Ladbrokes Championship



By Stewart McConnell

Pictures: David Sargent

CARELESS Ayr missed a great opportunity to deliver a potential knock-out blow to County’s title hopes.

After taking a two-goal lead into the second half they were wounded by s visiting side who crashed off the canvas with two quickfire second half goals to change the momentum in this match with the title race wide open.

This was dubbed game of the day in Scotland and more than lived up to its billing - it was an epic encounter.

Revenge was uppermost on Ayr United’s minds following their 2-1 defeat at Dingwall earlier in the season.

They had a very strong line-up, with Michael Moffat partnering Lawrence Shankland upfront.

United won a corner-kick in five minutes after good play from Shankland and Liam Smith snd the set-piece was headed just over the bar by Michael Rose.

Ross County blasted into the lead with a vintage strike in 12 minutes when Stelios Demetrius sent a superb through ball to Josh Mullin who sent home a superb volley from 12 yards. Two minutes later at the other end Scott Fox made s superb one-handed save to foil Shankland from 12 yards.

United were so unlucky in 19 minutes when a Declan McDaid shot from 18 yards out was deflected across the face of goal. From the resultant corner-kick, Rose was pushed inside the box by Michael Draper in 21 minutes and referee Bobby Madden pointed to the spot. Shankland easily dispatched the resultant penalty-kick.

In 25 minutes the hosts sensationally snatched the lead when a McDaid cross was thundered home from eight yards by Shankland.

Shankland then dispossessed a County player before going on s run and teeing up Moffat, whose 12-yard shot was well saved by Scott Fox in 40 minutes. The top-scoring striker then made a great run to the touchline before shooting just across the face of goal in 42 minutes.

A minute later it was 3-1 when Andy Geggan bundled the ball home from six yards amidst a goalmouth melee.

A minute after the break County were awarded a penalty when Ayr skipper Steven Bell was adjudged to have pushed Billy McKay inside the box although it looked soft. McKay dusted himself down to beat Ross Doohan from the spot in 48 minutes. Two minutes later, Shankland claimed for a penalty when he took a tumble inside the box.

However County’s comeback was complete in 52 minutes when Don Cowie sent home a close range left foot drive.

County came close in 64 minutes when a 25-yard Michael Givosti free-kick was well handled by Doohan.

Shankland shot across the face of goal from 18 yards in 72 minutes as the game headed for a nervous finish.

Smith could have snatched all three points when he had the goalie to beat from all of four yards in 75 minutes but shot straight at him from four yards as the game ended in stalemate.

It was Ayr’s third straight draw at Somerset Park but they remain in top spot, a point ahead of their opponents and with a game in hand as they gear up to face Dunfermline Athletic and Queen of the South away during the festive period.