The post-Csaba Laszlo era began yesterday for Dundee United with a stark reminder that whoever takes charge at Tannadice the task in turning the club’s current fortunes around is a mighty big one.
Assistant manager Laurie Ellis was given the reins on a temporary basis last week following the enigmatic Hungarian’s not unexpected exit but damningly for all concerned at Tannadice, this was a game that Ayr won without even being near to their fluent and incisive best.
Goals in either half from man of the moment Lawrence Shankland and Declan McDaid respectively meant that the Somerset Park side maintained their impressive start to the season and with it their residence at the top of the table.
Ayr were everything that their much better resourced opponents were not. Cohesive and everyone aware of the job they have to do. The visitors undoubtedly possess some individuals of decent quality but critically lack a sense of identity on a number of levels.
“If you’d offered me 2-0 before the game, I’d have taken it,” reflected Ayr manager Ian McCall afterwards. “At times we played well, but we can play a lot better than that. When you compare the infrastructure of the two clubs I’m not sure we should be that far ahead of Dundee United – but I thought we were today.”
The goal that separated the two sides at half-time was in microcosm a perfect example of the yawning gulf between them on the day. An innocuous through ball into the feet of Michael Moffat was transformed into a defence splitting manoeuvre by a simple flick by the striker as the Dundee United rearguard scattered like frightened sheep. It rolled into the path of Shankland who buried past the advancing Benjamin Siegrist for his 18th goal of a remarkable campaign to date.
Ellis managed to at least coax his charges to show a bit more endeavour after the break with a flurry of crosses and set pieces into the Ayr box. However, they just couldn’t engineer any clear cut chances and left themselves vulnerable to being caught on the counter.
The introduction of McDaid midway through the second half proved to be a pivotal move by the wily McCall as his pace was perfectly suited to his side’s adopted hit on the break game plan. Almost immediately the midfielder was in the thick of it, just failing to pick out Shankland after a promising surge in from the left flank. Minutes later he was thumping a shot off the underside of the crossbar before finally it was third time lucky for him as he emphatically drilled an angled shot beyond Siegrist to double the hosts’ advantage and seal the victory.