Ladbrokes Championship


By Stewart McConnell

CARELESS Ayr's title chances were dealt a potentially fatal blow when they crashed at home to Caley Thistle.

However they came so close to snatching a point following a dramatic second half comeback, inspired by substitute Lawrence Shankland.

Ian McCall's side were architects of their own downfall after conceding three goals inside 18 minutes, however they had a fair claim for a penalty turned down following a handball in the box late in the second half.

McCall was disappointed with the display and said later: "I'm gutted. We gifted at least two of the goals, it was just crazy defending from a team who have the best defensive record in the league.

"We had to go for it and were very unfortunate not to get an equaliser, Caley were very threatening on the counter-attack. In the first half we should have scored before they scored. They are a big strong team but at times we didn't cope with that. We should have had a penalty in the second half. After the break we had to go for it and were very unfortunate not to get an equaliser.

United named an unchanged line up from the side who had defeated Dundee United on Friday night and were looking to build on that performance.

The hosts came so close in the opening minute when a Danny Harvie cross was turned inches wide from eight yards.

Yet another opening was spurned by Ayr in six minutes when after good work by Declan McDaid and Ross Docherty saw the ball break back to Liam Smith to shoot home from the edge of the box, however Caley soared into the lead in nine minutes when Nathan Austin sprung the offside trap and shot home from eight yards.

The Highlanders doubled their lead three minutes later when Austin made a good run and picked upmarket pass from Liam Polworth before netting from eight yards.

It was incredibly 3-0 in 18 minutes when Polworth drilled a shot home from the edge of the box.

McCall’s men came close three minutes later when a Michael Rose header from just inside the box crashed off the crossbar.

Michael Moffat shot wildly over the bar from. 10 yards in 23 minutes and Craig Moore sent an effort across the face of goal from 18 yards in 32 minutes.

United came close in 35 minutes when a Moffat free-kick from 20 yards was defeated wide by the visiting defence. A Moffat rocket from 16 yards was tipped over tar bar by Cameron MacKay three minutes later.

The hosts came close a minute after the break when a Liam Smith effort from 20 yards was deflected over the bar by the visiting defence.

United stormed back in 53 minutes when Shankland cut the visiting defence open and squared to Declan McDaid to roll the ball home from the edge of the box.

The hosts were denied a penalty in 56 minutes when a Shankland cross was handled inside the box by Carl Tremarco. Another chance came on the hour when Liam Smith shot over the bar from 30 yards.

United were unlucky in 64 minutes when a McDaid free-kick was flicked inches wide from eight yards by Shankland.

McDaid saw his strong effort from 16 yards well saved by Mackay in 65 minutes.

United pulled another goal back in 84 minutes when Shankland blasted home a free-kick from fully 30 yards.

New signing Aaron Muirhead headed a corner-kick just over the bar from six yards s minute from time. The same player headed wide from all of four yards a minute later.

AYR UNITED: Doohan; Harvie, Rose, Moffat, Crawford, Moore, McDaid, Bell, Murdoch, Docherty, Smith. Subs: Hare-Reid, Higgins, Hilton, Ecrepont, McCowan, Muirhead, Shankland.

INVERNESS CT: MacKay; Rooney, Tremarco, Chalmers, McCart, Polworth, Austin, Oakley, Welsh, McDonald, McKay. Subs: MacKinnon, McCauley, White, Mackay, Trafford, McHattie, Harper.

STARMAN: Lawrence Shankland 3 Declan McDaid 2 Liam Smith 1.

Attn: 1,559 Referee: Nick Walsh.