Saturday 15 April 2017, 17.15, Somerset Park
The Scottish Championship clash between Ayr United and Dundee United.
The late kick off gave us the opportunity to take in our second game of the day in Ayrshire.
A first sight of Ayr United this season. They were formed in 1910 after the merger of Ayr Parkhouse and Ayr. As they were taking over from two existing league clubs, they were immediately in the second tier of the Scottish League and were runners-up in their first season. They went one better the following season and won the title. Although they did not gain promotion they won the league again the next season and were granted a place in the top division.
Other than four seasons, they stayed in the top league until the second world war and were one of a number that were unfairly placed in the second division on the resumption of league football. Most notable in that period was Jimmy Smith creating a British goalscoring record in season 1926-27 for 66 league goals.
They stayed in the second tier for the majority of the period after the war, with only four seasons spent in the top flight when they again achieved promotion at the end of the 1968-69 season. Manager at that time, Ally MacLeod was in the first of three spells as boss at the club.
Ayr stayed in the top league until relegation in 1978. That was the last time they played in the top league, spending the rest of their existence to date in the second or third tier.
While they have had a proud record in cup competitions, they have never won the League or Scottish Cup, although they have taken several higher league scalps over the years, and reached the final of the League Cup in 2002. They were also losing finalists in the Challenge Cup in 1991 and 1992.
Current manager Ian McCall was appointed in January 2015 and saved the club from relegation to the fourth tier. Last season he led them to the Championship after a play-off win against Stranraer.
United are known as ‘The Honest Men’, taken from a line in the poem “Tam o’ Shanter” by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.
It was Ayr’s penultimate home match of the season. They dropped to the bottom of the league the previous weekend after losing to Queen of the South, but with four games left, there were only four points between the bottom four clubs.
Ayr were missing Robbie Crawford and Conrad Balatoni through injury and Paddy Boyle was suspended.
It was our fourth viewing of Dundee United this season, with two defeats and a win in our previous sightings.
Dundee United’s title challenge has faded in recent weeks, with their league form since the beginning of March seeing two wins, a draw and four defeats. A 1-0 win over Dunfermline Athletic in their previous game was a welcome victory and the earlier results in the day meant that they were guaranteed a play-off place. A win would take them into second spot. Hibs were confirmed as champions earlier in the day.
Willo Flood was suspended for the Tangerines.
Ayr have played at Somerset Park since their inception. It currently consists of one stand, two covered terraces behind each goal, and an open terrace along one side of the pitch, opposite the stand. Although they had made a deal to sell the stadium and move to a new home in 2006, the deal fell through.
There were 1,205 in attendance.
Docherty won the ball for Ayr on half way in the fifth minute and cleverly backheeled to Harkins. He strode forward into the left hand side of the box but saw his low shot stopped by Bell.
A mix up in defence for Ayr in 15 minutes saw Rose try to let the ball run through to Fleming, with Murray chasing for Dundee United. The keeper got there first, but hit it off Rose, who recovered to clear before Murray could get there.
In 17 minutes, referee Crawford Allan fell awkwardly, after Cairney accidently clipped him, much to the delight of both sets of supporters. He was helped off the pitch seemingly having hurt his knee. Fourth official Grant Irvine went down the tunnel to get himself ready to take over. It was seven minutes before the game restarted.
Devlin burst down the wing in 26 minutes past Robson and crossed low into the Dundee United box, but Murdoch managed to get the ball away just in front of an Ayr striker.
A poor header by Murphy gave Mikkelsen an opportunity on the right hand side of the Ayr box in 27 minutes and he cut inside before shooting for goal, but Fleming managed to save with his foot.
Forrest showed good feet to create some room for himself in the Dundee United box in 28 minutes, but his shot lacked power.
A free kick was chipped into the Ayr box by Spittal in 30 minutes and Durnan flicked the ball over Fleming for Mikkelsen to nod into the net from close range, but the flag was up.
Ayr’s Moore received the game’s first yellow card in 31 minutes for holding back Spittal at the half way line.
Murray played a clever pass into the box for Andreu in 41 minutes and he stepped inside before firing just wide of the far post.
The board went up for injury time in the 45th minute with 8 minutes to be added on.
Murdoch shot for goal from 30 yards on the right in the second minute of injury time which forced Fleming into a diving save to turn it around the post.
A long punt forward from a Dundee United defender in the third minute of injury time saw Mikkelsen racing clear of Murphy as he chased the bouncing ball. Murphy caught up with him as the ball reached the box and Mikkelsen went down, but nothing was given. Murphy had appeared to put his hand on the striker’s shoulder, but he went down very easily.
In the next minute it was Murray appealing for a penalty after going down in the Ayr box, but again the claims were waved away. He did seem to get a little shove from Meggatt.
The last action of the first half saw Harkins clip a ball into the box for Moore, but he couldn’t bring it under control and the chance was lost.
A poor first half with both teams seemingly incapable of stringing two passes together. You know it was bad when the highlight was the injury to the referee. It was good to see the referee out getting interviewed by BBC Alba at half time, so he was hopefully ok.
The second half was greeted with hailstones, after the first had spent the majority of its life basking in the spring sunshine.
Dundee United’s Mikkelsen was booked in 50 minutes for persistent fouling.
Harkins was brought down near the corner flag in 54 minutes by Robson, who was the second Dundee United player shown the yellow card.
The rain was particularly heavy at this point.
Ayr came forward with purpose in 59 minutes and McGuffie played the ball to Devlin inside the box who turned Allardice well, but saw his shot tipped over the bar by Bell.
Docherty tried a shot from 22 yards in 63 minutes, but Bell was down well to smother it in the Dundee United goal.
A deflected pass came to Murray in the Ayr box in 67 minutes, but Meggatt got across well to block his shot.
A snap shot by Andreu in 70 minutes from 25 yards saw Fleming spill the ball, but the Ayr keeper got up quickly to retrieve it.
Edjenguele was the next Dundee United player carded after bringing down Harkins in 71 minutes.
A cross lobbed into the Ayr box in 73 minutes saw Mikkelsen with some space, but he didn’t make good contact with his header and it drifted wide.
A Dundee United corner in 79 minutes was taken by Robson and was headed back into the danger area by Durnan. Meggatt got his foot to the ball but could only send it high into the air and Edjenguele got his head to the ball, but sent it just over.
A Robson cross from the left was cleverly laid back by Andreu to Spittal in 82 minutes and his wayward shot saw Murray try to divert it goalwards with his head, but it went wide.
A through ball by Dundee United in 83 minutes saw Meggatt slip and Murray ran into the box, but Fleming was out quickly to claim the ball at his feet.
A Docherty shot from distance in 84 minutes saw Bell parry the ball out, but there were no Ayr forwards there to capitalise.
As the clock reached the 90th minute, Harkins was brought down just a couple of yards outside the Dundee United box by Allardice. Harkins took it himself and saw his strike come back off the bar with Bell beaten. Forrest retrieved it and chipped the ball back into the box from the right and a combination of Bell and the bar stopped it and Edjenguele headed off the line.
The final whistle saw the end of a disappointing game. Although the game earlier in the day hadn’t been the best, it looked like a classic compared to this one. Admirable fight from the home side and it was hard to tell which team was near the top and which was bottom.
Devlin stood out for Ayr with Spittal Dundee United’s best.
Full Time: Ayr United 0 Dundee United 0
Ayr United: 1 Greg Fleming, 2 Nicky Devlin, 5 Michael Rose, 6 Peter Murphy, 18 Daryll Meggatt, 10 Alan Forrest, 14 Paul Cairney, 23 Ross Docherty, 21 Craig McGuffie (McDaid 82), 12 Gary Harkins, 9 Craig Moore. Subs: 4 Brian Gilmour, 11 Declan McDaid, 15 Farid El Alagui, 17 Sean McKenzie, 19 Jordan Hart, 20 Michael Wardrope, 24 Leon Murphy.
Dundee United: 1 Cammy Bell, 8 Stewart Murdoch, 4 Mark Durnan, 14 William Edjenguele, 24 Jamie Robson, 7 Blair Spittal, 35 Scott Allardice, 6 Lewis Toshney (Telfer 73), 18 Thomas Mikkelsen, 9 Simon Murray, 19 Tony Andreu. Subs: 3 Paul Dixon, 5 Coll Donaldson, 11 Alex Nicholls, 12 Charlie Telfer, 17 Wato Kuate, 21 Luis Zwick, 22 Ali Coote.
Referee: Crawford Allan/Grant Irvine