SPFL League One: AYR UNITED 1 DUNFERMLINE 2: 12/12/15
Dunfermline and Ayr United was certainly Match of the Day. With the sides equal on points at the top of League One there was all to play for when the two met for the second time in a fortnight.
Allan Johnston went with the same team that started against Brechin City the previous Saturday. Andy Geggan had sat that game out serving a one match suspension but missed out again due to an injury sustained in midweek in training.
Ayr United had several injuries to contend with and midfielder Jamie Adams was out suspended. Their bench had only five players and their team showed three changes from the side defeated 1-0 by the Pars in the Scottish Cup third round. Brian Gilmour, Robbie Crawford and Peter Murphy came in for Andy Muir, Michael Donald and Adams.
Captain Josh Falkingham won the toss and the teams changed ends before Ayr United kicked off attacking the goal in front of their own support. The visitors gave as good as they got for the first ten minutes. Former Ayr player Michael Moffat was yellow carded in the third minute when through on the left side of the Ayr box and going down a bit too easily when keeper Greg Fleming slid out.
The Ayr keeper survived a skied clearance that Moffat challenged but the ball escaped wide left while at the other end Ben Richards-Everton did enough to keep out Alan Trouten when presented with a good chance on the six yard line.
Joe Cardle got around his marker Andy Graham in 17 minutes but his squared ball along the 18 yard line was behind Moffat and the opportunity was lost. Ayr replied with a slow and deliberate build up ended by Lewis Martin as he cut out Allan Forrest's final ball.
Trouten forced a 21st minute corner and Brian Gilmour's cross was first headed by McLauchlan, gathered by Murphy and then taken on by Preston but the defence scrambled the ball away. Gerry McLauchlan was next to be shown yellow midway through the half. Moffat was going to get around the big centre back and so he blatantly took the player out. From the free kick Paton sent the ball right into Fleming but the keeper fumbled the ball and the ball slipped narrowly wide left.
In 27 minutes skipper Paddy Boyle got an opportunity to shoot from 35 yards out but the effort was easily taken by Sean Murdoch. Two minutes later Faissal El Bakhtaoui broke in on the left side of the Ayr box and appeared to have a foot whipped away from him before he was able to shoot. The shot trundled just wide of the right goalpost triggering protests from the Pars players and bench.
There was no doubting the Pars 33rd minute opener. El Bakhtaoui made a run on the right and backheeled the ball back for Paton to cross from the right edge of the box. When the cross came in MOFFAT was well placed to get down low and head the ball past Fleming and into the bottom left of the Ayr goal. 0-1
There was an immediate response from the home team with Murdoch doing really well to keep Forrest out at his left post. The resultant corner was defended back out to Gilmour and when he whipped across his follow up a glancing header from McLAUCHLAN slipped inside the right goalpost. 1-1
The match had been competitive but it went up a gear following the goals. Paton was yellow carded for a needlessly hard challenge just inside the Ayr half but Ian McCall's men pressed hard for another.
El Bakhtaoui was taken out as the Pars pushed forward but no decision from the referee and the half time whistle ended the half all square.
Half time: Ayr United 1 Dunfermline 1
Ayr were forced to bring on Michael Donald for Ross Docherty for the restart and the home side began the half with great intent. Everything changed within seven minutes however with the sending off of Joe Cardle. The Pars winger had cut in from the left and went down in the box. Referee Andrew Dallas showed the Pars man a yellow card, deeming him to have dived but then after an altercation with Ayr's Peter Murphy a red card was then shown before play had resumed.
Ayr brought on Nicky Devlin in place of McLauchlan and then David Hopkirk was introduced to take the place of Moffat but in reality he slotted into the role vacated by Cardle. There were 25 minutes remaining and it looked like the Pars were set up to contain Ayr.
The home side pushed up and play was all in front of Murdoch for a spell. Midway through the half sub Michael Donald slipped the ball right for Robbie Crawford to crash a low drive from 25 yards out narrowly wide of the left goalpost.
Then just into the 70th minute the Ayr central defence made a mistake that allowed El Bakhtaoui to send HOPKIRK in on goal he drew the keeper went around him on the left side and slid the ball into the empty net. 1-2
There was some dogged defending by the Fifers, Murdoch fisted a clearance, Hopkirk headed away from a Gilmour free kick and then from an 83rd minute corner it looked like Ayr might have found that equaliser. When the ball came over from the right it landed for Murphy and the home stand were crying out for him to hit it. He did and the ball deflected up for Boyle to head the ball towards the top right but miraculously Murdoch plucked the ball out of the air and into his hands.
Some home fans were heading for home when sub Ross Caldwell thrashed a shot low on target but again Murdoch came to the rescue. More Ayr fans departed but for the travelling support this ten man stand off was not for the faint hearted.
There were more goalmouth scrambles with McAusland and Talbot playing the heroes Gimour's low range effort in 89 minutes was held by Murdoch. Murdoch fingertipped a 92nd minute shot from Crawford away for a corner on the left and there was another nervy goalmouth to defend before the referee blew up after 47 minutes of the second half.
What a win in the circumstances. Very happy fans and team leaving Somerset Park.
AYR UNITED: Greg Fleming; Andy Graham, Gerry McLauchlan (Nicky Devlin 54), Peter Murphy, Paddy Boyle (c); Ross Docherty (Michael Donald HT), Alan Trouten (Ross Caldwell 76), Brian Gilmour, Robbie Crawford, Allan Forrest, Jordan Preston
SUBS NOT USED: Andy Muir, Shaun Newman (GK)
SCORERS: McLauchlan (36)
YELLOW CARD: McLauchlan (23), Gilmour (77)
DUNFERMLINE: Sean Murdoch; Lewis Martin, Marc McAusland, Ben Richards-Everton, Jason Talbot; Michael Paton, Shaun Byrne, Josh Falkingham (c), Joe Cardle, Michael Moffat (David Hopkirk 55), Faissal El Bakhtaoui.
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Spence, Shaun Rooney, Rhys McCabe, Ryan Wallace, Mickael Antoine-Curier, David Hutton (GK).
SCORERS: Moffat (33), Hopkirk (70)
YELLOW CARD: Moffat (3), Paton (41), Cardle (52), El Bakhtaoui (80)
RED CARD: Cardle (52)
REFEREE: Andrew Dallas
WEATHER: Sunny 5C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes League One: (home) v Stenhousemuir. Saturday 19th December 2015, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park