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AYR UNITED 1 : 1 QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 3rd January 2004
Rating: 8.54
Rating: 7.81
Rating: 6.83
Rating: 6.92
Rating: 6.45
Rating: 6.35
Rating: 6.15
Rating: 7.17
Rating: 6.49
Rating: 6.87
Rating: 6.27
S1 - 87
S2 - 87
Members of the Internet Fan Club can award players marks out of ten for their performance today. The player with the most points awarded in the two days following a match will be the IFC Man of the Match. All of the points will then be added to a running total for each player and the results published in the mom League Table.

Name or IFC No.
A disappointing result and performance at Ayr today, the performance perhaps even more disappointing given that, Clyde apart, all the other results went for us anyway. However, it would equally be churlish not to give the home side full credit for what was easily their best performance of the season against us. They looked a different outfit from the one which lost 4-1 at the same venue to us in August and might have lost by ten that day had it not been for Ludovic Roy in goal. I'd be lying if I said they deserved their draw today ; in fact Ayr fully merited a win and for all the disappointment of losing a late equaliser this was more a point gained than a point dropped.

The first question was what team John Connolly would send out in light of his two New Year's Day signings and the answer was virtually the same as last week. Just one change, Paul Burns dropping back to the bench as David Bagan returned from his ear infection. Paul McMullan, on loan from Hearts, made the bench but Stephen Payne wasn't in the sixteen. Despite talk of a possible departure it was nice to see Derek Allan still included also. Derek Lyle and Stuart Robertson made up the balance of the sixteen. For the home side, the industrious Steven Ferguson is now out for the rest of the season whilst Mark Campbell seems to have dropped out of the picture recently but that apart they were at full strength with Willie Kinniburgh playing the final game of his loan spell from Motherwell at the heart of their defence.

It was a slow start and fully nine minutes had passed before Sean O'Connor had the first half chance but his shot on the turn from the edge of the box was easily dealt with by Roy. A minute later though Ayr showed the first signs that they too would threaten today when Ferguson and Kean found themselves in a two on one situation with Eric Paton. However, Ferguson's control let him down and Paton nicked the ball away before Dodds was troubled. The best early chance arrived in 16 minutes when Wood headed on and Bowey collected before playing Sean O'Connor wide. His great cross was over all of the home centre-halves but volleyed over the bar by Alex Burke six yards out at the back post. Two minutes later Burke again had a chance after seizing on a Kinniburgh mistake but this time his low near post shot failed to trouble the keeper greatly. The goal wasn't much delayed though. Sean O'Connor picked up a ball in the Ayr box 30 seconds later after it deflected off Bowey and struck for goal. His shot was charged down by a defender but broke outside the area and Queens were awarded a free kick in a central position for handball by one of the Ayr midfielders trying to clear. As everybody expected Eric Paton to hit from 22 yards, Alex Burke bent a tremendous effort against the right upright. The ball struck Roy on the back of the head as it rebounded and Steve Bowey was first to react to the loose ball and turn it into the empty net from six yards.
Ayr threaten
Ayr soon started to look the more dangerous though and, in 27 minutes, Jim Thomson had to move smartly to clear a cross from his own six yard box as Stewart Kean waited behind him to turn in any error. Two minutes later Roy made what might be described as a "tv save" diving to his right to hold O'Connor's 18 yard effort comfortably enough. The first half was really a tale of two free kicks which hit woodwork. On 38 minutes Ayr were awarded one of their own as David Bagan was adjudged to have used an arm to control the ball 30 yards from goal. David Craig strode forward and struck a tremendous effort which Dodds could only watch as it thudded against the angle of his right goalpost and crossbar before going wide. A huge let-off! Three minutes before the interval there was another one as a mis-hit cross from the right looped into the area, was headed across the six yard box by Lee Hardy and fell for Kean to volley over the bar with the goal gaping for him.

The opening attack of the second period saw Paton set up Bagan for a shot from a poor angle on the right of the box but Roy easily dealt with his effort. A few minutes later Queens won a corner on the right side which was wasted by Burke and Paton between them and the home side broke quickly down their left side. They seemed to have men over but a series of desperate challenges by Queens players attempting to get back ended with Brian Reid hoofing the ball away from danger. On 54 minutes McColligan carelessly gave away possession in his own box and allowed Kean a shooting chance but his effort lacked any real conviction and former team-mate John Dodds caught it comfortably. Three minutes later, O'Connor dispossessed an opponent in the Ayr box and ran unchallenged into the six yard box before shooting against the base of the near post and wide whilst Alex Burke screamed for a pass at the back post.
Queens on the offensive
Campbell Money immediately made his first change with Mark McColl replacing Steven Crawford. Ayr now though began to seriously batter the Queens goal. In 64 minutes, Stuart McGrady's deep looping cross from the right touchline evaded first Brian Reid, then Stewart Kean and finally John Dodds before drifting just past the left goalpost. In the 71st minute McGrady managed to set Chaplain free into the box and his effort from the right side seemed to be screaming into the top right corner until Dodds flew across to tip it wide. From the resulting corner Ayr earned another one and from that one, Kean headed against the crossbar, picked up the loose ball himself and played it back out wide before flicking the next cross goalward again only to be denied by another magnificent Dodds tip over the bar. From that corner Jim Thomson had to head away from his own line and when that loose ball was sent back in again Dodds this time did very well to smother at a striker's feet before he could hit home. A minute or two later Ayr somehow got themselves into a three against one situation at out back post and this time Scott Chaplain lashed over the bar again!

On 79 minute Money shuffled his pack again with Willie Lyle replacing Stuart McGrady and, although Lyle was not involved in it, the change paid immediate dividends as the home side finally gained their richly deserved equaliser within seconds. Somehow the ball arrived at the feet of Andrew Ferguson on the left corner of the penalty area and he unleashed a frankly brilliant chip into the right side of the net over a stranded Dodds. It was a superb finish with no blame attached to the keeper.

This seemed to slap Queens back out of their lethargy and, having been seemingly content to play out a 1-0 win they started to drive forward again. With five minutes remaining a McColligan effort after a corner was cleared out to him flew just over the crossbar and a minute later, after Dodds had made another decent stop, Queens broke again and Wood seized on a loose ball and floated a shot just over the top of left side of goal from 18 yards with Roy beaten. In a final move to try to turn the game back Queens way John Connolly made a double substitution with Paul Burns and Paul McMullan replacing Bagan and Burke and that nearly paid dividends twice in the final couple of minutes. First O'Connor's cross was cut out by Roy as Wood and McMullan waited beyond him for a tap in and then, Wood's header across the face of the goal was hit into the side netting on the right by the late arriving Burns.

There was to be no winner though and, in all honesty, it would have been robbery if we'd found one. Ayr worked hard for their point and fully merited it, if not more. As I said above, the other results went generally for us and, apart from Clyde stretching their lead at the top a little, we've gained more than we lost today with all the bottom three earning points, Brechin even coming back from two down to draw at St Johnstone. Next week the magic of the Cup comes calling so it will be interesting to see how the players react to a break from league pressures and a trip to a lower division side. Happy New Year!

Ewan Lithgow
Photo's David Gow

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