SPFL League One: DUNFERMLINE 3 AYR UNITED 2: 13/02/16
Ayr United returned to East End Park hoping to repeat the win they achieved there in September whereas the Pars objective was to take important points from a fellow title rival and increase the points difference beaten the teams.
Pars manager Allan Johnston gave a vote of confidence to the starting eleven that secured a 3-0 win at Stenhousemuir the previous Saturday. Ian McCall made two changes from the side that lost to Peterhead; Alan Forrest and Andy Graham started with Alan Trouten and Gerry McLaughlin dropping to the bench.
The visitors kicked off towards the Norrie McCathie Stand but play was quickly deep in the Ayr half and keeper Greg Fleming held a Joe Cardle cross flicked back towards goal by Faissal El Bakhtaoiui.
Craig Reid won a sixth minute corner but Michael Paton's delivery was met by an opponent at the near post. Two minutes later Ryan Stevenson received a lecture from referee Nick Walsh after a crunching tackle on Cardle. Andy Geggan launched a shot from the 30 yard out setpiece that followed, well wide right.
There were two incidents in quick succession at the other end. Firstly a Brian Gilmour cross from the left touchline was edged just outside Sean Murdoch's left hand post and then there was a penalty claim as Craig Moore went down in the box even though he was going away from goal. The referee chose to show the Ayr number 11 a yellow card, incensing Ian McCall who earned some words from the referee as well.
Jamie Adams required treatment from the Ayr physio on the quarter hour but was back on by the time Cardle fed El Bakhtaoui a chance in 17. The striker's shot from the edge of the box went low and wide left.
Brad McKay was forced into conceding a 19th minute corner that Gilmour sent in from the left but when that was defended back out to him his returned ball swerved over the bar. In 23 minutes Fleming pulled off a good save after some fantastic close skills from El Bakhtaoui put himself in space for a pop at goal.
There followed two more efforts one from El Bakhtaoui and then one from Cardle that kept the Ayr defence on their toes. Play swung back to other end with a free kick that hBen Richards-Everton cleared from the edge of the box.
Everyone in the ground thought Dunfermline had taken a 27th minute lead, except that is the referee and his assistant under the Main Stand. The stadium announcer released the 'Glad all Over' stinger and the Ayr players were heading for the restart when the strike from Geggan was ruled out for offside. Now Geggan struck the ball from 30 yards and it appeared to take a deflection off a defender as it entered the net low to Fleming's right but somehow Cardle was deemed to be offside.
Former Pars left back Paddy Boyle became the first sub to be used as Jamie Adams was forced to retire in 29 minutes. Mikey Donald moved into midfield to accommodate Paddy. Murdoch was at full stretch to keep out a fine low strike from Alan Forrest from 25 yards. Then Jordan Preston had a great opportunity from a fine Boyle cross but he fluffed the shot.
A 39th minute Ayr corner was fisted away by Murdoch but another followed the second time from the right. When this one came over Andy GRAHAM managed to power a header past Murdoch for the 41st minute opener. 0-1
Just two minutes later Forrest was tumbled in the right side of the box. It came about from a loose touch from Cardle, the Ayr man made the most of it, Cardle was yellow carded and the referee pointed to the spot. MOORE took the responsibility and gave Murdoch no chance as he went right and the ball went left. 0-2
The Pars pushed to retrieve the bad situation before the break and when Ben Richards-Everton crossed the ball back across the Ayr goal, Geggan directed the ball on target only for Gilmour to keep the ball out of his net with his hand. The whole McCathie Stand appealed and the referee awarded his second penalty in three minutes. Gilmour took his time strolling off so it was into the second minute of time added on in the first half before MOFFAT stepped up to net from the spot. 1-2
54% possession to Ayr in the first half but with a man short Ian McCall's side should be up against it as they defend the goal at the McCathie end in the second half.
Half time: Dunfermline 1 Ayr United 2
The visitors withdrew striker Craig Moore and introduced Michael Wardrobe before the Pars got the second half underway. An early Paton ball through the Ayr box gave early warning of intent but it was the away side that had the better of the two early chances. Forrest cut in from the right and Murdoch beat his shot away at the near post Preston's on target follow up was blocked by the defence.
The Pars equaliser was a great piece of skill from CARDLE. Latching on to a ball chipped deep into the penalty box over the defence, he took the ball to the right before releasing a shot from an acute angle that Nicky Devlin on the line could only help into the net. 2-2
Two corners in 61 minutes kept the pressure on Ayr but four minutes later Dunfermline took the lead. Jason Talbot did well to out jump newly introduced, and final, sub Robbie Crawford and Geggan flicked the header on to EL BAKHTAOUI on the top of the box. His shot took a deflection to wrong foot Fleming and sink the ball in the bottom left. 3-2
Another four minutes passed before a Cardle cross reached Moffat in front of goal but his header went straight at Fleming. Murdoch dealt with a shot drilled from 20 yards by Stevenson. Falkingham took a yellow card when stopping a marauding run by Peter Murphy and from the resulting free kick Dunfermline scurried away. Moffat made the break picking out El Bakhtaoui but he lingered too long and his cross was blocked.
Talbot and then Paton had attempts at the Ayr goal but both were off target and did not trouble Fleming. Ryan Wallace replaced El Bakhtaoui for the final ten minutes and from an 83rd minute corner Paton's delivery was defended out only to Reid but his well hit shot narrowly cleared the bar.
Murdoch dived to his left to hold a Forrest effort but it was mainly all towards Flemings goal. In 88 minutes Wallace was through on the keeper but as he tried to jump over the keeper spilled to the deck. Fleming got the benefit since he possibly got to the ball first.
A 92nd minute free kick on the edge of the box meant that the match drew to a close in front of the Ayr goal. Wallace curled the ball narrowly over the top but the three points were already tied up.
The result opened up a 13 point advantage over Ayr who have a game in hand. Peterhead came back from behind to beat Forfar 3-2 so they remain in second place 8 points behind having played one more match than the Pars.
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch; Craig Reid, Brad McKay, Ben Richards-Everton, Jason Talbot; Michael Paton, Andy Geggan (c), Josh Falkingham, Joe Cardle (David Hopkirk 87); Michael Moffat, Faissal El Bakhtaoui (Ryan Wallace 81).
SUBS NOT USED: Rhys McCabe, Shaun Byrne, Shaun Rooney, Lewis Martin, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: Moffat (45+2 pen), Cardle (54), El Bakhtaoui (65)
YELLOW CARD: Cardle (43), Falkingham (73)
AYR UNITED: Greg Fleming; Nicky Devlin (c), Andy Graham, Peter Murphy, Michael Donald; Brian Gilmour, Ryan Stevenson, Jamie Adams (Paddy Boyle 29), Alan Forrest; Jordan Preston (Robbie Crawford 64), Craig Moore (Michael Wardrope HT).
SUBS NOT USED: Alan Trouten, Gerry McLaughlin, Craig McCracken, Shaun Newman (GK)
SCORERS: Graham (41), Moore (44 pen.)
YELLOW CARD: Moore (11), Stevenson (45+1)
RED CARD: Gilmour (45+1)
REFEREE: Nick Walsh
WEATHER: Sleet 3ºC
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes League One: (away) v Brechin City
Saturday 20th February 2016, kick off 3.00pm at Glebe Park
Ladbrokes Championship: v Livingston, Saturday 21st October 2017, kick off 3.00pm