Ayr rue missed chances as points shared with Queens

A 0-0 draw between Ayr and Queen of the South means that The Honest Men’s future in the Scottish Championship will come down to the last game of the season, and Queens will not make the playoffs. Jack Donnelly reports.

(Photo Credit – Jack Donnelly)

Pre-Match

It truly is crunch time for David Hopkin’s Ayr United. The Honest Men sit level on points with Morton but are just above the side from Cappielow on goal difference. With the Ton having a favourable opponent this weekend in already-relegated Alloa, all three points against Queen of the South would be massive for the Ayrshire club.

Ayr suffered yet another injury setback in the run-up to this game – loanee defender, Corrie Ndaba, took a knock in last weekend’s 4-0 thrashing at Arbroath, so would miss this match.

Hopkin made three changes to the team that suffered that 4-0 defeat at Gayfield last weekend – Joe Chalmers, Josh Todd and Michael Moffat returned to the starting XI in place of Jamie Barjonas, Michael Miller and the aforementioned Ndaba.

As for Ayr’s opponents, a top-four finish isn’t completely out of the question for Queen of the South, but they would have to be heavily dependent on other results to stand a chance of ending the season in the playoff places. Inverness and Dunfermline would both have to lose to Hearts and Arbroath respectively, and Queens would have to secure a win at Somerset Park to be able to stay in the running.

Allan Johnston made three changes to the side that were defeated 3-1 away at East End Park by Dunfermline last weekend – Daniel Pybus, Stephen Dobbie and Euan East all came in for Dapo Mebude, Ciaran Dickson and Isaiah Jones.

The Match

The opening 10 minutes gave very little to report on, with both sides preferring to launch balls long over the top, with the majority being safely claimed by either PJ Morrison or Rohan Ferguson. Queens did have a half chance after 14 minutes, as Dobbie picked up a loose cross-field ball. Charging towards the box, the veteran striker let fly from 25 yards, but saw his effort roll harmlessly wide.

After an innocuous opening spell, Ayr upped the intensity and took the game to Queens. Mark McKenzie, who has struggled in front of goal in recent matches, saw an effort go agonisingly wide of the bottom left corner after 16 minutes. A nice clipped pass from Luke McCowan played the striker in – McKenzie rounded his man and fired just wide of Ferguson’s goal.

McCowan was the next to try his luck, after possession was recycled and a long ball from the Ayr defence found the winger in the box. The winger got his shot away but, under pressure from blue shirts, he could only fire over the bar.

Ayr continued to open the Queens defence up and had another great chance to score after 22 minutes. Some nice work on the right saw Michael Moffat take the ball into the box, squaring it across to McKenzie. The striker’s effort was deflected straight back to him and with no time to readjust, his second effort flew wide.

Just after half an hour, Queens had their first real chance of the match. Connor Shields took the ball down the right before crossing towards Euan East. The wide man tapped it back to Dobbie, who sent a curling effort towards goal, but Morrison was across well to make a necessary save.

Despite Queens getting forward a bit more frequently, Ayr were still creating chances and Chalmers was the next to have a shot at Ferguson’s goal. The midfielder collected the ball in plenty of space, adjusted his feet and fired with his left. The effort stung the palms of Ferguson, bouncing back into the box, but the keeper was able to clutch the ball to his chest.

10 minutes later, referee Nick Walsh brought the first half to a close, with Ayr having looked the far better side. The Honest Men were looking like a team that were fighting for their lives, as they were putting real pressure on Queens throughout the half. Queens had had a couple of chances, but Ayr were looking much more assured of themselves at the back than in recent weeks.

Similarly to the first half, the first effort of the second half fell to Dobbie. After 56 minutes, Todd, attempting to run the ball out of defence, took a heavy touch that Dobbie picked up, but his effort was blasted well over the bar.

Just a minute later, Moffat had a chance to open the scoring. McCowan was battling hard on the left once again and won the ball, playing Moffat in from the right-hand side. The striker got on the end of it and fired towards the bottom right, but the foot of Ferguson denied Ayr the opening goal of the game.

Dobbie had another chance to get himself a goal, as he was played in on the right-hand side. However, he shot from range once again and failed to find the target, but this effort caused a few more gasps than the last.

Gregor Buchanan carved out another half-chance for Queens after 70 minutes – he took a good touch after receiving the ball from a long throw into the box and shot on the turn but was unable to find the target.

Queens were finding the rub of the green much more in the second half, and Rhys McCabe gave Morrison a scare from distance. The Ayr keeper didn’t see the midfielder’s shot until very late and did well to make the save.

Todd had Ayr’s best chance to open the scoring when he collected the ball just outside the box, after some nice team play on the right. He curled an effort towards the top left corner, but his shot went just over the bar – with Ferguson rooted to the spot, Ayr would have had their opener.

Todd had yet another golden chance to score just minutes later – an Aaron Muirhead throw in gave Queens some trouble in their own box and the ball eventually fell to Todd with the goal at his mercy. However, he sent his shot directly into Ferguson’s grateful gloves, in what looked to have been a sure-fire goal.

With four minutes left to play, a goal would almost guarantee the three points. McKenzie had a great chance to get that goal, as another long throw from Muirhead found the striker in the box. However, he was unable to steer it towards goal.

Ayr would come to rue their missed chances as Nick Walsh blew his whistle for the last time after a couple of minutes of stoppage time. Ayr could have scored a couple of goals in this encounter, but the lack of clinical finishing let them down massively. As for Queens, there’s virtually no chance of them finishing in the playoff places with Dunfermline winning against Arbroath.

Ayr’s final match of the 2020/21 season comes away at Inverness next weekend, but a lot of eyes will be on the match between Arbroath and Morton, with any one of the three capable of finishing in the playoff spot. As for Queens, they finish their campaign at Palmerston, as they welcome Dundee.

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