Ladbrokes Championship: Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 1: 29/03/19
One first half goal from Declan McDaid that secured the points for Ayr United drove a serious dent in the Pars hopes of making the play offs.
It was fifth v fourth for this televised Friday night fixture. Dunfermline were looking for a victory that would take them level on points with their Ayrshire visitors.
Stevie Crawford made two changes from the side that lost by the only goal of the match against Dundee United on Tuesday night, Ryan Williamson and James Vincent started in place of James Craigen and Ryan Blair.
Ian McCall also made two changes to his Ayr side bringing in Declan McDaid and former Pars man, Steven Bell. Making way for them was Calvin Miller and Aaron Muirhead, the latter finding himself on the bench alongside former Dunfermline captain Andy Geggan.
Ayr kicked off towards the McCathie Stand and for the first minute and a half the visitors pressed well up into the Dunfermline half but then Ryan Scully raced out to grab a Danny Harvie cross and from his clearance Bruce Anderson was desperately unlucky when he just couldnt control the long ball and Ross Doohan came out to collect.
There was a sizeable period of Ayr possession that kept the Fifers pinned back and it took a timely block by Williamson to keep out a powerful 15th minute shot from McDaid.
Three minutes later Dunfermlineâ€™s first attempt of the evening came from Louis Longridge but his shot from distance travelled over the crossbar. As the game passed the midpoint of the first half Kallum Higginbotham tried a flick into the opposition box but that was mopped up all too easily.
The danger was all at the other end of the park with Michael Moffat flicking the ball across the Pars goalmouth and then when the ball broke back off referee Gavin Duncan Ayr got in on the right and Murdoch and Shankland fortunately failed to take the chance.
Moffat was presented with a good opportunity to make the breakthrough when Scully came for a 28th minute cross and the ball spun loose as he failed to get through a group of players. The former Pars striker blasted his chance into the McCathie from 15 yards out.
In 31 minutes McDAID found the far side of the net when his cross cum shot from out left sneaked in with Scully possibly expecting the inrunning Shankland to take the finish. 0-1 but hardly against the run of play.
A one two played by Williamson off Higginbotham won the Pars a 37th minute corner but when L Longridge delivered from the right it found Williamson in the centre of the box but he sent his shot over the crossbar.
On 40 minute, with no one beside him Joe Thomson in possession crumbled as his right foot appeared to have a problem. There was a seven minute delay while the staff attended to him but he needed a stretcher to leave the field. James Craigen came on to replace the stricken midfielder.
Still played flowed towards Scullyâ€™s goal and Ayr forced another corner before a strong run by Shankland in from the right saw him play a one two off his teammate before releasing a powerful shot from the edge of the box that Scully beat away.
It had been a poor first 45 for the home side, 60% possession for Ayr, just three Pars shots and none on target, we could only hope that their good recent second half form reappeared in this match.
Half time: Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 1
Higginbotham and Anderson got the second half underway and there were early signs that the half time team talk had injected some urgency into the home sideâ€™s play.
Craigen and Williamson pushed up the right before Higginbotham dug in and forced a corner on the right. L Longridge swing the ball in from the right and Anderson was a little unlucky as he tried to convert the knocked down ball.
Ayr hit back with passes across the box and a Mark Kerr effort that went well wide left. Ten minutes into the half Scully got clipped by Moffat as he got close to stealing a weak Danny Devine pass back.
Then there was a 59th minute let off as Shankland nipped in and somehow between Devine and his keeper they managed to keep the striker out. The visitors were sharp when Smith, Crawford and Moffat combined from a throw in on the right and again the former Pars man sent a shot wide left.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui was a tactical substitution in 61 minutes replacing Kallum Higginbotham and having beaten his man out on the left, he tried for glory with a shot that ended up in the sidenetting two minutes later. Williamson in the interim had lobbed a fine pass across the Ayr six yard box but Vincentâ€™s attempt to head home was off target.
Faissal then dispossessed Kerr and raced upfield but was unable to execute the pass that might have put Anderson in on the keeper. There was further encouragement for the home fans when Craigen managed to get in a good cross that Bell had to make sure he cleared. More purpose and energy was displayed by the Pars as L Longridge made Doohan hold a chip into his box.
Ayr fought back Crawford earning a 72nd minute corner that took the heat off their defence. They overhit it but then Craigen was clumsy with his challenge on Crawford and Shankland had a chance to have a pop from 23 yards but he sent that over the bar.
While it remained just 1-0 there was great hope that something could be salvaged from this game. A fine backheader by El Bakhtaoui from a Longridge corner dropped for Devine on the left side of the penalty box but he blasted it wide left. Harvie was yellow carded in 79 minutes for his challenge on Anderson but then from the free kick wide right the Pars were penalised for being over physical in the Ayr six yard box.
El Bakhtaoui tried a back flick on a Williamson cross but now into 83rd minute the clock was running away from the Fifers. Anderson ran on to a Williamson long ball on 86 minutes and L Longridge was on the end of the cut back but the Ayr defence decscened upon him before he got a shot away.
Dunfermline pressed hard and eventually got a shot on target. El Bakhtaoui crossed for L Longridge but this time the keeper saved, Beadling clipped the ball across the face of goal and Anderson got an opportunity that he blasted over the top.
All three points were Ayrâ€™s and they lifted themselves to third one point ahead of Inverness Caley Thistle who have played one game less. Dunfermline are five points behind Inverness but having played one game more.
DUNFERMLINE: Ryan Scully: Ryan Williamson, Lee Ashcroft (c), Danny Devine, Jackson Longridge: Tom Beadling, James Vincent (Matthew Todd 74): Joe Thomson (James Craigen 45+2), Louis Longridge, Kallum Higginbotham (Faissal El Bakhtaoui 61): Bruce Anderson.
SUBS NOT USED: Mark Durnan, Ryan Blair, Lewis McCann, Cammy Gill (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Devine (69), El Bakhtaoui (FT)
AYR UNITED: Ross Doohan: Liam Smith, Michael Rose, Steven Bell (c), Daniel Harvie: Robbie Crawford, Andy Murdoch, Mark Kerr, Declan McDaid: Michael Moffat, Lawrence Shankland (Liam Miller 74).
SUBS NOT USED: Aaron Muirhead, Andy Geggan, Nicky Cadden, Ross Docherty, Alan Forest, Ellis Hare-Reid (GK)
SCORERS: McDaid (31)
YELLOW CARD: Harvie (79), Kerr (FT)
REFEREE: Gavin Duncan
WEATHER: Cloudy 9C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship: (away) v Partick Thistle, Saturday 6th April 2019, kick off 3.00pm at The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.