SPFL Championship: AYR UNITED 0 DUNFERMLINE 2: 07/01/17
Same again Pars starting eleven. Nicky Clark (26) 0-1: Andy Geggan (33) 0-2
Dunfermline travelled to Somerset Park unbeaten in their last six league matches to face an Ayr United team undefeated in their last three but with Ian McCall`s men without a win in their last six league matches. the Fifers were the form team.
Allan Johnston went with the same starting eleven that went on to defeat Raith Rovers on the New Year Derby. The two absentees from the Raith match - Lewis Martin and Rhys McCabe were back on the bench meaning there was no room for Conner Duthie and Ryan Williamson. Ayr made three changes, in came Nicky Devlin, Jamie Adams and Kevin Nisbet.
With the Premier League into their winter showdown ironically it was a very mild but damp afternoon that greeted the Pars at the west coast. The two previous matches this season have ended all square and both clubs had their sights on a win.
Dunfermline kicked off through Nicky Clark and Greg Fleming the Ayr goalkeeper got his first touch in just 11 seconds. The home side had two penetrating runs within the first six minutes. First former Par Paddy Boyle was stopped 25 yards out then Robbie Crawford drove through on the right and laid off the ball for Alan Forrest to shoot on target but Sean Murdoch dropped to his right to hold.
The Pars early efforts a high ball in from a Callum Fordyce free kick and a cross from Andy Geggan were both easily dealt with by the all yellow Ayr keeper.
A 12th minute pass from Boyle put Forrest into a good position to cross from the left side of the box but John Herron made an important interception to hand Ayr the first corner of the afternoon. That was appropriately defended but Murdoch did have to hold a skied effort from Gary Harkins.
Tenacity from Michael Moffat earned the Pars a 17th minute corner but when Kallum Higginbotham sent that in from the left, Fleming came out to hold. A powerful run by Devlin got him in behind the defence, Murdoch parried away the dangerous cross and Paul Cairney sent the chance softly wide right.
Harkins cut the Pars defence open midway through the half but fortunately Jason Talbot was first to the cut back from the left. Then at the other end Talbot was instrumental in creating the first goal of the game. His shot from the edge of the box was deflected past Fleming by CLARK to make it 0-1.
The visitors continued to press with Scott McKenna forced to hoof the ball away from Moffat in front of goal. Next Fleming held a Geggan cross and a 30 yard attempt from Moffat was blocked. Then Paul McMullan won a corner on the right and when Higginbotham delivered GEGGAN rose to head the ball on target, it got blocked but fell sweetly for the former Ayr player to clip the ball back in to the far side of the Ayr net. Andy`s first goal since July made it 0-2.
In 38 minutes the home fans were disgruntled as McMullan and Clark prised the Ayr defence open and Clark sent a shot wide from the edge of the box. Ayr`s response from a corner from the right was an off target shot from Kevin Nisbet.
McCall`s men tried a good move from a 43nd minute free kick, Cairney sending the ball from the right to the left side of the Pars six yard box where Adams headed it back for Nisbet who again hit the ball high over the crossbar. At the other end Higginbotham thrashed a shot from the edge of the box over the Ayr bar, Balatoni continuing the trend with a 45th minute effort.
So for the first time in season 2016-2017 Dunfermline led by two goals at the break.
Half time: Ayr United 0 Dunfermline 2
An Ayr corner after just 90 seconds of the second period was headed clear by Geggan but that was just the first of three early attempts. Next Nisbet had his header deflected over and then a Cairney free kick from the right was headed narrowly over the Pars crossbar by Harkins.
The Fifers first showing in 53rd minute was halted when the offside flag went up against Clark. Then after a neat exchange between Moffat and Higginbotham, Clark was caught offside again just two minutes later.
Forrest drove a 20 yard shot at Ashcroft before Dunfermline piled forward to win a corner on the right. Higginbotham again sent in a good delivery and Ashcroft got good purchase on his header only for Crawford to head off his goalline.
On the hour there was quite a let off for the Pats defence, Ashcroft was looking for too much time to clear and Nisbet was able to tip the ball to the right side of the Pars box and cut back for Forrest whose strike sailed wide left.
Brian Gilmour was the first sub of the match replacing Nisbet in 62 minutes and it was the substitute`s corner that caused the next danger. The cross was defended out only as far as Boyle but he smashed his 20 yard shot wide right.
A good forward ball from Devlin forced another Ayr corner as Ashcroft`s clearance sent the ball out of the ground but the defence successfully defended that. More decisive tackles from Ashcroft and Herron only made the Honest Men and their supporters even more frustrated. Jamie Adams who had been kept very quiet all day was subbed with Michael Rose coming on in 73 minutes.
Gavin Reilly came on for a Clark with fifteen minutes remaining and he was immediately involved playing a one two on the edge of the area for a McMullan to test Fleming. A further Pars sub saw Joe Cardle on in place of Kallum Higginbotham with just eight minutes remaining. Joe almost lived up to the fans chant as `Super` with his first touch flicking the ball on for Reilly in front of goal but the striker somehow managed to crash the ball over the bar.
Farid El Alagui was the final Sub of the game in 87 minutes and his first run in from the right set up Cardle for the shot but he too sent the ball over the top.
The victory was rarely in any doubt after the first five minutes of the second half and that means that the Pars remain in sixth place now just one point behind Raith Rovers but six behind Falkirk in fourth.
AYR UNITED: Greg Fleming: Nicky Devlin, Conrad Balatoni, Scott McKenna, Paddy Boyle: Jamie Adams (Michael Rose 73), Robbie Crawford, Alan Forrest, Gary Harkins, Paul Cairney, Kevin Nisbet (Brian Gilmour 62).
SUBS NOT USED: Daryl Meggat, Mikey Donald, Peter Murphy, Mick Wardrope, Jordan Hart (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Devlin (62), Crawford (77), Rose (79), Cairney (82)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Andy Geggan, Callum Fordyce (c), Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Paul McMullan, John Herron, Nat Wedderburn, Kallum Higginbotham (Joe Cardle 82): Nicky Clark (Gavin Reilly 75), Michael Moffat (Farid El Alagui 87)
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Martin, Rhys McCabe, Michael Paton, David Hutton (GK)
SCORERS: Clark (26), Geggan (33)
YELLOW CARD: Herron (31), Moffat (34)
REFEREE: Craig Thomson
WEATHER: Damp 11C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship: (home) v St Mirren, Saturday 14th January 2017, 3.00pm kick off at East End Park
Pre Season Friendly v Hibernian, Thursday 6th July 2017, kick off 7.45pm