The start of the new league season kicked off with newly promoted Ayr United taking on Hamilton Academical. Brian Reid and namesake Billy were hoping to make a winning return to the First Division and they were greeted with a rather dreary summer’s day.
Ayr United looked to build on their recent 3-0 win over East Stirlingshire in the Scottish Communities League cup. A double from Mark Roberts and an Alan Trouten goal saw off the Shire in a comfortable win.
Hamilton on the other hand, haven’t played a competitive match since their 2-0 victory over Queens Park in the Ramsdens Cup. Goals from Ali Crawford and David Hopkirk were enough to see the Accies through.
Both teams were in fine form leading into this enthralling tie and both sets of fans were delighted with the return to the nitty-gritty of league football.
Hamilton fans have hopes of getting back into the Premier League, but know this First division campaign could well be the most competitive in its history. The Honest Men however, will be looking to retain First Division status this season and know that winning their home games will be vital in achieving that.
Ayr started the brighter of the two sides, a Michal McGowan corner broke to Martyn Campbell but he half volleyed his effort wide of the post.
The Ayr Ultras didn’t have long to wait though for the opening goal as McGowan broke the deadlock. McGowan played a lovely one-two with Mark Roberts before cooly slotting the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Things got from bad to worse for the Accies fans as they saw Ali Crawford take a tumble like the FTSE 100. Fortunately for the Accies fans, Crawford and Hamilton were able to recover.
Dougie Imrie got a sniff of goal but he could only scuff his shot into the arms of Kevin Cuthbert. The Accies were definitely the team in the ascendency and were neatly moving the ball around the park. Despite all this possession it was only in the 27th minute that we saw the Hamilton equaliser.
After a fine David Hopkirk drive was tipped over the bar, Mark McLaughlin headed home from Dougie Imrie’s corner.
It was no more than Hamilton deserved, but they nearly found themselves a goal down once more. Eddie Malone flew down the left-wing and crossed for Alan Trouten but he could only side foot his volley high and wide.
At Half Time Hamilton made their first substitution, Jordan Kirkpatrick coming off for Derek Lyle. This was maybe a signal of Billy Reid’s intentions as he looked to earn Hamilton an important away win.
Derek Lyle was soon involved in the action as he received a smack to the face for his troubles. The Hamilton fans though were in fine form and although the stewards tried his best to deflate the mood, bursting the beach ball that circulated the ground, the Accies fans continued their cheering.
Their enthusiasm was rewarded in the 56 minute when Mark McLaughlin nodded in his second of the game. The big defender reacted quickest to a Kevin Cuthbert fumble, heading home from five yards out.
It was a little harsh on the Honest Men and their hard luck continued when Eddie Malone had a goal chopped off for offside. The Ayr man bravely went in for the loose ball and poked the ball into the back of the net. Malone had to be substituted thereafter, the defender on the end of a clattering that saw him stretchered off.
Ayr looked to fight their way back into the match, Derek Lyle was caught in possession thanks to the pesky work of the Ayr midfield. This hard-earned possession was soon turned into a series of corners. The Honest Men had no less than five corners in a row, but somehow failed to find the equaliser.
Hamilton very nearly put the game beyond Ayr, when Derek Lyle cut inside and put his classy shot just wide of the Ayr goal. Ayr though had one last remaining opportunity to level the scores, Alan Trouten was put clean through on goal but he could only clip the ball into the arms of keeper Tomas Cerny.
It was a sore one to take for the Ayrshire team as they must have felt their team merited at least a draw.
Manager Brian Reid was of a similar opinion: “I felt we competed very well with a team who have only recently dropped down from the SPL. I thought we matched them all over the park and were very unlucky not to get a draw. But thats first division football, sometimes you don’t get what you deserve.”
Billy Reid on the other hand was delighted with his side’s victory: “We knew it was going to be a tough game here and after we went one nil down, we were fearing the worst. But credit to the lads, they showed great character to get back into the match. With the younsters we have here, we need to learn to win, and this sometimes may not be pretty.”
Man of the match Mark McLaughlin added: “I was delighted to get the 2 goals. I think it’s the first time I’ve scored two goals in a senior match so that was pleasing. It was always going to be a hard game, so to get the win shows the spirit we’ve got at this club.”
And so it was the Accies who came through with the win, despite that though Ayr will be happy to know that they can compete at this level. All in all their was positives for both teams to take from this engaging encounter.
Written by David Doherty at Somerset Park | © Photos by Patrick McGuire