Like the festive season itself, this has turned into a time of great expectations for Ayr United. This game was a gentle reminder, however, that not everything that is wished for might turn up – Ian McCall’s well drilled, free scoring side certainly didn’t show up here yesterday and after a poor 90-minute stalemate they meekly surrendered pole position in the Championship promotion race.
In reality McCall’s men were a tad fortunate to wrest a point from a game where a spirited second-half showing from Dunfermline deserved greater reward. The Ayr manager certainly didn’t mince his words afterwards. “It was a poor, poor game,” he admitted. “It was one of those games that comes along during the season where you’ve just got to tough it out – there wasn’t a lot of football played.”
Dreadful might be erring towards the charitable in selecting a word to sum up the particularly anodyne opening 45 minutes of this encounter. A dull midfield battle of attrition yielded little in the way of goalmouth action and did nothing to ward off the thought that last-minute Christmas shopping perhaps does have its redeeming features after all.
For all their endeavour Dunfermline could only point to a Kallum Higginbotham cross that Aidan Keena only just failed to apply a finishing touch to as a genuine talking point. The prolific Lawrence Shankland barely got a look-in for the visitors, but they did still nevertheless conjure up the one gilt-edged opening of this wholly forgettable half when Michael Moffat slipped clear only to see his shot blocked by Lee Robinson and his follow-up effort cleared to safety.
Credit has to go to the Fifers after the interval – they gave it a real go. For 20 minutes or so there was a barely interrupted swarm of black and white shirts around Ross Doohan in the Ayr goal and he literally had his hands full at times. The on-loan Celtic goalkeeper pulled off fine saves from Higginbotham, pictured, Joe Tomson and Keena in quick succession.
For all this pressure and Doohan’s competence the Fifers’ continuing inability to covert opportunities into goals left them vulnerable to a sucker punch – and it so nearly came right at the death. James Vincent lost possession in his own box and as the ball was squared it fell to Shankland who on any other day would surely have buried it, but on this occasion he woefully skewed it wide. It summed up his and his Ayr team-mates’ off-colour afternoon.
“It was a really good defensive performance and going forward we were much better in the second half, so we’re a wee bit frustrated in not getting a win,” reflected Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston.