Ladbrokes Championship



by Stewart McConnell

A HUGELY frustrating afternoon at Somerset Park saw United put to the sword by Falkirk as a gamble backfired.

After Gary Harkins had brought them back into it with a goal to make it 2-1 midway through the first half, boss Ian McCall threw caution to the wind very late on by throwing five men upfront.

And they paid the price as the Bairns scored two last gasp goals with the scoreline an unfair reflection of a game in which they had competed well.

United went into this clash looking to build on a first win in four months but they were up against a visiting team who were unbeaten in eight league outings.

Falkirk came close in eight minutes when Tom Taiwo and John Baird combined with Nathan Austin whose shot from six yards was saved by Greg Fleming. However Baird then sent a through pass to Austin who rolled the ball home from eight yards.

United forged a chance in 17 minutes when the outstretched leg of Gary Harkins just missed connecting with a Craig Moore cross in front of goal.

Good work by Paddy Boyle forced a corner for Ayr in 21 minutes but the set-piece from Brian Gilmour was cleared by the Bairns defence.

Falkirk carved out another opportunity in 32 minutes when goalscorer Austin headed just over the bar from eight yards.

A harmless cross-cum shot from 25 yards by Gilmour was easily saved by Danny Rodgers in 41 minutes.

Home striker Farid El Alagui was booked for a foul two minutes later.

Ayr made a change at the interval, Michael Rose replacing Gilmour and four minutes later Alan Forrest took the place of Craig Moore. Austin had a shot deflected wide by Fleming in 58 minutes.

Forrest sent a cross into the box a minute later but El Alagui failed to connect with the ball.

Fleming made a superb save to foil Luke Leahy from 25 yards in 61 minutes. However two minutes later Austin bundled the ball over the line amidst a goalmouth scramble.

Buoyed by a partisan crowd, back came Ayr in 64 minutes when a Forrest effort was saved and Harkins forced the hall over the line.

Falkirk had another opening in 72 minutes when a free-kick from 25 yards by Fraser Aird was cleared by the home defence.

Austin had a shot saved by Fleming from inside the box in 73 minutes. A minute later a Conrad Balatoni header was deflected wide by the visiting defence.

Home skipper Nicky Devlin was pushed on the edge of the box by Leahy in 77 minutes, but no foul was given.

Ayr came so close in 80 minutes when Balatoni squared the ball to Forrest who shot inches over the bar from 18 yards. Then the same player saw his close range effort easily saved two minutes later.

Substitute Declan McDaid had his shot from outside the box blocked by a defender in 85 minutes.

Lee Miller hit the post from six yards for the visitors in 89 minutes.However victory was sealed seconds later when Craig Sibbald sent home an angled drive from 12 yards after making a fine run. Then a Bob McHugh shot was saved by Fleming, but Aird slammed home the rebound to compound Ayr's agony.