Ladbrokes League One



by Calum Campbell

Pictures: David Sargent

YET again, the Kingdom of Fife welcomed United with strong winds and wintery weather making conditions very difficulty as the Honest Men kept their title challenge on track against a very able East Fife outfit.

Boss Ian McCall had warned fans about possible banana skins on the run in, and East Fife were never going to be easy opponents.

Ayr came out stronger and went ahead in just over three minutes when Lawrence Shankland found Alan Forrest with a ball into space down the left. Forrest stormed forward to the edge of the penalty area before turning inside the advancing goalkeeper Ben MacKenzie, then slotting home with his right foot from 11 yards.

It was all Ayr, and just two minutes later, a slide tackle by Paddy Boyle in the centre circle recovered the ball for United.

In 10 minutes Shankland’s 25-yard shot was comfortably saved by the keeper.

With striker Chris Duggan at the forefront of their attacking moves, East Fife slowly worked their way into the game. In 15 minutes, Duggan forced Jack Ruddy into a good save with a shot from the edge of the box. Ruddy was called into action a minute later when a ball in behind the United defence found Dunsmore whose effort was well saved by the United keeper.

However out of the blue, East Fife levelled in 21 minutes. Duggan carried the ball to 25 yards before deciding to hit a speculative drive. The ball viciously swerved and dipped before skipping off the artificial turf in front of the bemused Ruddy and into the net.

Ayr shook off the shock but couldn’t get the ball into the net with Alan Forrest and Declan McDaid, twice going close.

In 48 minutes Ayr worked the ball down the centre to Shankland, who fought hard to break clear of surrounding defenders before being up-ended by Allardice 20 yards out. From the free-kick Craig Moore curled the ball around the wall and off the bar.

Then came the sucker punch. Dunsmore played the ball from his own half over the heads of the United defence in 52 minutes to Duggan who had sprinted in behind and lifted the ball over the despairing arms of Ruddy, whose valiant effort only managed to flick the ball higher from where it dropped agonisingly into the net.

United looked shell-shocked and East Fife almost scored a third. A speedy move forward followed by some quick passing at the edge of the box released Watson from where he played the ball across the face of the United goal. With Ayr failing to intercept, the ball reached Duggan at the back post but defender Craig Reid somehow turned the goal-bound shot wide.

Suddenly Ayr were focused and determined to get something out of the game. They Ayr were not to be denied.

In 70 minutes Shankland chested the ball down to Moore near the edge of the box but his powerful drive swerved and rose wide.

A minute later East Fife put themselves under pressure when keeper MacKenzie failed to clear a pass back from the halfway line and Ayr substitute Michael Moffat’s probing forward pass was awkwardly turned behind for a corner by Page. From the corner on the right, fellow substitute McGuffie curled the ball to the front of the six-yard box for Steven Bell to dive in and head home.

In 87 minutes, Ayr were awarded a corner on the right after Forrest’s run to the line had been blocked by a sliding challenge from Dunsmore. As the ball was swung in East Fife’s Watson rugby tackled Bell in the box, dragging him to the ground, and referee David Lowe pointed to the spot. Up stepped Moore and slammed home his 25th goal of the season. Cue celebrations both on and off the pitch, and a mini-pitch invasion.