SPFL Championship: AYR UNITED 0 DUNFERMLINE 0: 01/10/16
Ladbrokes Championship: one change for Pars Ryan Williamson in for Callum Fordyce. Kick off delayed by five minutes
Dunfermline made one change for the trip to Somerset Park, Ryan Williamson starting in place of Callum Fordyce. Their hosts returning after trips to Easter Road and Falkirk, made one change from that which was unlucky to lose the previous week, Jamie Adams coming in for Kevin Nisbet.
Ayr manager Ian McCall described last season`s encounters as "healthy rivalry" and anticipated this first meeting of the season to be "very keenly contested".
The teams changed ends before Ayr kicked off attacking the goal in front of their own fans and it was them who saw the early action. Gary Harkins persevered on the left and Paddy Boyle was allowed the opportunity to send a long throw into the Pars box but Lee Ashcroft headed away and then John Herron headed out the returned ball.
Sean Murdoch had to make the first serious save in fourth minute when Brian Gilmour launched a long range effort from 35 yards out. The keeper did well to turn that over his crossbar and Gilmour then delivered a dangerous cross from the corner on the right that Conrad Balatoni`s header powered on target but Murdoch held.
When Daryll Meggat headed Gavin Reilly`s 11th minute cross behind Dunfermline won their first corner of the game. Michael Paton tried to find Nicky Clark on the near side of the box but it can back to the Pars no.7 who beat his man and hard a good attempt at beating Greg Fleming at his near post but the keeper kept it out.
John Herron took a nasty ankle knock from Harkins and after Lewis Martin fired the resultant free kick from the half way line into the Ayr box he went down again and all physio Kenny Murray could do for him as assist him to hobble off. Rhys McCabe was the 18th minute substitute who took his place.
Joe Cardle`s late tackle on Nicky Devlin gave Gilmour the chance to pump a free kick into the Pars box but Paton got that away and a fine pass from the Dunfermline sub picked out Cardle on the left and Clark`s shot from the lay off screamed narrowly over the crossbar.
It was end to end stuff and entertaining for the neutral. Jamie Adams then turned a Gilmour cross over the top from just six yards out. Fleming plucked a 25th minute Paton cross out of the air before at the other end only the most partizan of the home support was appealing for a penalty when Alan Forrest tumbled in front of Martin.
On 29 minutes a deep cross from Gilmour on the right landed for Forrest at the far post but he blasted a good opportunity off target. Devlin made a break to latch on to a Balatoni pass and he evaded Jason Talbot`s sliding tackle to get in a cross that was defended only as far as Ross Docherty but thankfully the former Airdrie player could only send his attempt wide.
Ashcroft headed a Paton corner back across goal and Martin was unlucky not to get a good connection. Farid El Alagui then replaced Nicky Clark who had taken an earlier knock.
A 37th minute Gilmour corner from the left was fisted away by Murdoch and then Geggan was maybe a bit lucky to get away with a shove that floored Adams as Devlin launched a long throw into the box. Ashcroft was then the saviour as he kept Forrest out before play switched to the other end but Cardle sent Alagui`s pass out of the ground.
An interchange between Paton and Talbot set up the former for a 44th minute shot but he was just too high with the shot. Next Fleming was out sharpish to deny the in running Reilly and in time added on at the end of the half, Balatoni was penalised for towering into Martin in the Pars six yard box.
It had been a pretty even first half with honours even in terms of shots (4) and corners (2). All to play for in the second half.
Half time: Ayr United 0 Dunfermline 0
The second half commenced with the same stalemate. Murdoch held a Gilmour free kick before Cardle controlled a Paton cross but fired over the top. In 55 minutes Cardle stopped Devlin`s progress down the right but Gilmour over hit the free kick. Next there was optimism as Reilly broke but his pass to Cardle lost the momentum and only a corner followed.
The corner was sent in from the right and Alagui`s overhead kick was pushed away by Fleming. Back to the other end and Murdoch saved a fierce shot from Gilmour and then held a decent strike from Harkins. Fleming had a hairy moment playing football in front of El Alagui. The tempo was frantic and only cooled when Devlin sent his cross out on the hour.
Cardle had the ball in the net in 62 minutes but El Alagui had pushed away Balatoni before he had headed down Williamson`s cut back. As the midpoint of the half past Ayr introduced Kevin Nisbet for Alan Forrest and a 72nd minute Pars free kick was pumped into the box by McCabe. Fleming came flying out to fist away the ball but went straight into El Alagui causing frantic gestures from players to get on the physio and medics. Thankfully the smelling salts were enough to get the French Moroccan back on his feet.
The striker was sharp enough to catch on to a defenders knock down of a Paton cross but the ball crashed narrowly over the top. Next an Adam`s pass went straight to Cardle and he sent Paton away. Reilly took the pass to the left but when he tried a shot from the left side of the Ayr box Balatoni was able to turn the ball out for a corner. That came to nothing but Dunfermline were beginning to enjoy some superiority.
Cardle tried a through ball for El Alagui but again the Ayr defence came out on top. With ten minutes remaining Michael Moffat replaced Gavin Reilly and Ayr introduced Craig McGuffie for Jamie Adams. Docherty then made an opening for himself but fired high. Paul Cairney came on and nearly got a winner after Harkins forced his way in along the left byeline but Talbot stole the ball away from in front of the sub.
In added time Fleming`s goal kick went straight to Moffat but El Alagui was offside as he tried to get in for a winner. It ended with no goals and even no bookings and both teams take a point.
AYR UNITED: Greg Fleming. Nicky Devlin (c), Conrad Balatoni, Daryll Meggatt, Paddy Boyle: Brian Gilmour, Robbie Crawford (Paul Cairney 85), Jamie Adams (Craig McGuffie 80), Ross Docherty, Gary Harkins, Alan Forrest (Kevin Nesbit 69)
SUBS NOT USED: Jamie Thomas, Peter Murphy, Mikey Donald, Jordan Hart (GK)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch: Ryan Williamson, Lewis Martin, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot, Michael Paton, Andy Geggan (c), John Herron (Rhys McCabe 18), Joe Cardle: Gavin Reilly (Michael Moffat 80), Nicky Clark (Farid El Alagui 34).
SUBS NOT USED: Ben Richards-Everton, Paul McMullan, Kallum Higginbotham, David Hutton (GK)
REFEREE: Don Robertson
WEATHER: Sunny 13C
NEXT MATCH: Irn-Bru Challenge Cup (home) v Queens Park, Saturday 8th October 2016, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park. Admission: £10 and £5
Betfred Cup v Peterhead: Saturday 22nd July 2017, kick off 3.00pm