Brechin City 1-2 Ayr United: Late fightback brings Reid's men back from dead to win promotion

Brechin City 1Tiffoney og 44Ayr United 2Roberts 77, Moffat 88

Referee: C Allan

Attendance: 2,404

AYR United mounted a spirited fightback to win promotion to the First Division at the expense of Brechin City.

Brian Reid, the Somerset Park manager, had to watch from the sidelines as his team gifted the Angus club a half-time lead with substitute Jonathan Tiffoney's own goal and then saw veteran Brechin goalkeeper Craig Nelson produce one of the performances of his long career.

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But with the clock ticking steadily down Ayr, backed by a sizeable and boisterous away support, eventually made the breakthrough with 13 minutes remaining when Mark Roberts equalised. That gave Ayr the impetus going into the final minutes and Glebe Park was sent wild, with a pitch invasion from the travelling fans, when Michael Moffat scored the winner with just two minutes remaining.

Ayr will now head back to Division One next season but Reid admits he feared Nelson, who turns 40 on Saturday, was going to end their promotion hopes. "It's a great achievement," he beamed. "We gave ourselves a tough battle because of the way we lost the first goal. We were a bit nervy after that and I had a few words for the boys at half-time. We have come so far this season and didn't want to let it go like that.

"In the second half I was delighted with the response but with the way Craig Nelson was playing I did worry it might be one of those days.

"He was absolutely outstanding, just like in the first leg. But we kept going and managed to get the goals in the end. It's great for the club. We'll go up to the First Division and give it a go. We will be the only part-time team up there again and it will be difficult but we'll give it out best.

"The fans were fantastic. This is a big club and you saw that with the fans and the backing they gave us. We're just delighted to have done it for them and we'll go off and enjoy our summer now."

Brechin held a poignant minute's applause prior to kick off for former director Steve Mitchell, who died suddenly last week at the age of just 42, but Ayr dominated from the kick-off with Nelson tipping over a Moffat shot mid-way through the first half.

Brechin had rarely threatened but were gifted a goal from nothing just before the break. Tiffoney was introduced in place of veteran Jim Lauchlan, who pulled his hamstring trying to shoot in an uncharacteristic foray forward.

The youngster endured a nightmare start as he tried to cushion a Gary Fusco cross back to goalkeeper Martin Alan without noticing he had come off his line and only succeeded in rolling the ball into his own net.

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Brechin could have doubled that lead early in the second half but Alan saved with his feet from Rory McAllister and that was to prove the game's pivotal moment.

Ayr gradually exerted more and more pressure but saw Nelson make spectacular saves to deny Scott McLaughlin twice - including pushing away a bullet of a shot which was headed to the top corner. But the keeper could do nothing to prevent Roberts putting Ayr ahead after he took advantage of a scramble on the edge of the box to sneak a yard on the defence and slot home.

Ayr continued to push and got their reward in the final minutes through Moffat, who cut inside his marker on the left before firing a shot past Nelson.

Jim Weir, the Brechin manager, admits the manner of defeat left him dejected but conceded that Ayr performed better over the two legs. It's heartbreaking," he said. "Credit to Ayr because over the two legs I thought they were better than us. Craig Nelson was outstanding, he's a class goalkeeper. It's a hard one to take, especially because of the manner of how we lost. But we'll pick ourselves up and go again at it next season."