MIDFIELD ace Ross Docherty hopes his first goal of the season for Ayr United can help ensure his return to the starting line-up.

Doc, who has recovered from a hip operation in April, netted the second goal in Saturday's 3-0 home William Hill Scottish Cup Third Round tie against Beith which set up a trip to Beechwood Park to face Auchinleck Talbot in January.

And he is relishing Friday night's live TV clash with Dundee United.

He said: "Any games against junior teams are not easy but at least we got a result. It was good to come on and score and make a difference and it was a great touch from Lawrence Shankland for my goal. I just did well to get it on target. We weren't use to the slope on the pitch. We were still optimistic at half-time as we knew we were playing down the hill. I would like to have started but I will keep working away. We are flying high and confident we can give any team a challenge.

"It's a huge game for us, we are flying high and confident we can give any team a challenge. Dundee United have picked up and we are looking forward to it. You are in this league and if you want to do anything you have to win these games or take something from them.

"I just want to get back into the team but it's not easy with everyone playing so well."

Boss Ian McCall had praise for Docherty.

He said: "The best thing about the game was Ross Docherty getting a goal, it was fabulous. Maybe I should have started him. It's a cup tie but the most important thing is getting into the next round. Luke McCowan made a goal and it was good to see Michael Moffat scoring."

The gaffer is also excited about the prospect of a return to Tannadice to face another of his former clubs.

He said: "Everyone is talking about how well Dundee United have done - they have won their last three games - but we are also on form and have won four and drawn two of our last six games. There should be a good atmosphere at Tannadice under the lights and it should be a good match. We will go there looking for three points."

Meanwhile McCall feels Scottish Junior Cup holders Talbot will be no pushovers.

He said: "They are up there with the best junior clubs like Linlithgow Rose and Pollok. I know their manager Tucker Sloan. Hopefully we can get through but they will be thinking the same thing although that is a while down the line at the moment."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave her full support to Ayr in the tie through a tweet.