So much for the Championship being a one-horse race. Dundee Utd’s 100 per cent record was ripped up by an Ayr United side who were on a mission to assert their own promotion credentials and seemed to want this one so much more.
They took to this game like a whirlwind, gained an early lead through Daniel Harvie and although they had more defending to do after the interval, eventually wrapped it up through an Alan Forrest penalty.
After the match Ayr manager Ian McCall didn’t hold back on why he and his players were fired up for this one, alleging that they had been slighted after Lawrence Shankland and Liam Smith moved from Somerset Park to Tayside in the summer. “When they signed some of our players there were quotes coming from them that they’d be getting better coaching – it didn’t look like it today,” claimed a caustic McCall. “But they’re welcome to send Lawrence down and we’ll give him a week’s coaching, no problem.”
“I think we just passed it round them today. They were big and strong but that was about it. It was a thoroughly deserved win.”
If McCall was breathing fire, his players weren’t hanging about in their efforts to slay the United dragon either. They absolutely bolted out of the traps and the men in tangerine were reduced to a dishevelled bunch by the incisiveness of their opening offensive. It culminated with Harvie tearing in from the left and calmly sliding the ball beyond Benjamin Siegrist at the second attempt.
With their crisp passing and intelligent movement Ayr repeatedly carved open chances. Michael Moffat was denied in the box by some desperate defending and if Forrest had shown a tad more composure he surely would put his side two up rather than shooting wastefully off target at close range.
Unable to gather any kind of momentum, Robbie Neilson’s side were left relying on pot shots at Ross Doohan to try to claw their way back into the game, although the United manager felt they had a strong claim for a first half penalty.
Such fleeting glimpses of goal did at least give the Tannadice men some sustenance for thinking they could still turn this one around. Sure enough they mounted a charge of their own straight after the break. However they had neither the guile nor conviction of their opponents’ earlier salvo and they rarely managed to trouble Doohan.
Ayr rolled with the punches and although now more sporadic their attacks still carried menace. Forrest eventually got the reward that his persistence warranted as another run into the visitors’ box was halted by a trip by Smith. He took the spot kick himself and this time was coolness personified as he slotted it home to secure a memorable victory.
Neilson played down both the defeat and McCall’s terse assertions afterwards. “We’re top of the league and we hope to stay there. Throughout the season there’ll be days like this,” he reflected.