Ayr United 0 - 0 Stranraer: Ayr clinches return to Championship

Ayr United's Iain McCall with his auntie and his mum. Picture: SNS Group
Ayr United's Iain McCall with his auntie and his mum. Picture: SNS Group
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Greg Fleming was the penalty hero as Ayr clinched their return to the second tier of Scottish football in dramatic fashion.

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, fairly turgid action failed to produce a goal in the return and the match went to penalties, with the United goalkeeper saving the visitors’ first three spot-kicks.

He was beaten by Willie Gibson but, by then, United had scored their first two penalties and Andy Graham’s effort sealed promotion for the Somerset Park side.

Fleming said: “To say I’m delighted is an understatement. It wasn’t a great game to be fair but thankfully we managed to get the business done on penalties.

“Next year’s Championship is going to be fantastic when you see some of the big teams that are going to be in it so it’s something to look forward to.”

Chances were shared in a bright start with Andrew Stirling forcing two early saves from Fleming before Jordan Preston ran clear at the other end only to be denied by Steven Bell’s last-ditch tackle.

Preston was thwarted again when his fierce shot was turned round the post by Cameron Belford.

Gibson almost opened the scoring with an audacious effort that caught Fleming off his line but went over the bar.

The Blues had an even better chance on the restart when Stirling cut in from the left before firing inches over from 14 yards. Then Craig Malcolm’s near-post header forced a smart save from Fleming.

It was as close as either side came as the match headed towards overtime. The extra period brought early hope for Ayr when Ross Docherty released Robbie Crawford in the Stranraer box but the striker stumbled.

Stranraer threatened when Gibson’s drilled corner was flicked on by Jamie Longworth but flashed wide. They went agonisingly close again when a Gibson free-kick was nodded on by Bell and Longworth somehow failed to get a touch just a few feet from goal.

Ian McCall, the United manager, pictured, said: “I’ve been involved in far bigger games but I’ve never felt like this in my career.

“I’m very emotional to be honest and very proud. Years ago Ayr were the best part-time team in Scotland and that’s where we want to be again.”

Stranraer boss Brian Reid said: “I’m devastated. Overall, we were the better team today but never got the breaks. Penalties is never a nice way to lose but I’d like to congratulate Ayr.”