AYR UNITED 3-0 COVE RANGERS
The team set out to make amends for last weekend's poor performance in Ayrshire on Friday evening, but defensive mishaps led to the side being two nil down within 25 minutes, and facing an uphill battle. Mitchell-Lawson's second half strike ensured the Honest Men secured all three points, a result which sees Cove drop into the relegation play-off spot.
Manager Paul Hartley made three changes to the side that were defeated 6-1 in Kirkcaldy last weekend. Scott Fox returned to the starting line-up after recovering from an ankle injury which prevented him playing at Stark's Park. He came in for Kyle Gourlay, who dropped to the bench.
In addition, full-back Shay Logan and midfielder Iain Vigurs came in to replace Miko Virtanen and Cieran Dunne.
These changes meant that the manager had opted to go with a 3-4-1-2 formation, a change to the 4-2-3-1 system which had been used in previous weeks.
Right from the first whistle, it was Cove who looked the brighter of the two sides.
Longridge and O’Halloran combined to dispossess Ashford on the half-way line. The latter drove into the heart of the Ayr defence, before slipping the ball wide to Longridge who was advancing down the left-hand side, but his cross aimed for the near post was hooked clear for a corner.
Down the other end, Chris Maguire tried to score an audacious goal from 30 yards, but upon striking the ball, slipped, and his effort trickled well wide of the goal.
The opening goal came in the seventh minute. A long ball was played up the park which Neill and Akinyemi contested for. The defender felt he was fouled, but referee Craig Napier didn't agree and waved play on. As the Cove defenders appealed for a free-kick, Chris Maguire advanced with the ball, running in off the left flank, before sliding a reversed pass into O'CONNOR who had made a clever run in behind the away defence. After getting the ball out of his feet, he slotted the ball under Fox and into the far corner.
Neill almost got us back on level terms just moments later. Vigurs crossed a free-kick deep into the Ayr box, and when the ball eventually dropped to the centre back around 10 yards out, he smashed a volley across goal, but Albinson did extremely well to dive to his right and palm the effort away.
Within an instant, Ayr were attacking down the right wing. A teasing cross into the six-yard box was dealt with well by Shay Logan, who was alert to the on-rushing O’Connor at the back post.
O’Connor had yet another opportunity to double his match tally in the 15th minute. Dempsey intercepted an O’Halloran pass before slipping the ball through to O’Connor on the edge of the Cove box. The winger’s first touch took him wide, which allowed Fox to close the angle and gather the ball at his feet.
Ayr continued to pile the pressure on as they looked to double their advantage. Maguire found space inside the box to unleash a shot at goal, but his effort was dragged wide.
The Honest Men did then make it 2-0 moments after, capitalising on a defensive error to extend their lead. Morgyn Neill played a slack pass into the midfield, which McAlear advanced onto. He looked to play Akinyemi through, and it appeared as if Naismith had dealt with the threat, but he smashed his clearance off the striker, who got the ball under control and advanced towards goal. After cutting onto his right foot, AKINYEMI fired across Fox and into the far corner.
The second goal dented the players’ confidence, and mistakes continued to be made. Shay Logan gave the ball away cheaply to Maguire on the edge of his own area, but thankfully the striker’s shot went past the post.
Ashford then looked to kill the game off before the break, cutting in on his left foot before smashing the ball towards goal, but Fox was able to save the effort at his near post.
The manager made a substitution at the break, bringing on Luis Longstaff in place of Jason Naismith, which led to a change in formation to 4-4-2, in an attempt to claw back the two-goal deficit.
Just five minutes into the second half, Scully limped off with an injury. Miko Virtanen came on to replace the midfielder.
Few opportunities were created in the opening period of the second half, up until the 65th minute when a well-worked free-kick almost resulted in a goal.
Vigurs clipped the ball into the box from just inside the Ayr half, which Neill rose highest to and nodded back across goal. O’Halloran attempted to get on the end of it, but he was just a second late, and Albinson watched as the ball flashed across the face of goal to safety.
Five minutes later, Vigurs again had the opportunity to send a free-kick into the Ayr box, this time finding McIntosh. The striker appeared to be pulled back as he tried to head goalwards, but the referee waved play on. Paul Hartley felt that a penalty should have been awarded, and for his protests, he was shown a yellow card.
Despite our threatening spell, Ayr went on to secure all three points in the 72nd minute. Maguire was allowed too much time on the ball down the right wing, which gave him the opportunity to take his time and pick out MITCHELL-LAWSON in the six-yard box, who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net from close range.
The team continued to look for a way to get back into the game, despite going three goals behind.
Longstaff sent a delightful ball into the box which found O’Halloran, but the loanee was unable to make a decent connection, and the ball trickled away to safety.
Shortly after, captain Mitch Megginson went on a driving run, evading multiple challenges from the Ayr defence, but his stabbed effort at goal was blocked and cleared upfield.
Substitute Miko Virtanen was shown a late yellow card for catching Mitchell-Lawson as he sped away on the break, before referee Craig Napier blew for full-time, which brought to an end a disappointing night in Ayr.
AYR UNITED (4-4-2) – Albinson; Hewitt, McAllister, McGinty, Reading, McAlear (Murdoch 73), Dempsey (Bryden 78), Ashford (McKenzie 73), Maguire, O’Connor (Mitchell-Lawson 59), Akinyemi (Smith 77).
Substitutes – McAdams, Bilham, Watret.
Goalscorers: O’Connor (7), Akinyemi (24), Mitchell-Lawson (72)
Booked: Maguire (70)
COVE RANGERS (3-4-1-2) – Fox; Naismith (Longstaff 46), Neill, Reynolds, Logan, Vigurs, Scully (Virtanen 52), Longridge, O’Halloran (Weston 81), Megginson (Dunne 81), McIntosh.
Substitutes – Gourlay, Glass, Toure.
Booked: Virtanen (88)
Referee: Craig Napier
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