Ladbrokes Championship: Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 0: 22/12/18

Ayr United were the visitors for Dunfermline Athletic’s last home league match of 2018. The Honest Men’s manager, Ian McCall brought his table topping team to East End Park and named the same again that included four former Pars in his starting eleven.

Pars manager Allan Johnston was forced to make one change from the side that drew at Dumfries the previous Saturday, James Craigen starting in place of the injured (knee) Ryan Williamson.

The home side kicked off attacking the goal in front of the travelling support and within sixty seconds Faissal El Bakhtaoui’s header gave keeper Ross Doohan his first job holding from six yards. It was Kallum Higginbotham’s cross from an Aidan Keena lay off that created the opportunity. Three minutes later Higgy blasted a 25 yard effort narrowly over the bar.

The visitors took the game to Dunfermline with Robbie Crawford seeing his on target shot blocked before Andy Murdoch’s effort from outside the box was deflected wide left for a corner. That was successfully defended but Declan McDaid forced another off Craigen in 17 minutes. The Ayr no.11 overhit his delivery and although Lawrence Shankland got his head to the back it fell wide right.

On the break Tom Beadling picked out Keena and he was cut down by Michael Rose to hand the Pars a free kick midway into the Ayr half. Higginbotham delivered the ball to the far post and Danny Devine claimed that he was fouled in his attempt to reach the cross. Play on.

In 23 minutes Craigen crossed from the right but El Bakhtaoui could not reach it. Michael Moffat sent a snapshot trundling wide right but at this stage both sides were keeping the ball well clear of the penalty boxes.

On the half hour Higginbotham picked out Lee Ashcroft but Ayr survived despite their keeper not holding first time. When play switched rapidly to the other end Shankland’s pass sent Moffat in on goal but Lee Robinson blocked and Devine swept the ball away from goal.

A super cross on from Higginbotham set up a great 33rd minute chance but unfortunately there was no one to convert it. Moffat fired on target again but the blocked ball dropped to Crawford’ whose shot was then deflected for a corner on the right. That caused no real problem and it was back to the other end and a free kick 27 yards out on the right side. Ashcroft was desperately close to heading home Higginbotham’s cross.

McDaid put in a strong run, cutting inside to drive a powerful shot on goal that was deflected out for an Ayr corner down on the left. That was sent to Crawford lying deep but from 25 yards out he blasted wildly wide and high.

It had been a fairly even first 45 minutes, Ayr’s chances looked more dangerous than Dunfermline’s but the sides went in all square.

Half time: Dunfermline 0 Ayr United 0

In 48 minutes Doohan was the first keeper asked to make a save, pushing away a good strike from Higginbotham after the Pars player had got the better of Liam Smith on the left side of the Ayr box.

Dunfermline kept up the pressure with Jackson Longridge driving forward, cutting the ball square for El Bakhtaoui but his shot was blocked. In 53 minutes a Keena header was sent behind for a corner and then Keena drove a good effort on target only for it to hit Rose.

Further hope for the Pars when Thomson connected 30 yards out and Doohan had to be alert to stop the shot on his goal line. Then Keena’s 59th minute shot brought the home fans into song despite the fact that Rose booted away his effort. Next minute Keena beat off two defenders out on the left to cut in and thump a shot on target and this time it was the Ayr keeper who kept the on loan Jambo out.

The Pars forced a 66th minute corner kick after Longridge and Higginbotham had threatened on the left and when that was sent in the ball evaded everyone as in escaped through the six yard box,

Craig Moore replaced Michael Moffat midway through the half and Shankland won a hotly disputed corner that thankfully Ashcroft dealt with. Myles Hippolyte was the first tactical change for Dunfermline entering the fray in 71 minutes to replace Faissal El Bakhtaoui.

Bell collected a yellow card after he impeded Keena. Then just minutes later in 81, more yellows were flashed after Moore’s robust challenge floored Craigen and in the furory Thomson was also shown a card for over zealous complaints.

There were five minutes remaining when Hippolyte fed the ball in to Thomson and then on to Longridge but the defenders shot from 30 yards out was wayward. The fans of both clubs were well heated through by this stage and on the park there remained great urgency in finding a winner.

An Ashcroft foul on Shankland in 88 as they both tried to latch on to a bouncing ball, allowed McGuffie to pump the ball into the Pars box from the resulting free kick but Robinson was out commandingly to fist away the danger. Next minute McGuffie got the break off Vincent to cut the ball back from the right and Shankland from 12 yards sent the ball wide left.

There was still time for an added time corner that Higgy sent in from the right but Ayr thwarted Devine’s challenge at the near post. A good determined showing from the Fifers and a particularly attacking second half. No goals, one point each, Ayr United were toppled off the top and the Pars stay in seventh with 20 points.
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: James Craigen, Lee Ashcroft (c), Danny Devine, Jackson Longridge: James Vincent: Kallum Higginbotham, Tom Beadling, Joe Thomson: Faissal El Bakhtaoui (Myles Hippolyte 73), Aidan Keena.
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis McCann, Mark Durnan, Malaury Martin, Lewis McCann, Robbie Muirhead, Cammy Gill (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Craigen (39), Beadling (74), Thomson (81)

AYR UNITED: Ross Doohan: Liam Smith, Michael Rose, Steven Bell (c), Daniel Harvie: Andy Geggan (Ross Docherty 78), Robbie Crawford, Andy Murdoch, Declan McDaid (Craig McGuffie 71): Michael Moffat (Craig Moore 67), Lawrence Shankland.
SUBS NOT USED: Chris Higgins, David Ferguson, Luke McCowan, Ellis Hare-Reid (GK)
YELLOW CARD: Geggan (56), Bell (79), Moore (81)

REFEREE: Steven McLean
WEATHER: Cloudy 7C

NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship: (away) v Falkirk, Saturday 29th December 2018, kick off 3.00pm at The Falkirk Stadium

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