How Lee Bullen's 'Carlsberg' start at Ayr United inflicted a rare defeat on Arbroath

Lee Bullen made a winning managerial debut against one of Scottish football’s veteran bosses to inflict Championship leaders Arbroath’s first defeat in 12 games.

New Ayr United manager Lee Bullen. (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)
New Ayr United manager Lee Bullen. (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)

When Dick Campbell took charge of his first match at Cowdenbeath in 1987, Bullen hadn’t even begun his playing career let alone a coaching one but in his first match as a full-time manager he achieved a win, taking his win-percentage as both an interim at Sheffield Wednesday on three occasions, and his first in charge at Ayr to 50% from 16 games. Though he is far from a rookie.

"If Carlserg did first games as a football manager then that’s got to be it – to beat the team at the top with a clean sheet,” he said. “The clean sheet is so important.

"It was backs to the wall, bodies on the line, and was a battle but you get that with a Dick Campbell side.”

Arbroath manager Dick Campbell watched from the terrace in the first half before returning to the dugout for the second. (Photo by Roddy Scott / SNS Group)

Advertisement

Hide Ad

What Bullen achieved only two others have managed this season – Arbroath’s fellow challengers Inverness and Raith Rovers – and he attributed the success to the coaching staff in place before his arrival. His own mission now is to build on two wins in a row over the top two and pick up points against the teams at Ayr’s end of the cinch Championship table.

Similar commitment levels will be necessary he insisted, and so will reinforcements, “but we’re halfway there if we have boys willing to put that sort of effort in.”

James Maxwell’s future is also source of debate and the on-loan Rangers youth showed why, cutting a composed figure in the middle of the park, dropping into space off the left side and helping make the breakthrough for Ayr – despite Ricky Little’s best attempts.

A long ball over the top was chased by Michael Moffat but the on-rushing Derek Gaston clipped the ball away. Maxwell stroked the loose ball back at goal and as it became tangled in the retreating defender’s legs, the ball squirmed through and over the line.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Maxwell almost turned provider, feeding Patrick Reading ten minutes later but the left-back’s shot slid inches wide as the crowd packed into the old Somerset Park stand gasped through their masks. They then roared the players off at half-time as they would Bullen at the end.

Dick Campbell had spent the first-half in the empty terrace infront the hospitality suites Arbroath used for changing but when he crossed the pitch to join brother Ian in the dugout for the second Arbroath picked up, and used all their combined experience to press for an equaliser with some veterans substitutes of their own – though replacements Nicky Low, Bobby Linn and Dale Hilson couldn’t find the equaliser. Neither could talisman Joel Nouble, who now returns to Livingston following his loan spell, when faced with Aaron Muirhead’s smothering presence at every turn and a curling shot tipped over late on.

The win gave Ayr their first consecutive league victories in two years and inflicted a first defeat on Arbroath since October 16, though they remain on the top.

“[The table] doesn’t interest us,” said Ian Campbell. “The first half was dreadful and not like us. The whole atmosphere today was weird and we didn’t play with the quality we can, but credit to Ayr and young Lee.”

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.