Ladbrokes League One



By Stewart McConnell

Pictures: David Sargent

A MAJOR blow was dealt to United's title dreams as they were put to the sword by their derby rivals at sun-soaked Somerset Park on Saturday.

It was their first defeat in 10 league games and leaves the Honest Men just two points clear of Raith Rovers, who cut the gap to two points following victory against Queen's Park.

The late first half dismissal of top-scoring striker Lawrence Shankland for an alleged elbows left United with a mountain to climb.

There was understandably much hype before the game, in which a win combined with a Raith draw could have delivered the title to Somerset Park. Clappers were given out at the turnstiles to generate noise and excitement was at fever pitch.

However things did not go to script.

Indeed, there was huge drama in just three minutes when the unmarked Grant Anderson headed home from inside the box with the home defence at sea although the ball seemed to hang in mid air before reaching the net.

Then just a minute later with the Ayr nerves frayed, ex-United man Morgyn Neil shot over the bar from 25 yards.

Ayr won their first corner-kick in eight minutes thanks to great work from Shankland. From the corner, a header from Jamie Adams crept narrowly over the bar.

Craig Reid needed treatment off the field for a knock in 13 minutes but had to exit shortly afterwards to be replaced by Craig McGuffie.

However it was all-square in 16 minutes when Jamie Adams headed home from six yards after Alan Forrest had nodded the ball on from a corner-kick. A Shankland effort was booted off the line in 20 minutes and seconds later Shankland headed on to Craig Moore, whose header crashed off the crossbar and was cleared.

Adams needed treatment for a knock in 24 minutes and returned to the field.

Stranraer came close in 26 minutes when an eight-yard shot from Kyle Turner was well saved by Jordan Hart.

Another opening for Ayr came in 28 minutes when McGuffie shot just over the bar from 12 yards.

Then a scorching 20-yard rocket from the same player was well saved by Max Currie on the half hour.

The hosts were reduced to 10 men in 32 minutes when Shankland was sent off for violent conduct for alleged elbows following a foul on former Ayr man Morgyn Neill.

United won a corner following good work by Moore in 38 minutes but it came to nothing.

Moore then shot inches wide from eight yards in 39 minutes after being set up by McGuffie.

Ayr were awarded a free-kick in 44 minutes when Robbie Crawford weaved his way into the box and was upended. But the set-piece from Moore was saved on the line by Currie.

Adams had taken to the field for the second half with his head bandaged following an injury in the opening period but was subject to some rough treatment through heavy challenges by the visitors.

Mark Kerr sent a super long ball to McGuffie, whose shot from eight yards was well saved in 55 minutes.

Visiting striker Gavin Scott was lucky to escape with a booking following a reckless challenge on Adams in 62 minutes.

Jamie Hamilton was only booked for a late tackle on Moore a minute later.

Ian McCall had a last throw of the dice three minutes later when defender Michael Rose made way fir Declan McDaid.

Stranraer came close in 70 minutes when a header from eight yards by Chris McGowan was saved by Hart.

Hamill saw his dipping 22-yard effort well saved by Currie three minutes later.

McDaid went on a blazing 40-yard run and won a corner a minute later but it came it nothing.

McDaid teed up Moore in front of goal in 82 minutes but sadly he sclaffed his shot.

Stranraer were awarded a penalty following a foul inside the box by Adams three minutes later and former United man Scott Agnew netted from the spot to seal victory.