AYR United boss Scott Brown says he’s got plenty of tough decisions to make in the weeks ahead as he looks to shape a squad that’s capable of challenging for promotion next season.

With Championship football secure, Ayr played out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Dunfermline at Somerset Park on Friday night in their final match of the campaign – and Brown admits that the closing stages of the match have given him plenty of food for thought as he considers which players he wants to retain for 2024-25.

Mark McKenzie opened the scoring for the Honest Men on 21 minutes, before the Pars roared back and scored three times in the closing stages of the first half – a period Brown described as “10 to 15 minutes of absolute madness”.

But Ayr regrouped at the break, and with teenager Scott Tomlinson, on as a half-time substitute for captain Sean McGinty, pulling the strings in the middle of the park, the second half was a different story.

Another teenage substitute, Lucas McRoberts, pulled one back just three minutes after coming on in place of McKenzie, before Anton Dowds converted Franny Amertey’s cross to secure a point with his 13th goal of the campaign.

Reflecting on the hosts’ collapse in the final 10 minutes of the first half, Brown told Ayr’s media team: “There wasn’t a leader on the park that pulled everybody together and went ‘right, we’ve made a mistake, it happens, let’s stay in the game till half time’. We just went, and it was 10 minutes of complete and utter madness. And the lads have never done that for us.

“So went in there and we had a chat, we made a substitution obviously, and I thought the second half was exceptional the way the lads pressed and put them under pressure.

“Everyone’s going to make mistakes. I’m still making mistakes now. We’ve just got to learn from that.”

Brown had high praise for both Tomlinson and McRoberts in his post-match interviews – describing 17-year-old McRoberts as “a man in a child’s body” – and admitted he’s looking forward to working with both next season.

Thoughts for both Brown and Steven Whittaker are now turning to which members of this season’s squad they’ll retain for the new campaign and who they’ll release – and the boss says he wants to make sure there is plenty of competition in the squad.

“It's always hard as a manager," he admitted, "because there’s a lot of lads who want to be here, but for me it’s a decision about the way we want to play.

“We want to be patient on the ball, but at the same time we want to have a speed of play that we can play through teams but defend one-v-ones as well.

“The last 15 minutes of that game have given me a lot to think about. We want quality in the building; we want to make sure we’ve got two players for each position.

“You have to have that fight in the squad as well, because you can’t be sloppy and make mistakes and then automatically be in the team the next week.

“If you make a mistake you need to know that there’s somebody behind you that’s willing to take that opportunity and jump in front of you.”

Watch post-match interviews with Brown, McRoberts and Dowds, as well as full highlights from Friday night’s game at youtube.com/@OfficialAyrUnitedFC.