Ayr left frustrated as Clyde claim victory
Danny Lennon’s Clyde provided a Scottish Cup upset, as the League One side earned a 1-0 victory against Ayr at Somerset Park. Jack Donnelly reports.
With each of Ayr’s impending fixtures holding so much importance, a win against lower-league opposition would have potentially instilled The Honest Men with some confidence as they go into the back end of the Championship season.
David Hopkin guided his side into the third round of the Scottish Cup with a comfortable and convincing victory away at Elgin City, where first half goals from Joe Chalmers, Michael Moffat and Luke McCowan secured a 4-0 win and progression to the next round.
Hopkin made three changes to the side that drew 2-2 away at Alloa last Saturday – Sam Roscoe, Joe Chalmers and Mark McKenzie all returned to the side, with Andy Murdoch and Jordan Houston dropping to the bench. Cammy Smith, who started at the Indodrill, was released to complete a move to America earlier in the week – the man to replace him, Falkirk’s Josh Todd, made the bench.
As for the away side, Clyde are currently sat in 8th in League One, only three points above bottom side Forfar – if a win for Ayr would give them confidence, a win for Clyde against a Championship side would do wonders going into the business end of the season.
The Bully Wee faced Highland League opposition in the previous round, with goals from David Goodwillie and Scott Rumsby providing Danny Lennon’s side with a 2-0 victory away at Keith.
Lennon made six changes to the side that suffered a 1-0 loss away to East Fife on Tuesday – Mark Munro, Lloyd Robertson, Kevin Nicholl, Jack Thomson, Lewis Jamieson and Ally Love all returned to the Clyde starting XI, while Jamie Bain, Martin McNiff, Ewan Otoo, Mark Lamont, Michael McGlinchey and Josh Jack all missed out.
It was a perfect start to the game for the away side, as Clyde went in front after just four minutes. Ally Love skipped down the left unchallenged and found Barry Cuddihy in the box. The midfielder got a touch on the ball and lofted it over Viljami Sinisalo, finding the top left corner and putting Clyde ahead.
Ayr, understandably, looked to force an equaliser through as early as possible. Luke McCowan, playing on the right, cut inside and danced past two Clyde defenders before a third arrived to block his attempt from the edge of the box. The winger had another attempt in the eighth minute, after a corner was cleared to him on the edge of the area. He fired towards goal, with a deflection carrying it through and Clyde keeper David Mitchell had to adjust his feet well to make himself equal to the effort.
Aaron Muirhead could well have equalised for Ayr, after being played clean through in the Clyde box. However, under pressure from a red shirt, his shot was scuffed and did very little to trouble Mitchell.
Ayr were sent into panic once again, after Love breezed past Roscoe and Jack Baird to receive a long ball from his own area. Sinisalo rushed out and got the slightest touch on Love’s poked effort, before having to rush out and close down Thomson, claiming the ball eventually.
McKenzie had two brilliant chances to level the match and really should have finished both. In the 13th minute, the striker picked up the ball after an error from the Clyde backline, and only had Mitchell to beat, but fired his effort wide of the bottom left. Seven minutes later, Michael Moffat switched possession over to McCowan on the right-hand side. The winger played McKenzie in with his first touch and from close range, the striker blazed his shot over the bar.
After 15 minutes of unsuccessful probing from Ayr, Clyde found themselves unfortunate to not be two goals up. Jamieson bore down on goal with a man to his left and only Baird between them. Unfortunately for the Clyde man, he was too slow in making up his mind and as he went to pull the trigger, Baird threw himself across to block the effort and deny a goal.
The last action of the half came just before referee David Munro’s whistle – Patrick Reading received a short corner and lofted a cross towards the back post, but Mitchell leaped above the rest to claim the ball. As Mitchell’s kick was sent up the pitch, the whistle was blown, and the half was brought to an end.
Clyde would be more than happy with their first half performance – after their goal, they invited pressure from their opposition and soaked it up well, before going long to launch a quick counterattack, which could have paid off on a couple of occasions. What might not have been good football to watch, it was certainly effective, with Ayr left frustrated throughout the half.
On the other hand, Ayr had numerous chances to find a leveller but were hardly troubling Mitchell, with most efforts failing to find the target at all. Hopkin would have been hoping for a much more clinical showing from his side in the second half.
In the opening five minutes of the second half, Ayr held on to possession well and were looking to create. A very smart save from Mitchell denied a certain equaliser – Moffat received a cut back from McCowan and fired towards the bottom left, but Mitchell’s feet denied the forward of a goal.
Just four minutes later, Ayr would again find themselves unlucky to be behind. A cross from Reading was trapped underneath McKenzie and when the ball eventually broke, Michael Miller tried his luck, but his effort was blocked, and Clyde could clear their lines.
Ayr continued to push for a leveller and after an hour played, Tom Walsh had his first effort of the afternoon. Twisting away from his man on the edge of the box, he fired towards goal, but his strike did little to trouble Mitchell, who caught it easily.
McCowan continued to show his skills throughout the half, cheekily guiding the ball through a Clyde defenders legs and getting a shot away, earning a corner. The corner was met by the head of Baird, but his headed effort cleared the bar.
There was very little action between Baird’s headed effort and the end of the match – any time Ayr got themselves into a promising position, Clyde would flood towards the ball, get a touch and launch it up the field to their lone striker. Ayr tried plenty to find an equaliser, but Clyde performed excellently to keep the back door shut throughout the entire match.
The match concluded without any further talking points – Ayr had a couple of half chances to get a leveller, but as it was throughout the match, Clyde’s dogged defence and tireless running won them the tie.
After the match, David Hopkin spoke about another poor result for his side and how the players need to be stronger mentally, especially with big games coming up:
“Some of our decision-making today wasn’t what it’s been, and I’ve said to the players that we need to do better, especially at home. We’ve got two massive games coming up against Dundee and Dunfermline and we need to be better than what we were today.
“It seems to be that every time we go a goal down, it seems to be a tough place mentally for the players. They need to react now. Today, everything’s been positive. I just think we were waiting for something to happen today, waiting for somebody else to do something and it didn’t happen.”
Clyde manager Danny Lennon has guided his side through four games in the last eight days and was over the moon to get a result against higher league opposition:
“That’s the romance of the cup – anything can happen. We’re absolutely delighted in terms of coming down here and getting a victory that not many people would’ve expected us to get.
“I thought the boys were absolutely terrific. We got the goal quite early on in the game and that always injects a little bit more enthusiasm in any team, when you go 1-0 up, particularly when you’re the underdog and you maybe run that wee bit longer, that little bit quicker. As much as Ayr United threw at us, I thought we handled it very, very well.”
Ayr are back to Championship action on Tuesday night with a crucial match at home to Dundee, while Clyde’s congested schedule continues with a home match against Cove Rangers on Tuesday night.