Match report by Fraser Denoon. Photo via @AyrUnitedFC via Twitter.
It was set-up for the perfect end to the SWFL Division 2 West League season as the top two, Ayr United and FC Kilmarnock 23’s, came into the game with just one point seperating them. Ayr knew that a draw would be enough to clinch the title but in the end, they convincingly saw off their title rivals and inflicted the first defeat of the season on FC Kilmarnock 23’s.
The visitors looked the brighter and dominatied the early exchanges, looking very organised at the back. Most chances in the opening exchanges were from FC Kilmarnock as they made use of the wide spaces, most of their attacks coming down the right side of the field. Ayr’s sturdy defense kept the scoreline 0-0.
Despite a shaky start, the game began to even out in terms of chances as Ayr got a foothold in the match. They were testing out the keeper but nothing really troubled Killie’s number one, Holly Kerrigan.
For Kilmarnock, it was winger, Cara Mailey, who continued to find herself with plenty of space on the right hand side but the attacks were eventually snuffed out by Ayr’s organised defense. Set-pieces also came in abundance for Kilmarnock but the final touch to give them the lead was always missing.
A reward soon arrived for Kilmarnock’s high pressing and dominant possession after the referee awarded a penalty to the visitors. The challenge was put in and some may have said this was outside the box. The penalty was trusted to Lauren McCulloch who tucked the ball away under the diving Natalie Docherty, giving them a precious lead just before the 30 minute mark.
Ayr began the restart strongly, perhaps after feeling hard done by the penalty decision. Their Captain, Jodie Barbour, was leading the major attacks to try and get an equaliser and keep their title hopes alive.
The pressure by Ayr was being handled well by Kilmarnock’s defense until good build up on the right hand side gave Ayr a free-kick in a dangerous position 40-yards from goal. Lauren McBlain’s delivery did not disappoint as she caught Kerrigan off her line to plant the ball firmly in the top left corner to level the score at 1-1.
Ayr then used the confidence gained from this goal and began to play great football, some of the best that they’ve played all season.
However, it was Kilmarnock that thought they’d regained the lead. A corner was headed away at the front post but the ball was played back into the box and found its way into the net. The referee blew his whistle for offside though and the game remained 1-1.
Chances came and went for both sides but it was Ayr who got the break after a throw-in bounced around in the Kilmarnock box. Rachel Scott reacted fastest and fired the louce ball into the roof of the net to give the home side the lead just before half-time.
Ayr started just as they ended the first half, on the front foot and pressing well. This led to a well worked counter attack which won a free-kick right beside the corner flag. The ball was crossed in and Kerrigan tried to claim it but the ball went over her and this left Hannah Taysum to head into the empty net and increase Ayr’s lead.
Kilmarnock began to use the ball more and ended up with another penalty shout but this was waved away by the referee and play continued with Ayr still holding a strong backline.
10 minutes after extending their lead, Ayr broke down a defensive throw from Kilmarnock and with a smart move inside the box, Chloe Duthie netted into the bottom left corner from a half-volley to make it 4-1.
Ayr then went through after a mix up between two Kilmarnock defenders but the shot was well saved by Kerrigan, who was instrumental in keeping the scoreline in reach of Kilmarnock.
Ayr were still using the ball really well and were awarded a free-kick within shooting range after Scott went was fouled. The free kick was hit but sailed over the bar. However, Lauren McBlain made no mistake with the next free-kick and hit it so sweetly that it flew into the top left corner to give Ayr an unreachable 5-1 lead.
The last chance of the match broke for Kilmarnock as they managed to find a cross into the penalty area and newly substituted goalkeeper, Abbie Little, spilled the cross but then recovered to the crowds delight.
The final whistle blew as Ayr players all huddled together to celebrate a very comfortable but tricky win against the team that sat perched on top of the league for so long. They’re now crowned champions and have secured promotion to SWFL Division One for 2019.