SCOTT Brown hailed his "exceptional" Ayr side after they went down fighting at Ibrox on Saturday - but had some harsh words for referee Willie Collum.

The Honest Men lost 2-0 to Rangers in the Scottish Cup fifth round, but looked far from out of their depth against the Premiership high-fliers.

But the match was not without it's talking points and the Somerset Park boss says he feels the match's biggest decision "wasn't the right decision".

A deflected Borna Barisic strike on ten minutes gave the home side a 1-0 lead at half-time, before Wolves loanee Fabio Silva secured Rangers' progression into the quarter-finals.

But Brown said he believed Silva shouldn't have been on the park to score the second goal.

The Portuguese striker had earned himself a yellow card for a first-half challenge on Nick McAllister, then caught George Stanger late as he cleared the ball early in the second period.

“I knew he was not going to get sent off if I’m being honest," Brown said.

"It was never going to be a red card – if it was the other way around I think it could have been.

"It’s a big decision, it’s a pressure decision, and it probably wasn’t the right decision.

“The pressure is hard coming into these big occasions. Some people can deal with it, some people can’t.”

But the Ayr boss was not keen to focus to much on the incident as he looked to credit his side for their outstanding showing.

Brown continued: “(I was) disappointed at the time, then he goes on to score the goal. It’s a harsh lesson, but for me it’s more about us, the way we performed.

Ayr Advertiser: Scott Brown believes Fabio Silva should have seen red before he scored the game's second goal.

“Pressure is a big thing in football and we dealt with the pressure really well.

"We knew Rangers were going to get opportunities but (it was) not a lot of clear cut opportunities that they had.

“From the goalie all the way through to the striker I thought we were exceptional.

“A lot of Premiership teams will come here and just try to defend, but we knew we had to try to play.

“We had to move the ball really well, had an organisation behind the ball, we were fine throughout and I never felt we were going to lose that many goals.”

While Brown also looked to credit the substitutes he introduced into the game.

Rangers were able to call open Ridvan Yilmaz, John Lundstram, Todd Cantwell, Rabbi Matondo and Leon King from their bench - with Ayr bringing on Kurt Willoughby alongside academy graduates Scott Tomlinson, Fraser Bryden and Max Guthrie, the latter making his Ayr debut.

The Ayr boss says it shows the faith the club are putting in their young talent - as well as the lengths they drove Rangers to in their bid to secure victory.

He commented: “They had to bring the big guns on, and we bring our 19-year-olds on.

“The lads had character today. You lose an early goal, you could crumble, but the lads stuck to the game plan and had that desire and belief in themselves, which was brilliant.

“Our performance was really good - the team shape, structure behind the ball, the lads’ desire to get after the ball when we could.

“I think our young lads that came on were exceptional today. It shows that we give the youth an opportunity at Ayr and we need to make sure that we have that belief and that performance week in week out."