SPFL Championship: DUNFERMLINE 0 AYR UNITED 1: 18/03/17
For the visit of Ayr United manager Allan Johnston had to make two changes from had been a very stable team - the same starting eleven had been named for six out of the last seven matches. Joe Cardle and Ryan Williamson returned in the absence of the injured Andy Geggan and Paul McMullan. For Ryan it was his first start since October. Sean Murdoch wore the captain`s armband.
Ayr United had seven players out injured but still named a formidable starting eleven including former Pars Farid El Alagui, Greg Fleming and Paddy Boyle. Three players dropped out of the side defeated 4-1 at home by Falkirk the previous Saturday. Craig Moore, Gary Harkins and Craig McGuffie made way for Alan Forrest, Michael Rose and Ross Docherty.
The visitors kicked off attacking the goal at the McCathie Stand end but all the early play was towards the goal at the other end. A superb pass from Williamson to Michael Moffat was switched on for Nicky Clark to take down the right but his attempt to cross was blocked. There followed not one but two frights for Ayr as Fleming firstly swished and sliced a clearance to be quickly followed by further poor decision making, the keeper coming out to try and beat Moffat to the ball failing and setting up Cardle for a shot from the edge of the box that was blocked by a defender.
In seventh minute Williamson got behind the visitors` defence to cross for Moffat whose header beat Fleming only to be kept out by the left upright. The right back looked desperately keen to impress and minutes later burst in to the Ayr box again but faced with three defenders eventually lost out.
Dunfermline were well on top at this point and there was some fancy play Cardle picking out Moffat with a great ball but Higginbotham`s final ball was again blocked. Ayr`s first shot at goal came in 16 minutes when Ross Docherty turned on the edge of the box to send his attempt wide right.
This took the visitors up the park and they came more into it as the half went on. Fortunately when their skipper Nicky Devlin was played in deep down the right he skied his cross behind the posts. There was a further le off for Fleming as he and Darryl Meggatt fort in a tangle on the edge of their six yard box almost letting Clark in for what would have sealed the comedy of errors.
In 28th minute Fleming held Cardle`s shot after the Pars favourite latched on to a fine pass from John Herron. Next minute the big green giant of a keeper came and held Higginbotham`s delivery from a corner on the right.
It was all Dunfermline for the last fifteen minutes of the half but there were no goals. Herron got good purchase on a 35th minute header but was off target, Moffat powered a shot on target from 20 yards but was blocked out. Joe Cardle then had three attempts before the break. The first came when Williamson on the edge of the Ayr box threaded a pass for the Pars favourite to run on to but he could only force a corner.
Next Joe found himself in possession on the left but elected to pass instead of shooting and that went astray. When Williamson won a 44th minute corner it was defended out to Cardle but his shot went wide right.
The other two chances went to the head of Morris but neither could be directed on target.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 0
The second half was only ten seconds old when Moffat got in on the right side of the Ayr box and his well struck effort was touched over the bar by Fleming. It looked as though that would charge the Pars on to the eventual opener but that was to come at the other end. A corner from the left was not dealt with and the ball squirmed through Tallbot to sneak in at the near post. Ross DOCHERTY was credited with the goal but it was great outcome from a fairly tame header. 0-1
Moffat made a break and teed up Higginbotham on the 18 yard line but as he tried to turn to make an opening to shoot he was dispossessed much to the dislike of the home support.
In 57 minutes Michael Rose fired a shot on target from a free kick 35 yards out. Murdoch touched that over the bar. Then a minute later Gilmour drilled the ball tantalisingly through the Pars six yard box. Then Murdoch had to keep out a Forrest shot from an acute angle.
Going for a change, Allan Johnston made a double substitution in 63 minutes - David Hopkirk and Michael Paton replacing Michael Moffat and Kallum Higginbotham. It was five minutes later when Paton pushed Williamson down the right to cut in and find Cardle but amazingly Joe missed from the edge of the six yard box.
Hopkirk got wide and worked himself into a position to cross from the byeline but there were no takers. Then the frustration continued as the sub seemed to have a chance to shoot but got closed out.
In 76 minutes Talbot raced down the left to get over a fine cross but Paton`s header went straight to Fleming. Gavin Reilly came on for Joe Cardle but it was sub Hopkirk whose 81st minute shot that almost broke the Pars duck but Fleming got down well to his right to touch the 25 yard shot round his post.
Paton delivered a dangerous ball in from the right but Conrad Balatoni intercepted before it could reach Reilly. Into the final five minutes and the crowd willed the home side to score. Talbot`s shot was bulleted off a defender for a corner but that changed nothing.
Craig McGuffie threatened on the counter and maybe should have done better with his 87th minute opportunity full marks to the defence for dispossessing him. at the other end the Ayr net was blessed with Balatoni heading clear as Wedderburn almost nicked in for an equaliser.
There was a push for the closing minutes but the Ayr defence held strong to take three vital points back to Ayrshire. St Mirren also won away from home so they remain just one off the bottom of the league. Dunfermline remain in sixth but now just five ahead of St Mirren.
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch (c): Ryan Williamson, Callum Morris, Lee Ashcroft, Jason Talbot: Nat Wedderburn: Kallum Higginbotham (Michael Paton 63), John Herron, Joe Cardle (Gavin Reilly 80): Nicky Clark, Michael Moffat (David Hopkirk 63).
SUBS NOT USED: Rhys McCabe, Callum Fordyce, Lewis Spence, David Hutton (GK)
AYR UNITED: Greg Fleming. Nicky Devlin (c), Daryll Meggat, Conrad Balatoni, Paddy Boyle. Robbie Crawford, Michael Rose, Ross Docherty (Craig McGuffie 70), Brian Gilmour: Alan Forrest (Gary Harkins 79), Farid El Alagui (Craig Moore 73)
SUBS NOT USED: Michael Wardrope, Sean McKenzie, Scott McKenna, Jordan Hart (GK)
SCORERS: Docherty (49)
REFEREE: Bobby Madden
WEATHER: Cloudy 9C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (away) v Morton, Saturday 25th March, 3.00pm kick off at Cappielow
50/50 Half Time Draw: Winning ticket no.87123 won £882
Ladbrokes Championship: v Falkirk, Saturday 2nd January 2018, kick off 3.00pm