Ladbrokes Championship



by Calum Campbell

Pictures: David Sargent

HIGH-flying United were brought down to earth with a bump as Dumfries’ deadly Stephen Dobbie fired in four, while former Honest Man Gary Harkins joined in with a superlative strike to take the total to five.

To add to injury, Ayr were reduced to 10 men with Daniel Harvie receiving a second yellow card.

Ayr never managed to get into the game and were blown away by a superb first-half performance from Queens. The confidence and stability of the United rear-guard from earlier weeks had disappeared, struggling to cope with Dobbie, Dykes and Stirling in particular.

With 11 minutes gone, Queens went ahead. Dobbie received the ball from Dykes, turned and evaded a light-weight challenge from Kerr, then blasted a curling drive into the top corner from 18 yards.

In 13 minutes, midfielder Josh Todd was lucky not to be red carded as a straight legged, off the ground, studs up challenge caught Andy Geggan square on the shin, but referee Colin Steven saw this only worthy of a yellow.

Five minutes later, Queens were 2-0 up courtesy of a Dobbie penalty.

Stirling darted through the centre of the United defence and went down with little or no contact from Daniel Harvie, but referee Steven had no doubt, pointed to the spot and booked Harvie. Dobbie stepped up and doubled Queens’ lead.

In 21 minutes it was three for Dobbie and 3-0 for Queens. Dykes poked the ball through to Dobbie, whose perfectly-timed run got him into the box rounding Doohan and stroking the ball home.

United’s first chance came in 27 minutes, Harvie crossing into the box from the left with Shankland unleashing a shot that Martin did well to save.

On the half hour, Queens should have added to their tally. Dykes who went into the box one-on-one with Doohan and Rose first pushed the Queens’ man in the back, then clipped his legs creating a certain penalty. Rose could regard himself lucky only to receive a yellow from the referee. The stage was set for Dobbie to grab his fourth, but the on-form striker fluffed his lines with Doohan saving.

Three minute later, Ayr had their second chance of the half, Forrest latching on to a knockdown by Geggan but his shot from 18 yards was turned away by Martin.

If Ayr thought that they were starting to get back into the match, Queens had other ideas. Just three minutes later Harkins, on the right, delightfully curled the ball into the net at the far post.

Shortly after, Ayr were furious that they weren’t awarded a penalty when Shankland rose to meet a ball and appeared to be pushed two-handedly in the back by Marshall, but referee Steven waved play on.

In 39 minutes, Queen’ Michael Doyle surprisingly escaped a red card after intentionally blocking an Ayr free-kick, then chasing after Mark Kerr on two occasions to go head-to-head with the Ayr man. Referee Steven decided to award Kerr and Doyle yellow cards.

4-0 at half-time and Queens had created a comfort zone that allowed them to cruise in the second half. United replaced Michael Rose and Kerr with Luke Smith and Steven Bell but the game felt well beyond recovery.

With 73 minutes gone, Alan Forrest looked to have pulled one back, dribbling into the box and rounding Martin only to see his shot strike the heel of a defender and go clear.

Three minutes later, referee Steven again denied what appeared to be a stone-wall penalty for Ayr. After Robbie Crawford had nipped in to steal the ball, Andy Stirling blatantly pulled the United man back by his jersey but somehow the official missed it and waved play on.

Ayr were finally consigned to defeat in 78 minutes when Harvie gained his second yellow and was sent from the pitch for losing his cool and hitting the ball off Stirling.

In 83 minutes, it was 5-0. Substitute Bell let a long ball bounce past him to Dykes who beat Bell again before finding Dobbie who fired home from six yards.

Game set, and match to Queen of the South.