Ayr United 0-2 Dunfermline Athletic
First half goals from Nicky Clark and Andy Geggan saw Dunfermline extend their unbeaten run to seven in the league. The Pars are now five points clear of Ayr, who sit in the relegation play-off spot, in sixth place. Here, I take a look at how the game was won and lost.
Mismatch in midfield
On the face of it, Ayr’s 4-4-1-1 vs Dunfermline’s a 4-4-2 might suggest that the Honest Men would have the advantage with the extra man in the middle. However, Dunfermline’s holding midfielder, Nat Wedderburn gave them a crucial advantage. The Englishman was much stronger than the tiny Alan Forrest, and most of the Ayr squad for that matter, as he regularly won the ball in physical contests across the midfield. The midfielder was key in breaking up some of Ayr’s attacking play while Forrest wasn’t able to get the grip on the match he wanted with Wedderburn’s dominance in the centre. The midfielder may not have been man of the match but his mismatch with the Ayr midfield was certainly a big factor.
A strikers touch
The two teams were evenly matched. Dunfermline slightly edged possession 52-48, Ayr had 10 efforts on goal to Dunfermline’s nine and had more corners at nine to five. The difference was the Honest Men’s inability to take chances, mainly down to their lack of strikers. The home side’s best chance fell to Forrest after 59 minutes when the hard-working Kevin Nisbet kept the ball alive before squaring to Forrest in the six-yard box. Forrest turned his man but could only fire the ball wide. It was a chance you would expect Ayr’s top scorer to take and they were punished for it. Without an out-and-out centre forward the Honest Men’s constant good play on the wings saw 15 and 20 crosses played into the box but none were capitaliesed on. At the other end, Clark and former Ayr man Geggan possesed that strikers touch that earned them two well-taken goals and all three points.
Change it up… or not
At 0-0, Ayr were the better team. They were creating more chances and some that should really have ended up in the back of the net. However, they stalled once Dunfermline took the lead and got a grip on the game. For the last 20 minutes of the first half, the Pars were in control and deservedly established the 2-0 lead. The home side came out in the second half and started off the way they had played at the start of the first but they couldn’t get that goal that could change the game. Ian McCall made all three personnel changes available to him but he didn’t change his tactics to try and get something from the game. The first sub saw Nisbet taken off for Brian Gilmour which meant Harkins was pushed forward as the lone striker, a role which just doesn’t suit him. The other two subs were like-for-like which allowed Dunfermline to see out the match without much hassle. Had Ayr moved to a back three with the rock-solid Conrad Balatoni at the centre and put another body in the final third, the Pars may have been made to worry.