Ladbrokes League One



by Calum Campbell

Pictures: David Sargent

AFTER a week of concerns that this game might come too early for an injury-stricken United, the team returned from Kirkcaldy wondering just how they hadn’t collected three points.

Missed chances by the bucket load, poor goalkeeping and some of the poorest refereeing decisions in the last few years combined to rob Ayr of the points they deserved.

This game could have been described as a great advert for Scottish football had it not been for the at ties inept refereeing performance by Alan Muir and his bungling assistants. Muir appeared capricious in his decision making, leaving players unsure of what was expected of them. Four of his most baffling decisions left Ayr fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

* In the first half intricate play between Andy Geggan, Declan McDaid and Craig Reid allowed the latter to move forward down the right. Raith captain, Kyle Benedictus came in to block and Reid fell to the ground while Benedictus twisted his knee. Although he let play go on, after play stopped Muir warned Reid.

* In 57 minutes, Ayr played the ball into the penalty box and although it was collected by keeper Smith, Ayr’s Geggan was dragged to the ground by Raith’s Murray for what seemed a certain penalty. Referee Muir ignored this and let play go on and the ball was kicked upfield and resulted in Raith’s winning goal.

* In 88 minutes Muir delivered a second yellow card to Ayr’s Chris Higgins. Higgins chased Raith sub Zanatta towards the corner flag, Higgins went down while the Raith man continued his run only to fall spectacularly forward after a few paces. To the utter bemusement of the travelling support, Higgins was dismissed.

* To add insult to injury, Raith’s Bobby Barr was warned twice in the second half for becoming involved in incidents where he chased and pushed United players after the referee had stopped play. On these occasions, Barr re-engaged with United players after those warnings. Barr received no cards.

In only a minute, Lewis Vaughan went close for Raith with a sweet diagonal drive from 30 yards which curved inches wide. Ayr responded quickly through Craig McGuffie who first found a shot blocked inside the six-yard box. Then goalkeeper Smith stopped a Craig McGuffie drive, from the edge of the area.

Ayr started creating a shed load of chances down the right with Robbie Crawford,Geggan, Reid and McDaid creating space.

The Raith defence couldn't cope. McDaid and Reid’s crosses were crying out for a finish but blocks, flying bodies and a fantastic diving defensive header kept Ayr from a finishing touch,

In 23 minutes Vaughan struck a 20-yard free-kick against the right-hand post.

But as half-time beckoned, Liam Buchanan’s drive was well saved by Jordan Hart although he couldn’t hold on to the ball.

Two minutes into added time, Ayr got the goal that their play deserved. From a McDaid corner the ball was knocked out to McGuffie whose drive was going well wide but the alert Lawrence Shankland poked the ball goalward. Smith got down well to save but couldn’t hold onto the ball and Shankland smashed it into the top of the net.

In 50 minutes. Raith were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out and Vaughan curled a relatively soft shot around the Ayr wall and Hart seemed to have a comfortable save as he dived towards the ball. Somehow the keeper let the ball go under his gloves and into the net to gift Raith an ill-deserved equaliser.

Ayr piled on the pressure. Crawford’s shot from near the penalty spot was well saved, then a McGuffie surge to the edge of the area led to a shot which went inches over, and minutes later a drive from 25 yards out by Chris Higgins was tipped over by Smith. Ayr were pushing forward and Raith were forced to sit deep when self-inflicted tragedy struck again. Ayr claimed for a penalty, but Raith goalie Smith belted the ball to Buchanan who held it up before slipping it through to right back Jason Thomson who fired a lacklustre shot between Ferguson and Higgins. Hart seemed to go down in slow-motion and let the ball go under his body and into the net.

As Ayr pressed they were hit by another hammer blow. Higgins, who had been booked for an earlier rash tackle, was given his marching orders for a second yellow, when he appeared to be completely innocent.

Ayr continued playing fast, attacking football and almost snatched an equaliser in 92 minutes when the ball was played to McDaid in the penalty area. With time to shoot, McDaid found substitute Leon Murphy who was easily blocked out.


Michael Rose 3

Robbie Crawford 2

Chris Higgins 1