A welcome return as underdogs

Eagle-eyed observers, glass-half-empty miserablists and the negative moaning bastard types you often find at Somerset Park may suggest that, after a promising start, this blog has somewhat died on its arse (look, it doesn’t owe you anything, its just some ramblings about Ayr United on the internet). After Ayr United crashed out of the Ramsdens Cup to Third Division Annan on Sunday lets hope the side’s fortunes on the pitch don’t follow in a similar vein as we gear up for a trip up the coast to Cappielow.

A word first on the win against Raith Rovers which earned United their first win of the league campaign, following on from credible draws with Falkirk and Dundee and a decent performance on the opening day against Hamilton. Ayr went into the game on the back of a well deserved win over Inverness and with the knowledge they had put Raith Rovers out of the Ramsdens Cup. Rovers themselves had been lambasted by a 'livid' and 'raging' John McGlynn for their 3-0 Cup defeat at the hands of Airdrie United: "abysmal" and  "absolutely disgraceful" said last season's PFA Scotland Manager of the Year.

Of he was looking for a response, he didn't get one.  Not until Mat Northcroft sent of Rovers youngster Ross Callachan for a challenge on Mark Roberts that initially looked innocuous from the North Terracing but on review was a video nasty.  Callachan's mother asked me before the game if she would get in for free because her son was playing and if she could pay by card at the turnstyles. It seems that particular family have got a lot to learn.

Rovers were surprisingly rank rotten in the first half-an-hour of the game but in truth, Ayr didn’t quite reach their best. Raith did what Raith do, and when down to 10 men they were even more effective.  The long ball up to the busy Baird remained a threat and McGlynn stuck with two-up front, limiting the ability of Ayr's full-backs to be released forward, although Malone became increasingly influential as Ayr went in search of a goal.  Ayr's first goal came from that man Michael McGowan.  Michael Moffat's best work may not come at left wing, but he does add a goal threat and it was him that stole in to hit home a McGowan cross. 

Raith equalised shortly after going down to ten men, with a neat passing move you don't normally associate with McGlynn's 'kick and rush' merchants. The goalscorer was Joe Hamill, a player who impressed me at Livingston last season and a shrewd acquisition by Raith in the summer.  The remainder of the game was typified by long balls and time wasting from the visitors and tiredness and anxiety from the home team.  Eventually, though, the goal came and it was Ross Robertson with a perfect header past McGurn. This is exactly the cameo role Rosco can play for us this season - he night lack finesse but the lad is a danger and it was excellent to see Ayr get the win that their start to the season - if not their performance on the afternoon - deserved.

Then came Annan on weekend to forget from football fans with sympathies for both the national team and Ayr United.  Brain Reid has never taken this competition particularly seriously and maybe got a bit too complacent with his team selection for this one, influenced no doubt by the success his 'B' team had against Raith in the previous round.  Ayr lost it in the midfield and up front, where Reid changed all six.  Trouten - returning from injury was well off the pace; Ross Robertson showed a lack of composure and game intelligence; and Tiffoney? Oh dear. He had a shocker. There's is a blog piece in its own on alarming regression his performances have shown of late. Poor Ryan Connolly won't have known what hit him in a difficult game to judge the on loan Irishman. 

Upfront, only Brian Reid knows what he was hoping to achieve by playing Alex Burke off Roddy Paterson. Its hard to imagine the No. 10 jersey being filled by someone less mobile that Mark Roberts but Burke managed it and then some. The former Kilmarnock winger walked straight down the tunnel after being substituted on 54 minutes. We can only hope he kept on walking never to be seen again. It was unfair on Paterson, a natural born goalscorer if ever I've seen one. Yes, his numerous mistimed runs frustrated, but Roddy himself has cut a frustrated, scowling figure in recent weeks. One can only hope Reid knows what he is doing with his man management of this potential hitman.   

In the end Ayr - and Brian Reid - got what they deserved and we can only hope lessons are learned.       

With that forgotten - nobody seemed too upset at crashing out the Ramsdens Cup - it's along the Clyde coast tomorrow for a game that could see United stretch their unbeaten league run to four games. 

Ayr should have their strongest (on paper) defence of the season available, with Duff at right back – he’s been offered a contract so I’d expect him at least to feature as a trialist again – Malone at left back and Robertson and Campbell in the middle. This means no place for the vastly improved Chris Smith. He’s no longer the bombscare many opposition fans seem to remember him as but at the same time, MacDonald and Jackson could get the better of him. That would give us a solid, experienced back line that will be difficult to break down. If Di Giacomo is deployed on the right his head-to-head with Malone could be entertaining.

If we’re to get anything from the game it will on the counter attack, and down the flanks. McGowan is the danger man, bringing in Connolly allows him to play on the right where he has been most dangerous. Those two are going to have to do a job defensively, however, especially if Morton play narrow as the inexperienced Geggan and McKernan, although hardworking, could be swamped. Away from home there is no place for Roberts in the starting line-up, in my opinion. That was evidenced at Dundee, where he neither linked up with Wardlaw leading the line or contributed much to the midfield in a deeper role. Moffat is a much better option to play off Wardlaw. 

Morton are much fancied this season, and certainly carry a confident (if not down right delusional and arrogant) support, and with the attacking players they posses will be a tough, tough test tomorrow.  It should be an attractive, entertaining game but if Ayr's experienced back four can keep it tight there is no reason why we can't add to our points tally this season.  After the expectation of getting the win against 10 men Raith, and  a Ramsdens Cup semi-final at the hands of Third Division Annan, Ayr go into the game as underdogs (3/1 underdogs) - a position that has suited them so far this season.

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