It was Ayrshire Derby weekend in the Performance Tier with newcomers to that enhanced tier of Scottish youth Soccer, Ayr United taking on their county neighbours Kilmarnock in a series of matches over Saturday and Sunday with age groups ranging from 11s to 15s.
Ayr made the short trip to Grange Academy to take on Kilmarnock in the Ayrshire derby and it was Ayr who were first to test the Killie keeper after 5 minutes when Craig McGuffie got a 25 yard free kick on target. After 10 minutes Jai Holland put Ayr in front with a superbly drilled free kick that flew into the bottom left hand corner of the Killie net.
However Killie was awarded a soft penalty in the 25th minute when a cross was drilled in and hit the defenders arm which was down at the side of his body. Some you get and some you don't and on this occasion the referee went with the shouts from the home support and the spot kick was given. The penalty was well taken to square the game and five minutes later Killie took the lead when their big centre half headed home at the back post from a well delivered corner. The first period drew to a close with Ayr behind after having started so brightly but still well in the match.
Killie rang the changes at half time with five substitutions. Killie's no 9 & 10 certainly freshened their team up and started to link well, the no 10 missed a great chance when one on one with the Ayr keeper after being played through by the no 9. The Killie no 9 then capitalised on a short back pass to stretch the lead for the home side and this was quickly followed when the no 10 then curled a beauty into the top corner. The final goal of the game again came for the home side when a break down the right hand side was followed by a great cross and smart finish. However Ayr continued to go forward and a good move resulted in Ethan Tasker shooting just over the top after he had overlapped from left back.
The referee blew to end a typical derby game with Killie taking the spoils. There wasn’t as much football on the deck from Ayr today as there has been in recent weeks and they got caught up in the “hurly burly” of the game against the more physically developed Killie side. Only in the last 10 to 15 minutes did Ayr start to play their normal passing game as the pace of the game tailed off. However there is no time to fret on the result today as Rangers are next week’s callers to Prestwick and hopefully the injuries picked up by Callum Smith and Ross Thomson over the last couple of games will have cleared in time for them to take part.
The Ayr boys looked very smart in their new all white strips as they entertained Kilmarnock in the Ayrshire derby but it was Killie that were the brightest in the first period. They moved the ball very well in the final third and created several chances which were clinically finished. Keeper Greg Connor was given little chance with the Killie goals but did well to save a penalty midway through the period.
The second period was very even with Ayr just shading it. Ayr’s defence tightened up and restricted Killie to only a couple of chances.
The third period was dominated by Ayr with Kieran Balfour and Will Graham driving Ayr forward from the centre of midfield. Dylan Robb was also having a good game at left back and got forward on numerous occasions to thread passes through to the strikers. Ayr were rewarded with three well taken goals in this period.
The first was scored by Jamie Martin when he received a pass at the corner of the box and cut in before sending a curling left foot shot into the corner of the net.
Soon afterwards Ayr scored their second when a corner wasn’t cleared and Graeme Swailes reacted quickest to smash the ball into the net. Ayr’s third goal wasn’t long in coming with Thomas Dunlop receiving a pass in the box, making space for himself before shooting past the Killie keeper.
Ayr continued to drive Killie back but weren’t able to convert any of their further chances into goals.
Coach Jack Martin commented after the game: “Once Ayr tightened up at the back and cut out the needless mistakes, we went on to dominate the rest of the match. We were pleased with the three goals and the fact that the team finished strongly.”
The Academy 13s went onto the pitch excited about playing in their first Ayrshire derby and the opening period started at a very high tempo with Ayr controlling the play and going close when Gabe Skeoch tested the young Killie goalkeeper.
The possession from Ayr throughout the first period was good but a short corner from Kilmarnock provided Ayr's downfall when the visitors scored. However that didn't stop Ayr from making sure they let the opposition know they were in a match.
The second period didn’t start quite as well as the first but again this didn't stop Ayr from competing for every 50/50 ball. Unfortunately an injury to Scott Wilson proved pivotal as a lack of players on the bench for Ayr meant they had to dig deep to give 110%.
The third period started with a change of formation to a 4-3-3 for Ayr and this proved good for the home side as it forced the opposition into defending a lot more and didn't allow them the space which they had found in the second period. Ayr found themselves in the final third more often and were agonisingly close to scoring. The team showed good courage to adapt to the new formation and showed that they give 110% every week.
Ayr United 12s entertained Kilmarnock 12s at Belmont Academy on Saturday afternoon and the boys were very excited about playing their local rivals. All the players were up for the challenge and they were cheered on by a great support.
However both Ayr teams started slowly and conceded a couple of goals and it looked like the Kilmarnock players had settled more quickly into the match.
However once the nerves and excitement settled the Ayr players started to relax and take a grip in both matches. Ayr went back to basics by putting pressure on the Kilmarnock players when they were in possession of the ball and when the Ayr players won the ball back they showed great build-up play and created some great chances for themselves.
For all their hard work the Ayr players were rewarded with some goals. The goals didn’t stop and throughout both matches the players scored some cracking goals. Some of the goal scorers were, Adam Smith, Aiden Bradford, Declan McAulay, Tyler McAulay, James Maxwell, Robert Frew, Hamish Brown and Reece McLean.
The goals were coming thick and fast but this also came down to the great defending by some of the Ayr players namely Callum Bryce, Hamish Brown, Ross Love, Joe Barker, Lewis Kennedy, Adam Smith and Adam Mahoney. A special mention has to go to both Ayr goalkeepers (Logan Pipe and Jamie Walker) who were outstanding throughout both games they played. Not only did both goalkeepers stop the majority of shots coming at them but they also helped set up the play and both looked very controlled and comfortable on the ball.
Jordan Lusk and Declan McAulay were influential throughout both games but particularly in their last match. Both of their performances were very unselfish as they created opportunities for their team mates throughout the match. With their control on the game this allowed all the players to start to show their ability. Robbie Hannah and Callum Bryce were also another two players who worked hard throughout the matches and this had a knock on affect to the other players.
A special mention has to go to Kilmarnock. They played some great football and made the game really enjoyable and challenging. They were also rewarded with some goals. The crowd they brought along to the game were great and would have left happy having watched some great football.
After the games Ayr Coach Shaun Ferrie Said “Myself, Drew and Michael were very proud of the way the boys played today. The effort that was shown by all players was fantastic and to see the players coming away from the games looking tired and out of breath was proof in how hard they worked. I was concerned that some of the players would have got taken in by the occasion as this is always a big game for Ayr United no matter what level it is been played at. Sometimes big occasions can affect players. This was not the case and in some way it brought out the best in some of the Ayr United players. I also thought it was great to see some familiar faces in the Kilmarnock team as well. The majority of players playing in the Ayr and Kilmarnock teams were from South, North and East Ayrshire which was great to see and shows that Ayrshire has some great talented footballers out there. I can take a lot away from Saturday’s game and will be making sure the players keep improving.”
While the national news headlines were dominated by the up and coming Manchester United v Liverpool derby match in the Barclays Premier League, it was of no interest to anyone on the West coast of Scotland. There was only one game in town…the AYRSHIRE DERBY!
A great crowd turned out to watch the boys on a gloriously sunny day at Belmont Academy on Saturday for the first Ayrshire Derby of the season. It had been the talk of the week in the schools and at training and the boys was relishing the fixture. Once again the boys were split into two teams for two 40 minute games.
Jason’s team started off with a great tempo and got the ball down to play some neat passing football putting pressure on the Kilmarnock defence. The pressure finally told with Paul Smith forcing the defence into a mistake and he put Ayr ahead with a great finish. Ayr’s lead was soon doubled with yet another stunning Paul Smith strike. Paul picked the ball up in midfield, breezed past two defenders and fired the ball into the top corner. Paul was having an absolute blinder and as a corner came in he tried an outrageous overhead kick that narrowly went wide.
However, careless passing from Ayr let Kilmarnock score against the run of play and they finished the half the stronger team. Kilmarnock started the second half where they left off putting Ayr under pressure and they scored two further goals to take the lead. At this stage only another great performance from Lewis McSorley in goal and a goal-line clearance from Daniel Wood kept Ayr in the game. The game was set for an exciting finish and the crowd got what they wanted with a late Kaylem Ferguson goal that earned Ayr a draw. There were stand out performances from Paul Smith, Lewis McSorley in goal and, in particular Kaylem in the centre of midfield.
The second game was a more tired performance against a strong Kilmarnock team that resulted in a defeat. However a great performance from Lewis in goal with some outstanding saves and a couple of late goals made the score-line respectable.
Ross’ team first game was more of the same as they got off to a slow start with a goal from Lewis Dean the only consolation. The second game however, was an absolute cracker. Ayr started well with some good passing moves creating chances and forcing saves from the Kilmarnock keeper. After Ayr had gone in front they were pegged back and eventually conceded after some good play by Kilmarnock. With the game tied and the clock ticking down up stepped Jay McManus to score a late winner for Ayr in front of an ecstatic home crowd and gave Ayr a well-deserved victory.
Overall, the coaching team was very happy with the performances, with some good football being played and chances created. At this level the performance is more important that results but to get both was very pleasing. There is still a long way to go but the team are progressing every week and are on the right track.
You can follow Marc on Twitter @myscottishfitba