RAITH ROVERS 2
AYR UNITED 1
by Hugh Maxwell and Calum Campbell
Pictures courtesy of Black Ice Images
THE Honest Men were consigned to League One as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Raith Rovers at Stark's Park.
An early sending off for Raith keeper Pavol Penska was not capitalised upon by Ayr and strikes from Jonny Court and Declan McManus earned the home side the win with Ross Docherty netting in between.
Manager Ian McCall, had realised that a 5 – 0 victory to put Ayr in the play-offs was a hard task but after the match reflected, “I thought we were comfortably the better team in the first half but first half we were poor again, and I don’t know why,” he said. “We had just started to get a foothold in the game and lost a goal that could have been stopped.
The first incident came in three minutes when Penska was sent off for a rash challenge on Craig Moore.
The goalie attempted to clear a through ball outside of the area however missed the ball and as a result went straight through Moore who was treated on the pitch for some three minutes before the match could continue. The resultant free-kick was harmlessly fired into the wall by Gary Harkins from 20 yards.
In eight minutes gone and Daryll Meggatt was next to try his luck, taking a strike from 35 yards which was comfortably saved by substitute keeper Brennan.
The home side's first chance of the match fell to Jean-Yves M'Voto in 21 minutes. A curling ball into the box from the left was met by the big defender but his powerful header went over the bar.
Ayr were pushing and in 23 minutes Harkins had an effort on goal. Alan Forrest laid the ball off to Harkins on the right and his curling volley from 25 yards out flashed just wide.
United failed to take control even with a man advantage and had to pay when Raith went ahead through Court in 37 minutes. A simple through ball split the Ayr defence in two and Court raced through to coolly finish beyond Greg Fleming and put his side deservedly ahead.
It almost went from bad to worse for Ayr when in 41 minutes a Danny Handling volley inside the box found the back of the net but he was judged to have been in an offside position and the goal was disallowed.
Ayr were forced into an early change in the second half. In 52 minutes, play was held up for five minutes when Fleming landed badly after an aerial challenge, appearing to injure his neck and head, and was stretchered off and taken to hospital. Substitute keeper Jordan Hart took over.
Despite being a man down, the hosts dominated In 63 minutes Declan McManus met the ball in the box but his first-time strike was blocked by Paddy Boyle. A minute later McManus turned provider on the right and his cross was met by Benedictus who saw his header flash wide.
United deservedly leve;led in 70 minutes. A one-two between Docherty and Boyle gave the midfielder space on the edge of the box to curl the ball into the bottom right corner with the aid of a slight flection.
Ayr were handed a glorious chance to take the lead in 77 minutes when referee McLean pointed to the spot after Davidson handled a McDaid cross inside the area. Forrest stepped up and saw his low effort to the right palmed away by Brennan and the score remained level.
In 85 minutes Declan McDaid had a chance, cutting in from the right and shooting but Brennan got down well to turn the ball wide.
It was, however, Raith who were to take all three points. On 90 minutes, a long ball into the box was met at the back post by McManus who made no mistake and fired high into the net from close range.
AYR UNITED: Fleming, Devlin, Boyle, Gilmour, Moore, Forrest, Harkins, Meggatt, McGuffie, Docherty, Balatoni. Subs: Hart, Murphy, McDaid, Cairney, El Alagui, Adams.
Referee: Steven McLean