Your intrepid match reporter arrived in Ayr early and had a rather nice meal. The waiting staff we asked were not available to play in goal as all other avenues appeared to have been exhausted… Arriving at the ground it was clear that Ryan Stevenson was wearing the gloves for one of the most important games of the season. Extensive efforts – as detailed elsewhere – had been made to fill the specialist role between the sticks. The rules allow for a postponement and it last occurred only last year when Hearts were in the rather better position of having a youth keeper available…
However, despite the national coverage that preceded and followed the ninety minutes, the sympathy of football fans across the UK and no doubt a peak in opportunist bets on a home win Rovers fans who travelled can only console themselves that they were at a game that will feature in pub quizzes for years to come.
Other than having no keeper there were other changes from Saturday’s line up – McHattie, Johnston, McManus and Hardie coming in. Lined up with five across the back and Hardie supported by McManus and Johnston up top the first opportunity went to the home side with a cross headed down inside the left hand post. Stevenson dived and blocked it away well and the ball was cleared. Following the clearance Paul Cairney was stretchered off with a leg injury replaced by Rose.
The Rovers failed to capitalise on a free kick into the Ayr box but moments later Johnston who had a good first half did well playing in Hardie who was closed down by the home keeper in the six yard box a scrambled effort was hooked off the line by a well positioned Ayr defender.
A long kick from Stevenson was almost taken advantage of by Hardie. In the 14th minute the impromptu keeper with ball in hand shouted “What do you think gaffer?” as the bench pointed up field!
McManus saw a first time shot held after it was initially spilled by Fleming in the home goal before Johnston again did well finding the eager Callachan wide but the youngsters cross was over hit. Ayr won a free kick 30 odd yards out in the middle of the park but failed to capitalise with the shot blazed well over. Another opportunity was waster by the hosts when a looping cross went over. In the 27th minute Johnston’s cross was intelligently flicked up and over the despairing keeper but hit the bar and in the melee that followed Callachan fired in a shot but the Ref had already penalised McManus for a foul…
Forrest got goal side for the hosts and ran on hitting his shot over from 18 yards. The Rovers had another good chance in the 36th with Callachan picking the pocket of an Ayr man and Hardie got wide crossing to the front post where Johnston’s front post header flashed just wide…
In the 39th minute Rose had a go from 30 yards, his net bound effort to Stevenson’s right was blocked away by the diving midfielder making his second decent save. Another free kick from a similar distance went into the Raith wall. As the half wound down a Rovers break saw the ball squared but there were no takers then at the other end Ayr failed to profit on no flag for an offside but the non-keeper collected the shot easily.
Stevenson – in his numberless blue keepers shirt and borrowed gloves – was applauded by the home fans as he took his place in front of them in goal. In the 48th Ayr tried to re-cycle an over hit cross but to no effect. McManus took the ball from a throw and was given enough space to shoot wide. In the 51st Hardie was also given space and tried a curling angled effort from just outside the box but the only goalkeeper involved claimed it. Moments later the Rovers had another good chance when Benedictus got wide and his driven cross was somehow bundled wide from about four yards by Hardie when it looked a lot easier to hit the target.
Ayr’s Gilmour was booked for a cynical foul on a breaking Johnston. Then the home keeper tried to thow the ball to a defender instead hitting Hardie but the young front man was unable to get the ball before the home man recovered. In the 61st minute Ayr scored after Gilmour’s cross was headed in at the back post by Farid El Alagui. It was not something Stevenson could be expected to do anything about.
Despite the goal the game continued in the same way with both sides trying to get forward but neither dominating. The Rovers changed things in the 70th minute with Coustrain going on and Benedictus off, switching to a 4-4-2. In the 73rd minute a tame looping effort was easily held by the Rovers man in goal. After Ryan’s great shift the other week against Hibs when he was playing with his back to goal few would anticipate that he’d be playing with his back to goal in goal! Many will have thought he was missed outfield…
Coustrain was causing problems wide left – told to hug the line by Yogi Hughes – and a good cross from him was cleared. Callachan then had a go from outside the box before McManus and Johnston were replaced by Bobby Barr and Mark Stewart. Bobby Barr had a great chance getting on the end of a Coustrain cross at the back post. The ball bounced up in front of him as he got into the six yard box and his header sailed up and over the bar.
As the game wound down Coustrain shot wide first time before Rose hit a long range effort wide following a free kick. Stewart sent a looping header wide before in the 90th minute Thomson did well wide driving into the box and goal side was felled. There was clear contact from the Ayr defender and the Rovers players were aghast that Willie Collum pointed for a by-kick not a penalty. Apparently several Honest Men players said after it was a penalty… The last effort again came from the Rovers with Coustrain angling a dipping shot goal wards but it didn’t dip enough to nestle in the far corner of the net.
The improbable circumstances in which the game took place will no doubt be talked about for some time to come. The result may well be rather more significant for a number of clubs… Ryan Stevenson acquitted himself well and deserves credit for his performance and behaviour. Sadly for Scottish Football not all associated with forcing the match to go ahead can be held in such high esteem.
Your correspondent missed the trip to Dumfries instead taking in Nice 2 Montpellier 1 in the French top league for less than £10… I knew that the facilities and play would be rather different in the Scottish Championship but best way of describing the difference between the two matches is to say one was sublime and the other ridiculous – which was which I will leave up to you…
Photo Gallery will appear here shortly
RaithTV spoke with the Gaffer after the 1-0 defeat in Ayr
RaithTV asked our CEO about the ‘keeper situation after the 1-0 defeat in Ayr
After a long and fruitless journey to Dumfries on Saturday, Raith Rovers will be looking for a greater return this Tuesday evening, when they head to Somerset Park to face ninth placed Ayr United.
Ian McCall’s men are just are just one place and four points behind John Hughes side, who’ll be aiming for a win which would give them some breathing space at the bottom of the table.
Incredibly, neither side have won a league game since October, with both teams now going a combined 30 league games without a win. Coincidentally, both sides last win was against Queen of the South.
Like Raith, Ayr are going into this one on the back of a defeat, with McCall’s men going down to a comprehensive 2-0 reverse to St. Mirren at Somerset Park on Saturday.
This will be the third meeting between the sides this season, with Raith taking four out of a possible six points to date.
Ross Callachan and Ross Matthews were the scorers on the opening day of the season as Raith ran out comfortable 2-0 winners on their last trip to Somerset Park, but it was a different story when the two sides last met in November.
A Joel Coustrain goal gave Raith the lead, but Ayr dominated the majority of the match, and gained a deserved point thanks to a late Gary Harkins free-kick.
Rovers have a reasonably poor record in this fixture, with just two wins and four draws from the last ten league meetings.
Tuesday night’s match referee will be Willie Collum.
Head-To-Head League Record at Somerset Park:
Ayr United Wins: 31 | Raith Rovers Wins: 16 | Draws: 22
Ayr United Goals: 72 | Raith Rovers Goals: 88
Ayr United: L-D-D-W-D-L | Raith Rovers: L-L-L-L-D-L
Ayr United: Allan Forrest 9 | Paul Cairney 5
Raith Rovers: Mark Stewart 5 | Declan McManus 5
Ayr United: 13/8 | Raith Rovers: 17/10 | Draw: 9/4