Ladbrokes League One



By Stewart McConnell

Pictures: Ken McKissock

GOAL machine Lawrence Shankland shot down his former club with the first hat-trick of his senior career as leaders United maintained their stranglehold at the top of the table.

It completed four wins out of four this season against the struggling Spiders and kept the Honest Men six points clear of Raith Rovers, who have a game in hand.

Shankland was in irresistible form as his team totally dominated this game from start to finish and once again underlined their title credentials.

In two minutes visiting right-back Ross Millen sent a corner-kick well wide of target.

For Ayr this was the first home game since the 3-0 drubbing of Raith Rovers and they needed a victory to keep the pressure on their Fife rivals.

Declan McDaid then sent an angled drive from eight yards inches wide of target after latching on to a long through ball from Michael Rose.

However the deadlock was broken in 10 minutes when McDaid set up goal predator Shankland, who walloped the ball home from 12 yards.

Home goalie Jack Ruddy got down well to save a 25-yard effort from Anton Brady on the line two minutes later.

Then there was another Ayr chance as a chip from 12 yards from Alan Forrest was well handled by Michael White in 15 minutes.

Then Queens had an opening two minutes later when a free-kick from 20 yards by Brady was headed just over the bar at the front post by Adam Cummings.

A 25-yard effort from Forrest was confidently clutched by White in 24 minutes.

A strong shot from 16 yards by Aidan Kenna was saved on the line by Ruddy in 26 minutes but the flag had gone up for offside.

United doubled their advantage in 26 minutes when the inspirational McDaid sent a precision pass to Shankland who skilfully chested the ball down before volleying it home from 10 yards.

Then in 34 minutes it was game over as Shankland slammed the ball home from 12 yards after being set up by Crawford to complete his treble.

Queen's has a half chance in 39 minutes when Kenna sliced a 12-yard effort wide of target.

The Honest Men were denied what looked like a surefire penalty in 49 minutes when Michael Moffat looks to be pushed inside the box, but referee Barry Cook waved play on.

Queen's forged an opening in 53 minutes when a cross into the box by captain Sean Burns was headed away by a home defender.

United though were breaking forward at will and looked capable of scoring every time they went forward.

The hosts came close again in 62 minutes when Shankland sent a 12-yard volley just over the bar.

The Spiders were awarded a free-kick just outside the box in 66 minutes but Millen's effort was easily dealt with by Ruddy.

Once again Ayr were again denied a penalty in 70 minutes when Declan McDaid was impeded inside the box but again Cook was having none of it.

They were finally awarded a spot-kick in 76 minutes when Craig McGuffie was upended inside the box and Craig Moore buried the set-piece in the bottom corner of the net.

They came close again when a 20-yard McDaid effort was fumbled then recovered by White in 79 minutes as they easily saw the game out to claim three vital points.

This was a swashbuckling performance from Ayr, who are growing increasingly confident as they close in on the title.