by Marc Roseblade
|Players celebrate Roddy's opener|
Rumours were abound over the past week with Paisley being touted as the chosen venue, then temporary floodlights were being spoken about before Morton's Cappielow stadium in Greenock was chosen as the place the tie would be played.
For the 250 or so fans that did make the journey, a display of superb football from a youthful Ayr United side was served up that all fans of the team can be proud of.
With Roberts, Burke, Trouten, Geggan and McGowan all starting from the bench, it gave opportunities to Roddy Paterson, Ross Robertson, Gareth Armstrong and Jonathan Tiffoney to let Brian Reid see that they all have what it takes to stake a claim for a regular starting spot. It also gave the watching fan's the chance to see that the Somerset boss's squad is maybe not as thin as it has been mooted by many.
The young stars in the Ayr side showed their swagger throughout the match with many nice passing moves being the order of the day with Tiffoney and Armstrong playing down the right together, Robertson's height and prowess through the middle and Paterson's speed and eye for goal up front.
These players were also marshalled by the older players around them giving a good mix of age and experience to quell any youthful exuberance overtaking the need for calm heads at times during the 90 minutes of play.
Opportunities were aplenty for both sides during this match and had it not been for an excellent goalkeeping display by Ayr keeper Kevin Cuthbert, the scoreline could have been so different as he made a handful of pointblank saves during the 90 minutes to keep a clean sheet.
It was Wardlaw that was first to test the Raith Rovers keeper McGurn with a stinging strike from 20 yards out but he managed to parry the ball before it was carried to safety by his defensive partners but the intentions were clear that Ayr's part time side were not going to be a push over against the full time team from Fife, that had pushed hard for promotion into the SPL last season.
Ayr's young guns were connecting well together with Tiffoney playing a four pass move with Paterson, Roberston and Armstrong that led to Paterson making a break on the left but his cross was blocked and the danger snuffed out but this was to start a series of interplay between these guys that makes it all the more significant for Ayr United as they look to the future.
Raith came close soon after with a glancing header from a corner with the resultant kick out nearly leading to Paterson latching on to a cross from a nippy Tiffoney who himself had received the ball from a neat head flick by R. Robertson, but the ball was just out of reach of the Maybole man but showed that route one football is still alive and well.
Tiffoney was a menace to the Raith midfield players as he twisted and turned his way around the area, being fouled with ruthless efficiency as they visitors tried to deal with him, but he kept playing balls through to the front men, creating chance after chance for his team mates to make an effort on goal in order to break the deadlock.
It was to be one of the young guns that would open the scoring.
Paterson connected with a through ball that found him sprinting into the danger zone, one on one with the out rushing goalie but swiftly swerved the ball past the stopper and into the net giving Ayr a 1-0 lead with only two minutes to the half time whistle.
Raith were not to let this goal get them down and came out all guns blazing in the second 45 minutes, making Ayr keeper Cuthbert work to earn his clean sheet bonus.
Within three minutes of the restart, Cuthbert had made one clearance from a close range header and watched as two others slithered over the bar much to the relief of all in the new Bodog sponsored Ayr shirts.
Ayr's central defensive pairing of Martyn Campbell and John Robertson were immense tonight, clearing up when possible and are silent assassins in the art of last minute challenges and interceptions; which proved helpful when Raith were clear through on goal in the 50th minute but Campbells long legs managed to block and clear the ball to safety before damage could be done by the attacker.
Campbell's height was also to prove a handful at the other end of the park as well as he managed to get a header on target from a corner on 61 minutes but from this save, Raith keeper McGurn nearly turned provided as he lofted the ball forward that was only intercepted by an alert Cuthbert on the edge of his own box as several Raith strikers bore down on him.
It was end to end stuff, sometimes pretty-sometimes not; but this was cup football at it's best and in all good stories strange things occasionally appear.
Steady and assured all night, Ayr goalie Cuthbert nearly gifted Raith an equalizer when his let the ball slip from his grasp after catching from a corner, but fortunately it caught all around him dozing as they all watched it trickle out for another corner.
Michael Moffat was next to attack for the Honest Men as he sped down the left hand side from well inside his own half, clearing three opposition players before unfortunately slipping in the box just before he was about to pull the trigger on goal but it was be only a short time later that the second goal was to be scored for Ayr.
A cross into the box appeared to be missed by everyone but welcomed by the newly signed Ayr player James McKernan for a simple tap in from less than six yards out to make it 2-0.
Raith nearly pulled one back with a close range rising shot from only four feet out but the ever present Cuthbert was on hand to stop the ball and clear it out for a corner to once again save his side. From the resultant corner, Ayr were to nick the ball, break up field for Ross Robertson to score a simply sublime goal by chipping over the scrambling Raith keeper from at least 20 yards out to round off a great night for the Ayr players and fans.
Special mention has to go to young defender Gareth Armstrong who received a well deserved Man on the Match.
This was a great all round performance from the guys on show tonight against a team that came within a couple of matches of SPL football last season. The draw for the next round of the Ramsdens Cup takes place on Thursday 11th August.
Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Bleacher Report as well as Not Just Scottish Football and youth development reporter for Ayr United Football Academy. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.