We were up the A90 again this week to Gayfield for Arbroath’s home match against Ayr United and got another great day of weather for travelling and watching football. We actually passed the ground on the route home from Montrose last week so it was a less complicated journey than normal!
Anyone not familiar with the location may not know that the ground is situated right next to the sea, which is similar to the grounds of East Fife and Stranraer where we visited recently. Again, street parking is available yards away from the main stand and we got a decent spot next to the amusement arcades a good half an hour before kick off. After taking a couple of pictures of the ground and a few scenic shots too we paid in and went for a wander.
As you enter the turnstiles all the facilities are pretty much facing you. From the young lads selling the match programme, the couple of people selling the half time raffle tickets, the food bar to the toilet facilities. The club shop is also there and although small, it is well stocked with Arbroath merchandise like strips, scarves, badges and old programmes.
This is the fourth time I’ve personally seen Arbroath this season and also saw Ayr United play at Alloa last month so have a bit of knowledge on the playing staff of both sides. Unfortunately for the hosts they would have to do without the services of the impressive Steven Doris up front through injury. Ayr had their recent signing Graeme Smith in goals having signed a deal until the end of the season following a short spell at Partick Thistle.
When the game got under way it was Arbroath who dominated the opening exchanges and took the lead as early as the second minute. A move down the left hand side saw the ball crossed low into the box by Ross Chisholm and was dummied I’m sure, by player boss, Paul Sheerin. This completely duped the Ayr defence leaving the onrushing Derek Holmes to sweep the ball high into the net to open the scoring.
Arbroath continued to have most of the possession and were creating most of the openings. There were a couple of close calls with regards to possible offside decisions that weren’t given much to the chagrin of the Ayr defence and in particular, goalkeeper Smith. He let out a verbal volley at the far side Assistant who was near us and couldn’t believe he wasn’t booked for it.
From a Sheerin corner, Alex Keddie headed over the crossbar for Arbroath before an offside decision against Michael Travis shortly afterwards spared Derek Holmes’ blushes. He should’ve finished from close range before the Assistant flagged but he blazed his shot wildly over the bar.
Ten minutes from the break Holmes got himself into a very good attacking position again. I’m not sure what he was trying to achieve but it resulted in a good Euan Smith cross from the right hand side into the box coming off his knee from six yards out and trundle harmlessly wide for a goal kick.
Three minutes later Ayr’s Liam Buchanan hit a shot from the edge of the box that forced the home ‘keeper Scott Morrison to turn round the post for a corner. It was one of their few attacks on the home goal and from the resulting corner, proved to be a turning point in the game.
Arbroath had dominated but had only converted one chance and when this happens you sometimes know what’s round the corner! As the corner kick was taken, Keddie was alleged to have fouled Neil McGregor and the referee, Andrew Dallas awarded Ayr a penalty. Michael Moffat stepped up and placed his kick high into Morrison’s top left hand corner to make it 1-1.
Two minutes from the break, Arbroath were attacking down the right hand side, and as we were well placed, thought there was a foul on Euan Smith. The Assistant was standing next to it but never flagged to the referee. The play continued and the ball was cleared down the line as Ayr started a counter attack. The ball was then played short to Michael Moffat on the left hand side and he impressively curled a shot from about twenty yards high into the top right hand corner to put Ayr in front.
Straight from the re-start Arbroath were up the park looking for an equaliser. Travis put an excellent cross into the box but there were no takers. It was picked up by Hamilton who put it back into the danger area and Travis’ header was saved by Smith and the onrushing Sheerin couldn’t connect with the loose ball. So after a hectic finale to the first half, Ayr went into the break leading 2-1.
I’ve been to many games and many grounds in the last thirty years but I can’t recall ever seeing what happened at Gayfield as the half time whistle blew. Unprompted, a majority of the 651 crowd seamlessly swapped ends so that both sets of supporters were behind the goal their team was attacking for the second half! Quite bizarre.
The second period got under way and started the same as the first one had ended, with Arbroath on the offensive. A Travis cross into the box saw Sibanda fire a shot in that was saved by Smith and before anyone could follow up, the play was halted for an offside flag.
The home side continued to press but their hopes of an equaliser took a major blow when ten minutes after the re-start they were reduced to ten men. A minor skirmish in the middle of the pitch saw a couple of players involved in some pushing and referee Dallas deemed that Brian Kerr had overstepped the mark meaning he picked up a second yellow and first use of the carbolic!
Both teams made substitutions shortly after the hour mark and it was Ayr who benefitted from a very fortuitous refereeing decision on seventy one minutes. Scott Robertson was penalised for the merest of contact on Liam Buchanan from a right wing cross and the forward hit the deck like he had been pole axed!
It reminded me of the old McDonald’s advert where the guy takes a theatrical run and jump and the referee doesn’t hesitate to award the penalty! Michael Moffat stepped up again and this time he kept his kick low into the bottom left hand corner to make it 3-1 and complete his hat trick.
The Arbroath players knew the game was lost and three minutes later Ayr sealed the win with a break away fourth goal. A sweeping move down the left hand side found Buchanan in space and he picked out the scourge of Arbroath, Michael Moffat with a superb pass across the box and he slipped the ball past Morrison for his and Ayr United’s fourth goal.
Arbroath threatened to score from a Sheerin corner in the last couple of minutes and Ayr also had a chance from a David Sinclair shot which went well wide of the left hand post. That effort proved to be the last action of the game and Ayr United ended up 4-1 winners which was a scoreline that maybe flattered them.
Arbroath’s failure to capitalise on their first half possession and chances, added to the harsh penalty decisions given against them plus Brian Kerr’s red card, meant the home side can justifiably feel a bit aggrieved. We got to the car and were zooming out the town within a few minutes! Just as we’re settling in for the long road back I realised I’d lost the match programme. I’d kept it under my arm for most of the game and must’ve dropped it as I opened the car door. School boy error!
With regards to the ground, it is like a traditional old fashioned stadium with four stands consisting of a main stand and three covered terraced areas. We stood in the home end at the corner of the terrace with a stunning view of the water and also provided a decent vantage point to watch the game itself.
The people we encountered were friendly and the catering is well priced and very good value. So much so that my eldest boy’s pal who came with us made quite a few visits to the food kiosk!
The game itself was a decent contest with five goals, a red card and a couple of debatable refereeing decisions, so the £15 parent and child admission also proved excellent value.
The team have lost their last two games, ironically both at home but they are still well placed to get a play off place at the end of the season. From what I’ve seen of Arbroath on the pitch this season I don’t think they could be grudged if they achieved this come the beginning of May.