REACTION: Hopkin and Crawford on Ayr and Dunfermline’s draw
After Ayr and Dunfermline played out a 1-1 draw at Somerset Park, managers David Hopkin and Stevie Crawford spoke to the media. Jack Donnelly reports.
Both Ayr United and Dunfermline saw their league position in the Scottish Championship remain unchanged following a 1-1 draw at Somerset Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was the away side who scored first, with Declan McManus’ flicked header beating debutant goalkeeper PJ Morrison after 12 minutes. Ayr struck back after 24 minutes, with striker Mark McKenzie working well on the left before cutting the ball back across the box for Michael Miller to slide in, finishing past Owain Fon Williams into the bottom right.
Ayr switched to a 5-3-2 formation in this match, as opposed to their usual 4-2-3-1 and looked the likeliest of the two teams to go on and nick a winner, with the Pars offering very little in terms of clear cut chances throughout the game, especially in the second half.
Given that Inverness also drew on Saturday, Dunfermline remain just two points outside of the playoff places with a game in hand. Meanwhile, draws for both Morton and Arbroath mean that Ayr stay just one point ahead of both in seventh place, with an enormous clash with the Red Lichtie set up next weekend.
Happy but Hoping for More
Ayr manager David Hopkin expressed his satisfaction at his players for taking to a new system and being the dominant team in the match, but highlighted that there was an opportunity to earn all three points:
“I thought we limited Dunfermline, a very good Dunfermline team, to very little. I thought our shape was great – I got the commitment I’ve been looking for. But we conceded a poor goal again. We then get back in the game, score a fantastic goal and after that, we should’ve pushed on and tried to score the winner.
“I thought we were comfortable. Our attacking play was better, our passing was better and I think the shape that we played today probably suited what we have available to us just now.
“On another day, I’m disappointed, but I thought we could’ve had three points.”
Given how tight it is at the bottom of the league, every game is massively important for Ayr – Hopkin is well aware of the situation and how crucial these final three games will be:
“We’ve got three massive games left. Next week’s [away to Arbroath] going to be a massive game, but you’ve got to remember that Morton have to go Arbroath on the last day of the season, they’ve still got Alloa to play.
“We know we’ve got to take care of ourselves, but we went back to basics today and I thought the players gave me everything. It’s a commitment and it’s a grind, and it was important that we got something from this game but I’m disappointed that it wasn’t the three points.”
Ayr have had their fair share of injuries in recent weeks, with almost every game dealing another blow to an already thin squad, but Hopkin was impressed by the fresh faces in his starting XI:
“The young goalkeeper’s come in, PJ [Morrison] from Motherwell, I thought he was excellent. I’ve got to thank Motherwell, because both he and Graeme Alexander have been fantastic in getting him in. He only came in yesterday [Friday] morning, did a wee bit with us and you could just see his confidence.
“He’s punched one in the first half, his distribution was good, his vocal was good and he’s a lad who’s played Scottish football. It helps him knowing that he’s played at this level before and I just thought that he looked an all-round competent goalkeeper for such a young boy.
“Jamie Barjonas came in for his debut today, I thought he looked good. I asked at half time if he could keep going to the end of the game – he’s a big, strong, powerful lad. I think the more games he gets, he’ll be great. Hopefully by next week, we’ll hopefully have Michael Moffat back, we’ll have Josh Todd back and hopefully one or two others.”
Big Games Ahead
With other results going Dunfermline’s way, manager Stevie Crawford was slightly happier with a solitary point, but is hoping for more as the season concludes:
“We’ve not lost any ground so in that regard, it’s a good point, but, look, we’ve got to get back to winning ways. We’ve got three home fixtures now that are going to be pivotal to the way the season ends for us.
“I thiought we started brighter out of the two sides and we’re just a little bit frustrated that, collectively, we could’ve done better. There’s always work to be done in certain areas, but we’ve come down to a hard place. They’re fighting for their lives and I thought we battled.
“The boys are giving it their lot – their attitude, their commitment, they’re fighting for the cause. As we say, we’re now going into these next three home games knowing that we’ve got to start winning and give ourselves the best possible chance to finish in the playoffs.”
After conceding the equaliser, Crawford changed the team’s system to get more attackers on the pitch, but was still unable to get a winner. He explained his changes:
“It was tricky today, in terms of it being quite lively. We gave up on two natural wide players and went to a three at the back so we didn’t get done in the middle of the park with an overload as well, so we were still matched up with three in the middle, but it allowed us to get two up front with Declan [McManus] just in behind. It meant that Josh [Edwards] and Aaron [Comrie] were giving us the width in the second half.
“We didn’t feel like it was the right game to go 4-4-2 with the natural width and possibly give them the overload in the middle of the park. I thought it worked – albeit, we didn’t create a clear goalscoring chance but we did have efforts on goal and I felt we were on the front foot towards the end of the game.”