Ladbrokes Championship



by Calum Campbell

Pictures: David Sargent

THIS game had the feeling of a derby of old with crunching tackles, no quarter given, red cards, no little skill, burst nets, goals and, most surprisingly, a tension filled excitement that brought fans to their feet singing in the main stand.

What is disappointing is that post-match discussion centred on the referee Mat Northcroft’s who frustrated and enraged both sets of players, fans and managers with some inexplicable decisions and an inability to have control over this stormy encounter.

Ayr dominated the first half with Andy Geggan hitting the post in 16 minutes, an audacious overhead kick by Lawrence Shankland from 10 yards just going over one minute later, and then his swerving 30-yard drive only just stopped by keeper Belford. Michael Moffat, Declan McDaid and Chris Higgins also went close.

Stranraer were dangerous on the counter and their best chance came in 20 minutes when Wallace turned quickly at the edge of the box before sending a powerful drive inches past.

Ayr thought they’d taken the lead on the half hour when a Shankland shot appeared to have palmed in by Belford but referee Northcroft adjudged that defender Steven Bell had cleared before the ball was fully over the line.

A simmering feud was taking place between Ayr’s Geggan and Jamie Hamill and, on 40 mins, it looked like this had resulted in a United penalty when the Stranraer defender grabbed Geggan by the neck and body and then bundled him down straight in front of the referee. Mr. Northcroft decided to take no action.

As the half-time whistle beckoned, a Docherty free-kick was met by Rose but his effort hit the post.

Manager McCall replaced Geggan with Jamie Adams to add height and inserted Craig Moore for McDaid. McCall had at last unleashed the three-striker attack (Shankland, Moffat and Craig Moore) that fans had been relishing.

The touch paper on a fiery second half was lit in 57 minutes. Robbie Crawford broke down the left and Blues’ midfielder, Turner, lunged in with two feet. Crawford was left writhing, but the referee astonishingly only brought out a yellow card.

Things were getting ‘tasty’ but Ayr kept their composure and piled on pressure with Higgins almost making the breakthrough and Rose inexplicably heading past from close range.

In 65 minutes Ayr finally took the lead. Paddy Boyle picked out Shankland with an exquisite diagonal ball and he nodded into the path of Moffat who made his way into the box before slotting homw. This was nothing less than they deserved.

Then came the first red card. Jamie Adams tackled defender Scott Robertson and the Stranraer man grabbed the Ayr man by the shirt before pushing him back onto the ground. The referee ordered Robertson from the pitch but strangely also booked Adams whose tackle had appeared to take the ball cleanly.

United doubled their lead in 79 minutes with Shankland both starting and finishing the move. The striker curled the ball into the path of Moore who then dribbled into the box before unleashing a drive that Belford could only palm away and the defence couldn’t clear. Ross Docherty played the ball to Shankland who spun before hitting home.

In 89 minutes came the second red card as central defender Steven Bell pulled Adams down and appeared to push his hand in to the United man’s face when he was on the ground. Nine-man Stranraer now had no way back.

Ayr should have made it three with seconds remaining when Shankland put substitute Forrest through, but the ball bobbled, and his shot flew over the bar.

Star Man

Lawrence Shankland 3

Michael Rose 2

Michael Moffat 1.