Ayr and Clyde aim to end winless runs

Ayr United v Clyde – Match by numbers

Ayr United take on Clyde for a place in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals. The Honest Men last reached that stage in 2012, while Clyde have been waiting since 2005. Whatever happens, at least two non-Premiership teams will be in the draw for the next round making an appearance at the national stadium not outwith the realms of possibility.

5– The two sides have met five times before in the Scottish Cup and have never required a replay to decide the winner. Clyde won the first meeting, a third round tie at Shawfield, 8-3 in February 1953. The Bully Wee have been dominant against their Ayrshire rivals in the Cup, winning four of the five ties. The Honest Men’s only victory came at Shawfield in February 1972 when they won the third round tie 1-0. That tie remains the only time Clyde have failed to score against Ayr in a Scottish Cup match.

7– Clyde travel to Somerset Park having not won an away game since a 2-0 Scottish Cup second round win against Brora Rangers on October 22. They have picked up two draws on the road since, losing their other five. Coincidentally, Ayr haven’t won a home game since October 22 either. The 1-0 win against Queen of the South is their most recent league win. In the seven games since, they have drawn with Queen’s Park in the Scottish Cup and Dumbarton in the league losing the other five.

14– The teams last met in July 2014 at Broadwood in the Challenge Cup. Barry Ferguson’s first match in charge of Clyde ended with the League Two side upsetting League One Ayr after first half goals from Scott McManus and John Sweeney saw them record a 2-0 win. The Cumbernauld side have a decent recent record against the Ayrshire outfit, you have to go back to August 2012 for the Honest Men’s last win against Clyde, a 6-1 thumping at Somerset in first round of the League Cup. That was Ayr’s only win in the last 14 meetings, losing eight and drawing the other five.

17– Ayr have hosted their Lanarkshire rivals nine times since the turn of the Millennium, losing only twice. Of the other seven matches, Ayr won four with three ending in draws. The last Clyde victory came in May 2003 when Alan Kernaghan’s charges recorded a 3-0 win. That season, Clyde finished second in Division One with the Honest Men in sixth. Neither side has recorded a better finish since, however Clyde did end up second the following season but with less points.

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Morton show Ayr how it’s done

Ayr United 1-4 Greenock Morton

Ross Forbes and Gary Oliver each grabbed a brace as Morton outclassed the Honest Men at Somerset Park after Jamie Adams had given Ayr a bit of hope at half time. The Ayrshire side are now four points adrift of Dumbarton in ninth while Morton are now a win away from second place. Here, I take a look at how the game was won and lost.

Morton’s Midfield Magician

The away side’s standout performer, Ross Forbes, was all over the pitch and took his goals well. A lovely curled effort from wide on the right gave Morton an early lead before he showed excellent technique to get his foot over an awkward ball to drive it into the ground and bounce it over Greg Fleming’s outstretched palm. Everything good Morton did came through Forbes as he put on a man of the match performance. His delivery from a dead ball wasn’t at its best but from open play it was deadly. He was even afraid to get stuck in when needed and win the ball back to help out his defence.

Played into trouble

To both sides credit, they tried to get the ball down and play it as often as they could despite the quality of the Somerset pitch. The best opportunities were created when either team got a hold of the ball and worked it forward but Ayr sometimes chose the wrong way to do it. At 3-1 down early in the second half, they tried a bit too often to play the ball out from defence. The defenders made few mistakes but Morton applied pressure at the right times to force Ayr into a pass they didn’t want to make. This played the home side at trouble at times and their only choice was for Fleming to hit the ball long and back into Morton’s possession.

The final ball

The awareness of the away side allowed them to make quick decisions and in the final third. With the quality of their midfield, their final pass found it’s man more often than not. The home side, on the other hand, were let down on occasion with their final ball and it made getting into scoring positions all the more difficult. When Ayr made the right pass, it resulted in their best passages of play and they created chances that they should have scored but when you’re not scoring a lot of goals you need your final ball to be on point every time. With Craig Moore back fit, Ayr proved to be a more potent attacking threat but they will need to make their final ball more often in order to produce the goods if they are to beat the drop.

Ex-rivals take to the field for Ayr and Morton

Ayr United v Greenock Morton – Match by numbers

Ayr United take on the form team in the Championship as Morton continue their push to be named best of the rest behind Dundee United and Hibernian. Ton are now just five points behind the Terrors and have the chance to close the gap further as United face a tough trip to East End Park.

4– This will be the seventh time Ayr and Morton have met at Somerset Park this decade and the Honest Men are unbeaten in their last four. Morton have won just one of those previous six matches with Ayr picking three wins and two draws. The Honest Men won the previous meeting in Ayrshire this season when goals from Paul Cairney and Alan Forrest hoisted United off the bottom of the table for the first time with a 2-1 back in September.

6– Third placed Morton are currently on a six-match unbeaten run since a 2-1 loss to Dunfermline at East End Park. The Greenock side have lost just once in their last 13 games and have picked up 11 points from their last five games making them one of the form teams in the Championship. If it wasn’t for their poor start to the campaign where they picked up just three points in their opening five games, they could be challenging Hibs at the top of the league with a tally of 31 points from their last 15 games.

8– Former St Mirren striker Lawrence Shankland scored on his Morton debut as they kept up their impressive home form with a 2-0 win over Raith Rovers two weeks ago. That matched the same achievement by former Kilmarnock defender Conrad Balatoni when he scored twice, albeit once for Airdrieonians, on his Ayr United debut. Combined, the two sides have eight of their rivals former on their books. Jamie McGowan and Scott Tiffoney played for St Mirren’s youth teams while Jon Scullion made one appearance on the bench for the Buddies. Jamie Adams spent four years as a youth player at Kilmarnock whilst Paul Cairney made 16 appearances in blue and white and Gary Harkins score five goals in 52 matches for Killie.

15– Craig Moore made his first appearance in seven months in Ayr’s 0-0 draw with Queen’s Park last weekend. The on loan Motherwell striker last took to the field in the 1-0 loss to St Mirren in the Betfred Cup back in July where he picked up a concussion. A lengthy recovered period followed but he picked up where he left off last season by scoring his 15th goal for the Honest Men in the 2-2 draw at Hampden on Tuesday. The 22-year-old was Ayr’s top scorer in the league last season with 14 goals in 25 games.

 

Lacklustre Ayr lose out to Pars

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.

Somerset brings out the best in Pars

Ayr United v Dunfermline Athletic – Match by numbers

Somerset Park is the venue as the Championships two recently promoted sides go head-to-head for the third time this season. The two previous meetings ended in draws and with both teams battling near the bottom, a win today could prove vital.

5- The Ayrshire ground tends to be a good venue for Dunfermline. The Pars have won on five of their last six visits and are unbeaten in their last 10. In fact, facing Ayr in general seems to bring out the best in the Fife side with the Honest Men taking the spoils just once in the last six years. Since Febuary 2010, the teams have played 18 times with Dunfermline winning 13 (D3 L1). Ayr, the Championships joint lowest scorers, only managed 15 goals to the Pars 35 in those 18 games with Dunfermline keeping seven clean sheets. The Ayrshire side last came out on top on September 12 2015 after goals from Alan Forrest and Jordan Preston at East End Park saw the Honest Men leapfrog Dunfermline into second place in League One.

6- Both sides will be desperate to avoid one unwanted record. Since 2012, no team promoted to the Championship has been relegated in their first season. Cowdenbeath, Dumbarton, Queen of the South, Alloa Athletic, Rangers and Greenock Morton have all been promoted from League One in the last four seasons and all six spent at least two seasons in the second tier. Ayr themselves were the last team promoted from the third tier to be relegated straight back down in 2011-12.

11- This season’s meetings have seen one player in particular thrust into the spotlight. Ayr keeper Greg Fleming. Possibly the standout performer at Somerset Park this season, the 30 year old has routinely been the difference between three points and none with his excellent shot-stopping and reactions topped off by two penalty saves in two minutes from Kallum Higginbotham in the 1-1 draw at East End Park. Since joining the Honest Men in July 2015, his penalty saving record has been simply phenomenal. The keeper has faced 13 penalties in Black and White (including four in the 3-1 shootout win over Stranrear) with just two hitting the back of the net.

35- After a goalless draw at Somerset Park in October, the sides played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at East End Park where Nicky Clark put Dunfermline ahead before Alan Forrest equalised from the spot. That means the Honest Men have the chance to go a full season unbeaten against Dunfermline and, when the sides have been in the same league, that hasn’t happened since 1981/82, 35 years ago. Ayr played Dunfermline three times that season, twice at East End Park and once in Ayrshire, all in the league. All three meetings ended in draws, 1-1 at Somerset in October 1981 before a 0-0 draw in February and a 2-2 draw in April 1982 in Fife.