Ladbrokes Championship



by Calum Campbell

Pictures: Ian Geddes

ON Saturday Ayr travelled north to Inverness to face much-fancied Inverness Caley Thistle at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium and returned clutching a well-earned point in dramatic circumstances.

United played the final hour with only 10 men after Daniel Harvie received a second yellow card.

Before the match, there was a minute’s silence in memory of Caley Thistle’s former player and first club captain, 52-year-old Alan Hercher.

The first half was exciting, with ICT trying hard to dominate, stroking the ball around and regularly pushing towards United’s goal. Ayr frustrated Caley Thistle while countering at pace on the break. In general, the home side had the majority of the play but lacked the guile or patience in the final third to take advantage of this possession when coming up against the strong and resolute United defence with captain Jamie Adams, and Michael Rose dominant.

Thistle held possession for most of the opening minutes, with a Tom Walsh drive in two minutes signalling their intent but Ayr stood solid and slowly edged into the game, soon giving as good as they got with some delightful passing football.

Nine minutes later, Murdoch played a ball through behind the Caley Thistle defence and Daniel Harvie charged forward from the halfway line and raced shoulder to shoulder with Shaun Rooney to try and get in front and win the ball. The United defender tried to whip the ball away from Rooney, just as he flicked the ball back to his keeper and clipped the Caley Thistle man’s legs. Referee Andrew Dallas blew for a foul and flashed a yellow card at Harvie, one that would prove costly.

United came close in 18 minutes. A long ball was cushioned off the chest by Shankland 30 yards out, to Moffat who immediately flicked the ball back to Shankland who drove left and slid the ball to Robbie Crawford, who moved into the penalty area and, with quick sleight of foot curled a delicious effort just wide.

In 28 minutes, Charlie Trafford delivered a long sweeping ball into the Ayr penalty area with Oakley darting behind the United defensive line. The forward tangled with Ayr’s Harvie before going down and referee Dallas pointed to the spot, indicating that the United defender has pulled the Caley Thistle’s striker’s shirt. A second yellow and Harvie made the lonely walk off the field of play. Liam Polworth smashed the penalty wide.

Manager Ian McCall re organised Ayr’s structure with Forrest making way for David Ferguson who slotted in at left -back, with Moffat dropping into midfield, leaving Shankland upfront.

The sending off energised the Ayrshiremen, and in 36 minutes they had a penalty shout. Shankland fought and won the ball on the edge of the area only for defender Donaldson to tackle from behind, trapping his legs and bringing him to the ground, but referee Dallas waved away the striker’s furious claims.

United came out all guns blazing after the break and two minutes in, Shankland out-muscled Donaldson before smashing a drive across the face of the goal and inches wide.

Then in 50 minutes, Shankland held up the ball on the halfway line before releasing Michael Moffat who skilfully wrong-footed and turned Brad McKay, before shooting inches wide.

Caley turned up the heat, with headers from Austin, and Oakley going close, and a 30-yard drive by Joe Chalmers being plucked out of the air by the strong and confident Doohan.

Ayr then went close when Moffat finding Crawford who again used quick footwork to bypass defenders before releasing a left-foot shot which Ridgers saved.

In 81 minutes Shankland found Crawford with a stunning cross-field pass. Crawford raced to the line before trying to lift the ball to the back post where Shankland had sprinted to in expectation. Just as the perfect moment seemed to have been created, Mark Ridgers intercepted the ball mid-flightpath

With only 10 men, Ayr showed determination, grit, and flair to clinch a deserved point.