Ayr United and 45 years of anguish - Premiership dream, the original Ally's Army, 'roller coaster' expectation

It has been a long time since Ayr United graced the top-flight of Scottish football. Far too long a time. By the season end it will be 45 long years.

The Honest Men were the original Ally’s Army. Perhaps the best. Before Aberdeen and then Scotland came calling Ally MacLeod had led the Ayrshire side to the old Division One twice and then kept them there for six years before he headed north and Alex Stuart took over. Then, the same summer Scotland believed World Cup glory was a possibility in the Argentine under MacLeod, Ayr finished ninth, dropping into the second tier.

Greenock Morton, Airdrieonians, Dumbarton, Clydebank and Raith Rovers have all rubbed shoulders with the country’s big boys in the top tier since. Then the likes of Ross County, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Livingston have all enjoyed cup success at Hampden Park. For Ayr, they have taken up the mantle of Scotland’s foremost yo-yo club. Seven relegations, six promotions. Second tier to third tier and back again. They have largely had a watching brief, the limelight a distant and seemingly unreachable ambition.

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Until now. Maybe. A 2-0 win over Raith at the iconic Somerset Park keeps Lee Bullen’s men out top of the Championship, the world’s most competitive division, by one point after 17 games. Some fans are beginning to believe, others continue to dream, then those fearful of getting their hopes up only to have them battered come May.

"It's going to get harder and harder every game because every time you are winning a game that target on your back gets bigger and bigger," Bullen said. “All it takes is two results the wrong way and you are suddenly in the middle of the pack that’s why it becomes so vitally important you win your home games. It’s going to be roller coaster up and down.”

The curiosity factor

Ayr are a curious team. They don’t dominate the ball. No team averages a lower percentage of possession in the Championship. But possession isn't everything. They get the ball into the final third most often. No team has scored more goals and only Queen's Park have taken more shots. They are direct but in a good way. When they win it they look to spring forward.

There was frustration early in the first half as Dylan Easton, Lewis Vaughan and Aidan Connolly schemed for Raith but a makeshift Ayr backline kept them at arm's length. Academy graduate Finn Ecrepont and Nick McAllister were particularly impressive. Going forward they have so much threat. Logan Chalmers had flattered to deceive prior to bringing out the best from Jamie MacDonald. Then a moment of magic on the left saw him create space and send a pinpoint cross to the back post for Josh Mullin to slide into the net.

Josh Mullin was the Ayr United hero with a double. (Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group)Josh Mullin was the Ayr United hero with a double. (Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group)
Josh Mullin was the Ayr United hero with a double. (Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group)

A promotion-specialist, Mullin has been a shrewd addition. But nowhere near as shrewd as Dipo Akinyemi. The Ayr United x-factor. Usually it is him in the centre of the box scoring. At the 70th minute mark he turned provider. Another break, the striker waited before clipping in an inch-perfect cross for Mullin to nod in.

After 45 years of anguish, the United faithful now have 19 games of hope. To dream, to believe, to endure and maybe, in the end, enjoy.

Ayr United: Albinson; Ecrepont (Watkins 90’), McGinty, McAllister, Reading; Mullin, Murdoch (Smith 90), Dempsey, Chalmers (Mitchell-Lawson 71’); McKenzie (Bryden 89’), Akinyemi (Ashford 89’).

Raith Rovers: MacDonald; Millen, O’Riordan, Dick, Ngwenya (Nolan 79’); Connolly (Ross 79’), Spencer, Brown, Easton (Stanton 64’); Vaughan (Frederiksen 79’), Connell.

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