Fixture: Dumbarton FC v Ayr United FC U20
Competition: SPFL U20 Development League West
Venue: Murray Park
Date: Monday 7th March 2016
A last minute own goal kept Ayr United Football Academy 20s on league leaders Morton coat-tails after this crucial 2-1 win over Dumbarton at Auchenhowie.
An imaginative free-kick routine between Steven McCreadie and Craig McGuffie in the second minute of added time allowed Ayr to move three points clear in second spot and claw to within four of the Greenock side at the summit of the SPFL Development League West.
The match looked destined to follow the same script of frustration from Thursday night’s 1-1 draw against Queen of the South but yet again the team dug deep and, just like last time, netted their reward with seconds to spare.
The visitors started brightly enough and started to create openings by finding their crisp passing game immediately on point. Good midfield play led to Andy Johnstone’s cross fall to Luke McCowan, who fired a 20-yard strike narrowly over the top after three minutes. Johnstone’s persistence earned Ayr a free-kick in an enticing position that McCreadie blazed over and on 18 minutes last week’s goal hero Andy Muir unleashed a powerful 25-yard effort that clipped the crossbar.
United’s positive start grew into utter dominance. With pockets of space being found at will, it was just the final ball or strike that was eluding the team. They came close yet again in the 23rd minute. Stuart Faulds charged down a defensive clearance that broke perfectly for Sean McKenzie, the striker was taken out by the Dumbarton keeper just outside the area and the resulting free-kick from McGuffie was clawed clear.
McKenzie headed over a sweeping midfield move just before the half-hour as Ayr started to knock the ball around with confidence. Ten minutes before the break, Ayr were scratching their heads wondering how they weren’t ahead after a flurry of chances.
In the space of 90 seconds, McGuffie swivelled in the area and had a snap shot saved. McCreadie’s raking diagonal ball set Johnstone clean through only to be denied by a late block from the Sons defender. Then McCreadie’s arcing free-kick into the box broke invitingly for McGuffie who unleashed a fizzing 25-yard drive that was expertly tipped onto the crossbar.
Half Time: Dumbarton FC 0-0 Ayr United FC
Ayr continued to press but the stubborn Sons held out to half-time. After all the neat passing play that allowed Ayr to dominate the first period, it was simple route one football that yielded the opening goal on 55 minutes. Kieran Woods’ long ball over the top was weighted perfectly to find McKenzie, he spotted the keeper off his line and struck the ball early on the half volley past the stranded Dumbarton No 1 into the bottom corner.
Dumbarton rallied after their concession and competed more fiercely in the next 15 minutes but the Ayr defence were able to comfortably deal with any danger. Ayr almost doubled their lead on the 68th minute, McCreadie’s quick free-kick was dinked into the path of McCowan, who charged into the box and feigned inside only to shoot wildly over from eight yards. A training ground move that might prove to be useful later on.
MacAuley Wilson and McKenzie both went close with 15 minutes to go as Ayr seeked a second goal to kill the game off but Dumbarton were not for rolling over just yet. After dealing with the hosts’ best spell of pressure, Ayr conceded a penalty with six minutes remaining.
Muir clipped the heels of his opponent just inside the box and the referee sharply pointed to the spot. Lyle Avci was sent the wrong way and Dumbarton were level. It looked like that would be the final nail in the coffin in terms of any faint title hope but Ayr fought back. And a moment of sheer ingenuity carved out victory in stoppage time.
United won a free-kick just inside the Dumbarton half on the left channel. McCreadie quickly rolled the ball down the line to the unmarked McGuffie at the left corner of the box. As everyone else anticipated the long ball into the box, McGuffie had time to beat one defender and strike a ferocious low ball across the goalkeeper that bounced off the post and off a Sons defender to clinch a precious three points.
Full Time: Dumbarton FC 1-2 Ayr United FC
‘We didn’t practice that,’ confessed Head of Youth David White. ‘We do try and create scenarios where players can be creative and I’m delighted that we pulled it off at the end. ‘We deserved to win. If it ended 1-1 we would have been as frustrated as last week. Steven (McCreadie) had a really good game tonight. He managed the game really well and has been one of our most improved players this season.
‘I’m delighted with the whole team performance tonight. We dominated from start to finish and the scoreline doesn’t reflect the display. It keeps the pressure up on Morton, too. ‘The boys deserve to be in the mix for the title. We’ve had four or five games in the space of three weeks and these guys have trained hard despite being at work or school all the time. Their commitment level is really high but we have to keep going as it’s not over yet.
‘We have two matches left to play and we are in a similar position to the first-team. We just have to keep winning to apply as much pressure on the team above us. That’s all we can do.’
Ayr United: Avci; Muir, Woods (Ballantyne 75), Hodge, Wilson; McCreadie; McCowan, Faulds (Waite 75); McGuffie, Johnstone; McKenzie. Subs not used: Brotherston, Hilton.