THE opening minutes of the match saw both sides testing each other out with neither team gaining the upper hand, writes Calum Campbell.

But with Dumbarton showing enough to suggest that this would be a tougher test than the disappointing Kilmarnock side from Friday’s local derby.

First, Ayr went on the attack, and in two minutes a Michael Moffat shot was saved by goalkeeper Scott Gallacher after a great run and flicked pass by Declan McDaid on the right.

Dumbarton were looking dangerous, with two Ayrshire boys Tom Walsh and Chris Johnston, attempting to stretch United on the wings, with United central defenders Chris Higgins and Jamie Adams having to be at their best to contain Christian Nade up front.

In three minutes, Walsh controlled the ball on the wing before finding midfielder David Wilson who then laid the ball off to central defender Craig Barr. Barr created space, set himself up and released a powerful drive from 25-yards out that keeper Jordan Hart did well to get down to and parry away.

Shortly after, Dumbarton had three real opportunities to go ahead. Wilson dribbled into the box but couldn’t find the space to shoot.  Somehow the ball ended up with Walsh, in space, but he could only screw the ball across the face of goal when he should have done better. When the ball came back in, Mark Stewart dived at full stretch but could only see his header from close range go narrowly past the post. 5 mins gone and this was already looking an exciting encounter.

Dumbarton were delivered a blow when Dougie Hill stretched to intercept a delightful pass into the box from McDaid but in doing so injured himself and was replaced by Kyle Prior.

The match remained an entertaining and even contest with Ayr testing the Dumbarton backline with shots from Boyle, Moffat, McDaid and Craig Moore all going close or bringing out saves from Gallacher.

Dumbarton showed their teeth through efforts from Nade, Walsh and Wilson, with Walsh again guilty of failing to make capital out of the proverbial ‘sitter’.

In 35 minutes, Ayr went ahead as the result of an end-to-end move from the United side. Hart threw the ball out to Jamie Adams and he in turn touched the ball to  Andy Geggan, wide on the right in his own half.  Geggan played the ball inside to Robbie Crawford who flicked the ball towards the halfway line where McDaid, under pressure, nodded the ball to Moffat. Moffat, spotting Geggan’s continuing run down the right, turned and sprayed a pass wide before making his way towards the box. Geggan sprinted forward to the edge of the box before he hit the ball in at pace behind the inrushing defenders. As Moffat looked to strike, defender Andy Dowie made a last desperate effort to intercept and stretched out his leg but only managed to fire the ball into the net at the near post. Ayr were one up.

In an attempt to get back into the game, Dumbarton upped their efforts and put extra pressure on the United backline. In 39 minutes, Christian Nade created a chance in the box but his shot was excellently saved by the acrobatic Hart at the top left-hand corner. Next, a goalbound screamer of a drive from 25 yards out by Prior took a lucky deflection off Jamie Adams and scraped off the top of the bar. Then in 44 minutes, dangerman Nade found himself with space in the box but under no pressure, he put his header over the bar.

Ayr immediately went into the attack, with a fine piece of inter-play in the box, Moore knocking the ball down to McDaid who, with his back to goal, slipped the ball to Crawford. Crawford made space before releasing a shot from eight yards which was instinctively saved by Gallacher.

It looked like Ayr would reach half-time with a goal’s advantage, but Dumbarton were determined not to let that happen. With nearly three minutes of added time on the clock Dumbarton were awarded a free kick after an aerial tussle between Nade and Higgins.

The disappointment of a late equaliser did not show in Ayr’s second half play and Dumbarton began to struggle with Ayr’s continuing pace and control. This frustration was marked when the tiring Walsh needlessly hacked down Geggan after the United man had easily dispossessed the winger, skilfully turned him and cleared. 46 mins and a booking for Walsh.

In 51 minutes, Ayr’s rising superiority should have been marked by a goal but somehow Moore’s header from inside the box went wide.

Dumbarton, though, still had some sting up front and just a minute later Walsh found space near the line but his shot went across the goalmouth and wide. Dumbarton, much against the run of play, also thought they had gained the lead. From a corner, Barr met the ball perfectly to header into the net, but referee Cook had seen an infringement. On the line, Dumbarton forward Stewart was blatantly holding Docherty who had been defending the back post.

Ayr were dominating, and when they took the lead on 70 mins, it was a mouth-watering goal. Adams headered away from the edge of the penalty area, Moffat challenged for the ball on the left, heading it to McDaid in the centre circle. McDaid let the ball bounce before nodding it down to Geggan, running close support in central mid-field. Geggan slipped the ball to Boyle who charged into the Dumbarton half before finding Crawford on the left. Crawford held the ball up before delicately passing to McDaid who was tightly marked and blocked some 20 yards out. This was time for some more McDaid magic, but surely he had no chance. He feinted left, tapped the ball right to make minimal space, before driving the ball, swerving and dipping home

Ayr now poured forward, Crawford and substitute Craig McGuffie twice, Docherty, Moffat and Geggan all going close. It was just a matter of when a third would come and when it came Robbie Crawford, tireless and creative through-out the game, again channelled his inner Lionel Messi. Twice in the final 10 minutes, he had turned the Dumbarton defence inside out but had gone narrowly wide, but these were only practice runs for something special.

With two minutes of normal-time remaining, Ayr intricately worked the ball from right to left, Docherty’s pass finding Crawford wide. The midfielder first turned across the face of the defence, causing defender David Smith to go the wrong way. The defender gave chase and, along with Downie and Barr, blocked Crawford’s view of goal. No problem for the Ayr midfielder, who first twisted left then right sending all three the wrong way before blasting the ball through the space he had created and into the net. Quality, and Ayr had a two-goal advantage.

This wa another great advert for live football, and one that the 338 travelling fans (outnumbering those from Dumbarton in the 615 crowd) will not forget. Next up Clyde who come to Somerset Park in the next Betfred Cup, Group Stage match on Tuesday night, 2July 25, 7.45 pm kick-off).

DUMBARTON: Gallacher; Barr, Dowie, Hill, Smith, Johnston, Wilson, Walsh, McLaughlin, Stewart, Nade. Subs: Ewings. Gallagher, Roy, Prior.

AYR UNITED: Hart; Geggan, Adams, Higgins, Boyle, McDaid, Crawford, Docherty, Gilmour, Moffat, Moore. Subs: Avci (gk), McGuffie, Ferguson, Faulds, Waite, Murphy, McCowan.


Robbie Crawford 3

Declan McDaid 2

Chris Higgins 1

Referee: Barry Cook

Attendance: 615