pars pulled one back. Wallace spread the play wide to Williamson, who went past his man and got to the bye-line before stabbing in a cross. Wallace elected not to try to turn, but instead laid the ball back to Husband who positively leathered the ball past the helpless Hutton from 20 yards.
Half Time: Honest Men 2 Pars 1
The Pars had conceded two bad goals, but now had the better of the conditions. There was still everything to play for therefore, and the scales tilted slightly more in their favour when Kyle picked up an early booking for flooring Williamson, despite assisting him to his feet thereafter. The target man would now have to be careful, especially with a man of Mr O’Reilly’s card-happy reputation doing the officiating.
Things nearly got better still when the Pars, through Morris and Martin, played the ball out of defence to Whittle who went for a run before setting up Wallace, but the striker’s shot cannoned off the bar, before going out for a throw-in.
Morris and Martin were playing well, although they had the odd moment as expected. The latter twice came to the former’s rescue in 54 minutes. First Morris’s back-header was meant for Scully, but it held up in the wind. Martin was alert to the danger and retrieved matters, before completing a clearance after Morris’s first attempt had been charged down.
Husband was also trying to showcase his range of passing, and a lovely little chipped pass over the full-back sent Whittle running at the defence. Alex got the break of the ball, and got tripped as he tried to go between two players in the box. Penalty! Wallace took responsibility, and stuck the ball firmly low to the keeper’s left, where Hutton seemed to dive over it.
Ayr United 2 Dunfermline Athletic 2