“In the second half especially, we gave them a torrid time” – David Hopkin and Dick Campbell on Championship clash
David Hopkin and Dick Campbell spoke to the media following the 2-2 draw between Ayr and Arbroath on Saturday afternoon. Jack Donnelly reports.
An 87th minute strike from substitute Mark McKenzie earned Ayr United a point at Somerset Park, having gone down 2-0 to Arbroath in what was a horrible first half for the home side.
A curled strike from Joel Nouble opened the scoring for the Red Lichties, before Michael McKenna’s cross-cum-shot nestled into the bottom left corner. A penalty miss from Nicky Low midway through the second half lit a fire under Ayr, as goals from Tomi Adeloye and McKenzie saw the spoils shared.
Completing this comeback left Ayr manager David Hopkin smiling, as he explained that while mistakes need to be stamped out, there can be positives taken from this performance:
“We started the game reasonably well, we’ve had the ball, we’ve been passing it. We just made some wrong decisions and then the two goals gives us an absolute mountain to clear, but I’ve got to give huge credit to the players – they showed the Ayr fans today that they’re not going to lie down.
“I don’t think the shape killed us – it was a poor goal to start with. You can’t show a player like that in on his right foot, we talked about it all week how he can bend them. You’re 1-0 down, and then the second goal’s just horrific. Absolutely horrific.
“There’s a lot of positives to take – we created two or three good chances in the first half, but we should take them. As I said, great credit to the players against a very good, experienced team. It’s one of these games where I’m disappointed but I’m really, really happy with the effort and I think the Ayr fans saw that we aren’t going give up.
“I told the players at half time that this game had better end 2-2, minimum. I got a reaction – last year, we probably would have capitulated, and it would’ve been three or four. We kept going and with that chance at the end, we could’ve won it.”
That chance fell to young McKenzie, who came on for Cameron Salkeld with 10 minutes left in the match. Left-back Patrick Reading floated a cross to the back post and an unmarked McKenzie connected with the ball, but saw his header miss the target. However, as Hopkin explained, the chance was indicative of Ayr’s second half performance:
“I thought Arbroath were out on their feet, they couldn’t live with us towards the end of the game because we started doing the things we should’ve done. We had Tomi (Adeloye) up front, we had (Johnathan) Afolabi up front. Mark McKenzie came on, another young player who was unlucky not to play, scores, and could’ve scored the winner.
“You often forget, most of these players are 19, 20, 21, and they’re learning the game against an Arbroath side who are very organised and physical, with good players, and I thought in the second half especially, we gave them a torrid time.”
Something had to change things at half time to get his side back in the game, and that change came in the form of Aaron Muirhead. While sacrificing an attacking player like Daire O’Connor for a more defensive midfielder may have raised a few eyebrows, but Hopkin was pleased to see his decision come off:
“I was delighted to get Areo on, because he was struggling from Monday and hadn’t trained all week. I asked him to go on and he was brilliant. Once he came on, we got a good period in the game and I thought towards the end, we were going to go on and win it.
“It was a tough game for Daire to come in. There wasn’t much space for him to go and play in, he showed in wee flashes what he can do, but I had to make a call at half time and it turned out to be the right call.”
While Hopkin was happy with the fighting spirit of his side, the same could not be said of Arbroath manager Dick Campbell, who saw the match as an entirely one-sided affair:
“We were way on top in the first half. Our goalie’s not had a save to make in 90 minutes. Two of the worst goals I’ve lost, ever, in the second half. We missed a penalty kick – you’re 3-0 up and you’re away up the road! We were way, way in front of anything Ayr had to offer. They’ve sent two aimless crosses into the box. They didn’t even win them cleanly, and we’re not guilty of not defending crosses. They got the break of the ball twice, and there you are.
“When he (Nicky Low) missed the penalty, you’re just thinking ‘they’d better not score a goal here,’ because they went right up the park. It’s only the second game of the season, and we’ve got St. Johnstone next week in the cup and then we’re at home to Partick Thistle – that’ll be a game!”
“16 minutes to go and we could’ve gone 3-0 up, and we should’ve gone 3-0 up – but we didn’t! Credit to David’s team, they fought, but I’m absolutely sick as the proverbial parrot to come away here with two points dropped.”
After Alloa’s relegation last season, Arbroath remain the only part-time team in the Championship, but Campbell believes that these sorts of performances show exactly why his side deserve to be rubbing shoulders with the full-time teams in this division:
“That’s how far we’ve come, coming down against a full-time team like Ayr United and you’re absolutely gutted you can only draw with them. There’s no doubt in my mind that we deserved to win the game in terms of our play – David will have a different opinion on it, but I can’t remember them creating any chances, and I can’t remember my goalkeeper having to make a save, and I’m raging at Nicky for missing a penalty!
“I wish the team all the best. I’ve got a great rapport with Ayr, they’re good people, but I think if they’re honest, they got out of jail today.”
Campbell went on to reflect on what he took from his side in the match, and was quick to load praise on Joel Nouble after the on-loan Livingston striker opened the scoring:
“Our first goal’s sensational. You think it’s a fluke, but that’s not a fluke! He’s some player – he played at Aldershot last year and he’s in on loan from Livingston, and he played really well in the first half.
“We’ve got to defend properly, got to learn how to stop the cross. I’ve still got to tune the team a bit more, as there’s one or two things I’m not happy with.”