League title favourites put to the sword

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ARBROATH welcomed new arrivals Ayr United to Gayfield on Saturday and showed them the former Division One side wouldn’t have things all their own way this season.

Fresh from their victory on Tuesday, the Lichties were keen to keep their unbeaten run going and looked a lot sparkier in midfield, with less of the long balls that characterised the Forfar game.

Saying that, Ayr were first on goal with a long range strike from Austin McCann which Hill easily saved.

The Arbroath ‘keeper was kept on his toes in the opening stages by a series of long balls from the Ayr forwards, and the Arbroath defence was generally very sharp in clearing their lines.

Michael Travis was quick to earn himself a place in the referee’s notebook after just six minutes when he steamrollered David Sinclair outside the Arbroath box.

Some good play by the Lichties followed a few minutes later, with Daniel Rennie taking on a solo run and a good display of ball control from the Arbroath midfield showed they were attempting to make good on errors from Tuesday.

The Honest Men retaliated, using two throw-ins to power down the left flank and giving David Winters a shot on goal, which flew far left of the post just 10 minutes in.

Ayr kept up the pressure and a minute later a cross into the box from Martyn Campbell gave Winters another chance, but Hill made the ball safe despite a sudden case of butterfingers.

In response, Rennie twice made good runs up the park, only to be stopped by a solid Ayrshire defence.

Just 19 minutes into the game, Arbroath made their first substitution when Steven Doris limped off the field for Derek Holmes.

Three minutes later, a soft foul on Sinclair by Brian Kerr began a tense few minutes for the Lichties as SINCLAIR took the chance to slot the ball past Hill to open the scoring.

Meanwhile the Maroons’ defence was under pressure as the Honest Men looked to capitalise on their lead, constantly probing the Arbroath line.

Arbroath had a chance a few minutes later to level the score as a long ball found Holmes in the Ayr box, but his attempt was deflected by a white shirt and mixed signals on the rebound caused Holmes and Currie to get in each other’s way, wasting another shot.

On the half-hour mark Ayr number nine Ross Robertson cut Hill down in the box, receiving a yellow for his trouble.

Although Hill received treatment and then continued to play, a couple of minutes later he was substituted by Tony Bullock suffering from a suspected broken arm.

The new ‘keeper acquitted himself well in the remainder of the first half, as Ayr continued to search for weaknesses in a solid Arbroath wall.

Rennie found Currie in the box shortly before the half-time whistle, but a sharp Ayr defence cleared it for a corner. Continuing to press, Currie took the kick, and trialist Colin Hamilton tried his luck with a header, which again was cleared for a corner.

Second time lucky, the corner found HOLMES unmarked in the box with time to spare to post it past Ally Brown in goal.

Half-time: Arbroath 1, Ayr United 1.

During the break Ayr subbed Ryan McStay for Robbie Crawford, but even with a fresh pair of legs Ayr remained on the back foot in the opening minutes.

The Honest Men counter-attacked, but Keddie was sharp enough to keep the ball far away from the ‘keeper.

Arbroath managed to tip the balance as sustained pressure forced the Ayr line to break, allowing Brian KERR to thunder the ball into the back of the net from well outside the box.

A lapse in the Lichties’ defence saw Robertson and Crawford cause havoc in the box, with Robertson claiming a foul in the melee.

Marenghi stepped up to take the free kick and a breakdown in communication saw Michael Travis attempt to clear the ball, only to see it ricochet off Holmes and into the goal to make it 2-2 after 67 minutes.

As the dust settled Brian Kerr was shown a yellow for back-chatting the referee, and player/manager Paul Sheerin replaced himself with Lee Sibanda.

Making their last substitution, Ayr manager Mark Roberts came on in place of Robertson after 71 minutes.

Arbroath reacted quickly to the goal and a minute later GRIBBEN increased his tally this season with a fantastic volley from the edge of the box to open the score.

The Somerset Park men pressed to regain the advantage and the Maroon line came under some serious pressure from Sinclair, Winters and Marenghi.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Ayr found themselves boxed in as Crawford gave away a free kick for his foul on Rennie, and Arbroath tightened the noose, pressing in on the goal and eventually winning a corner.

Currie took the corner and picked out RENNIE in the box where he calmly slotted the ball past a helpless Brown.

Brownlie came closest to getting something back for the visitors when he thundered a Marenghi free kick into a mass of bodies only to see it spin off the park.

Ayr refused to give up, but their cohesion was gone and Arbroath easily kept them at bay to finish the game as victors.

After the game, Arbroath player/manager Sheerin felt the pressure heaped on Ayr United to return to the First Division was unfair. He said: “I think the team that obviously comes down gets tipped straight away to go back up.

“I think once you see the first quarter you get a feel for what everybody’s got to offer. They come down and people expect them to go up, he’s got quite a young squad Marko [Ayr United player-manager Mark Roberts], so I’m sure it’ll be difficult for him, but I’m sure they will be in the mix.”