Betfred Cup



By Stewart McConnell

GOAL machine Lawrence Shankland was suspended for the final two games of last season.

Ayr United achieved title success without him but his 26 league goals were the story of the season.

And on a blazing hot day at Somerset Park, he lit he touch paper on what is hoped will be another memorable season by blasting a hat-trick to sink firmer club Morton in the Betfred Cup opener.

If this is a sign of what’s to come, there could be many more exciting days at the famous old ground.

After a slightly tetchy first half Ayr came out all guns blazing attacking the Somerset Road end and took a total grip of the game.

Robbie Crawford made a darting 20-yard run to the edge of the box in seven minutes before being sent tumbling by Gregor Buchanan. The resultant free-kick from the edge of the box by Shankland cleared the wall but was brilliantly fingertipped away by Ryan Scully in the visiting goal. Less than two minutes later Crawford saw his shot blocked by a defender.

However in 14 minutes Morton seized the lead when a 25-yard free-kick from Michael Tidser seemed to slip through the fingers of debutant on-loan Celtic goalie Ross Doohan and landed in the back of the net.

‘Ton has another opening in 19 minutes when a 25-yard drive from Chris Millar was fisted away by Doohan.

They came close again in 27 minutes when Jim McAlister shot across the face of goal from the edge of the box. However a minute later at the other end the ball broke to Shankland 12 yards out but he shot well over the bar.

United had a great chance in 35 minutes when Scully only just got his hands to a stinging 20-yard drive from Shankland. Two minutes later a great cross from new boy Andy Murdoch was scrambled away by the ‘Ton defence.

The hosts had a great three-man move in 42 minutes when Mark Kerr threaded a fine through ball to Shankland and he teed up Alan Forrest to shoot just over the bar from 10 yards.

Morton carved out an opening in 47 minutes when Gary Oliver burst into the box and shot just over the bar from 12 yards. However a minute later, it was all-square when Daniel Hardie sent a precision cross to Shankland who powerfully headed the ball home from eight yards. Two minutes later a cross into the box from Andy Geggan was hooked away by a home defender.

The visitors were desperately unlucky in 55 minutes when Ross McLean shot narrowly wide from 12 yards.

A Geggan chip from 12 yards was well fielded by Scully. Shankland sent a swirling cross from 20 yards high and wide in 59 minutes.

Four minutes later Morton pressed again and MacLean shot well over the bar from 20 yards.

Shankland headed just over the bar from eight yards in 70 minutes.

Substitute Craig Moore sent a header just wide from six yards just seconds after taking the field in 71 minutes. However a minute later United seized the lead when Shankland shot home from 12 yards.

Then it was game over in 75 minutes when the deadly striker sent home an audacious lob from 16 yards.

Ayr came close yet again in 83 minutes when a Declan McDaid effort from 12 yards was saved by Scully.

The hosts could have scored a fourth in 89 minutes when McDaid sent a powerful pass to Craig McGuffie to shoot just over the bar from 12 yards as they easily saw the game out.