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(FM'09) A 'United' Front - A Chance To Rewrite History Part II

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Posted (edited)

Sunday 19th December 2010

The Daily Record, Late Edition
They say there is no room for sentiment in sports, and I'm sure Brian Reid would agree with you this evening. The 40 year old from Paisley was sacked late this evening by Ayr United, despite appearing to have turned the corner with his side during this month. The side recorded a third successive League win on Saturday afternoon away to Stirling Albion, to lift the club up into 8th position.

But Chairman of 'The Honest Men', Mr Lachlan Cameron seemed to suggest that the club had already made up their mind to replace Reid weeks ago, and were just waiting to find the right candidate. With an announcement expected tomorrow morning on Reid's replacement, it seems certain that the club will have a new manager in place ready for their vital Boxing Day fixture against Berwick Rangers at Somerset Park.

Monday 20th December
After clearing my desk at Knockramer Park, and signing my resignation letter before handing it to the Chairman, I leave the ground for the final time, and make my way to Belfast to catch a flight into Glasgow. From there, I'll head west into Ayr, which sits right on the coast, and is a large town of nearly 50,000 people.

I will be contracted through to the end of June 2013, and I have actually taken a pay hit to move into a better level of football, as I will be paid £120 a week. United were expected to be competing for a Promotion Playoff spot this season, which is exactly what they did in each of the last two seasons, losing in the Semi-Final to Ross County and Stirling Albion. But with 17 of the 36 League games played, the club are actually closer to the Relegation Playoff spot. Much closer. They sit 8th, just one point above the Playoff spot, and only two above the automatic relegation place. We are also the only club in the Division to be in double figures for the number of defeats this season. However, the side sat in the final Promotion Playoff spot are only seven points away, so there is reason for optimism.

2010 is, or as there's only a week or so of it left, was, Ayr United's centenary year. The absolute last thing the Chairman wants is for the club to be dealing with relegation when it's supposed to be a season of celebrations. That's part of the reason why he made the change when he did. Also, he wants the club to excite it's fans, and there is no doubting that I've managed to get my side to put the ball in the net frequently. It's clear to see that has been part of their problem this season, with just 19 goals from 17 league matches so far, and the club is out of all three Cup competitions that they entered this season.

Clearly there is some work to do with the squad, but the club are reasonably wealthy for this level, at least, on the surface of things they are. They are showing a bank balance of £273,315 right now, but they owe the Chairman a cool £200,000 and are paying him back at £4,000 a month. Shockingly, their kit sponsorship deal is worth less than half of what Lurgan Celtic were getting. The figures get better when it comes to budgets however, as I have a transfer budget of just over £5,000. It started at nearly £25,000 this season, but the previous manager moved it mostly into the wage budget, which is set at a very healthy £4,500 a week, of which the club is currently only spending £2,700 or thereabouts.

You can see that the club badly needs some investment in the playing staff, and I set about that task right away. I also name a new Captain of the club, the man who is easily the best player in the side, and who up to now, has been reluctant to discuss terms on a new contract, with his current deal due to finish in the summer. Ryan Stevenson will wear the armband, and warms to my arrival immediately, with his status changing from 'disappointed with how things are going' to 'keen to help the club improve their fortunes'. He is immediately offered a two year contract extension.

It might not prove to have been the most popular decision with the fans to strip someone regarded as one of the clubs favourite sons of the captaincy on my first day in the job, but Mark Roberts is now 35, and I'm ready to start dragging this club into the future. The rest of this season is effectivley a trial for everyone at the club and anyone I bring in. We need to make sure we stay up, obviously, and anything above and beyond that will be a bonus. As far as I'm concerned, I have two transfer windows to get this squad straightened out ready to hit the ground running in the summer and become a winning club.

Neil Hoskins.
33 years old. Welsh. Uncapped.
Reputation :- Unproven. Contract :- Full Time, 2.5 years, £120 per week.
Previous Experience :- Sunday League Footballer.

Managerial Statistics :-
Club/Player Loyalty :- 10. Domestic Players Bias :- 14. Financial Control :- 7.
Hands On Approach :- 6. Squad Discipline :- 14. Tactical Consistency :- 14.

Season Expectations :-
Achieve a Promotion Playoff Position (Not being judged this season).
Transfer Budget :- £5,250. Wage Budget :- £4,543 per week. Currently Spending :- £2,674 per week.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ayr United FC.
Founded :- 1910. Nickname :- The Honest Men. Status :- Semi-Professional. Reputation :- Regional. Value :- £475,000.
Chairman Status :- Love the club. Finances :- Okay (£273,315).
Club Colours :- Home - White with Black Trim. Away - Red with White and Black Trim.
Club Legends :- Ally Macleod,Ian McAllister, Henry Templeton, John Murphy, Peter Price.
Club Icons :- Gary Teale, Glynn Hurst. Favoured Personnel :- Mark Roberts.
Fierce Rivals :- Kilmarnock. Other Rivals :- Stranraer
Honours :-  *Scottish First Division Winners - 1912, 1913, 1928, 1937, 1959, 1966
                      *Scottish Second Division Winners - 1988, 1997
Last Season :- 4th in Scottish Second Division.

Somerset Park, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Capacity :- 8,000 (1,500 seats). Condition :- Average. Surface :- Grass. Surface Condition :- Very Good.
Average Corporate Facilities, Average Training Facilities, Adequate Youth Facilities.
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Hi, thanks for reading the first post. I hope it's caught your attention enough for you to continue reading. This is the second part of my story back through football manager time. If you've been reading up until now, you'll know I have spent two and a half fairly successful seasons in Northern Ireland with Lurgan Celtic. If you haven't read it yet, you can catch up *here* should you wish to.

This continuation of the story will be in very much the same format as the first part ended. Plenty of detail, match reports shortened somewhat to allow quicker game play. Questions, observations and comments are as always, very welcome. Thank you, and enjoy.

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Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

2010/11 Scottish League Second Division, Up To & Including Monday 20th December 2010

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | Livingston         |       | 18    | 14    | 3     | 1     | 39    | 12    | +27   | 45    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 18    | 10    | 4     | 4     | 28    | 20    | +8    | 34    |
| 3rd   |       | Stirling           |       | 18    | 9     | 4     | 5     | 30    | 21    | +9    | 31    |
| 4th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 18    | 6     | 6     | 6     | 25    | 27    | -2    | 24    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Alloa              |       | 18    | 6     | 5     | 7     | 18    | 26    | -8    | 23    |
| 6th   |       | Peterhead          |       | 18    | 5     | 5     | 8     | 20    | 25    | -5    | 20    |
| 7th   |       | East Fife          |       | 18    | 5     | 3     | 10    | 22    | 27    | -5    | 18    |
| 8th   |       | Arbroath           |       | 18    | 4     | 6     | 8     | 19    | 24    | -5    | 18    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 9th   |       | Ayr                |       | 18    | 5     | 3     | 10    | 19    | 24    | -5    | 18    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  |       | Berwick            |       | 18    | 4     | 5     | 9     | 16    | 30    | -14   | 17    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

Ayr United 2010/11 Pen Pictures
*Career Appearances & Goal stats are for League matches only*

Goalkeepers :-

Stephen Grindlay. 28 years old. Scottish. 6'2. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 254. Career Club Goals :- 0.
A former Newcastle United and Celtic youngster who made the break through to First Team football with Dumbarton. He is in his third season with Ayr, and is the undisputed number one here at the moment.

Sam Filler. 20 years old. English. 5'10. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 0. Career Club Goals :- 0.
Middlesbrough must have seen something they liked about this young keeper when they purchased him from Bradford City. But he never made an appearance for Boro, and was released in the summer. Personally, I'm not sure he'll make the grade here either.

Defenders :-

Aaron Muirhead. 20 years old. Scottish. 6'0. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 56. Career Club Goals :- 2.
A local lad who came through the ranks here at Somerset Park. Has been a regular in the last season and a half. The jury is out on whether he can cut it, and if he does, whether he's better at full back or centre back.

William Dyer. 23 years old. Scottish. 5'10. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 103. Career Club Goals :- 3.
The Glasgow born left back broke into the St Johnstone side, but moved to Brechin City to get more regular games. He signed for Ayr in the summer of 2009, and has played regularly. Not for much longer though.

Gavin Cadwallader. 24 years old. English. 6'2. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 101. Career Club Goals :- 3.
Didn't manage to make the breakthrough at Shrewsbury Town, and ended up in the Welsh Premier League. Signed for Ayr in the summer, and has done ok, but if the squad is improved, he might find himself on the fringes.

Robbie Bradley. 16 years old. Scottish. 5'9. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 4. Career Club Goals :- 0.
It says a lot about our squad depth that this local first year player has seen First Team action this season. That said, he isn't a bad little prospect, but he isn't ready to play at this level just yet.

Andrew Hageman. 24 years old. Irish. 6'3. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 60. Career Club Goals :- 0.
Easily the best defender we have at the club right now, but he has never spent more than a season at any of his clubs since leaving hometown side Drogheda United. Signed from Third Division side Stranraer in the summer.

Fraser Donnelly. 19 years old. Scottish. 5'9. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 22. Career Club Goals :- 0.
Another local lad who has had a bit of game time over the last few seasons, but it's clear he isn't good enough for the level of football we're aiming to hit.

Midfielders/Wingers :-

Ryan Borris. 27 years old. Scottish. 5'10. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 165. Career Club Goals :- 16.
I found the former Dumbarton and Raith Rovers winger lurking in the Reserves when I arrived here, and I'm slightly confused why that would be. I think he could do a job for us.

Ryan Stevenson. 26 years old. Scottish. 5'11. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 213. Career Club Goals :- 36.
Without a doubt, the best player at the club by a mile. A former Chelsea youngster, he made the grade with St Johnstone before Ayr paid £20k for him after a loan spell. Can play anywhere across the midfield, and still hasn't come close to achieving his potential yet. Has been made Club Captain, and offered a new deal.

Jamie Campbell. 19 years old. Scottish. 6'0. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 2. Career Club Goals :- 0.
In his third year at the club, the teenage ball winner has made a few appearances from the bench. The jury is out on whether he has enough about him to make it here.

Kenny Connolly. 23 years old. Scottish. 5'10. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 79. Career Club Goals :- 10.
Glasgow born midfielder who looks a very decent player for this level. Signed on a Free Transfer from Motherwell in 2008, his productivity could go through the roof if we can get some better players around him.

Chris Hamilton. 23 years old. Scottish. 5'9. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 110. Career Club Goals :- 8.
A quick right winger who can send a decent cross over as well. The former Dumbarton and Stirling Albion player will need to make the most of his opportunities to stay in the pecking order though.

Marc McCann. 30 years old. Northern Irish. 5'11. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 328. Career Club Goals :- 62.
Moved from Nothern Ireland in the summer to join Ayr, and is actually a Craigavon lad, which is right down the road from Lurgan. His career has never really reached it's full potential despite him being a regular over the years for Glenavon, Portadown and Dungannon.

Strikers :-

Mark Roberts. 35 years old. Scottish. 5'11. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 429. Career Club Goals :- 110.
The grand old man of football in Ayr. The journeyman striker seems to have laid his hat here, as he is in his third season for the club he has now scored more than 30 League goals for. Wants to stay here for the rest of his career. I'll need to be convinced that's the best thing for the club.

Daniel Powell. 19 years old. English. 6'2. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 24. Career Club Goals :- 6.
At the exact opposite end of the career spectrum, Powell arrived at the club in the summer after he couldn't crack the First Team lineup at MK Dons, and had to rely on loan spells to play. I think he'll make a good target man, but I'm not sure how many goals we can expect from him.

Darren Rice. 20 years old. Scottish. 5'10. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 6. Career Club Goals :- 0.
In all honesty, if this local lad is still employed at this football club at the start of next season, you may safely assume that Ayr has been hit by a catastrophic episode of the bubonic plague, and he's the only survivor with a pair of football boots. Even then, he'd probably just be a sub.

Kevin Ireland. 20 years old. Scottish. 6'2. Uncapped
Career Club Appearances :- 9. Career Club Goals :- 1.
Another local lad, and a striker who is very similar to Daniel Powell. I'd have to say that I'm probably a little bit less sure about Ireland than I am about Powell.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Tuesday 21st December 2010
'No, there was no such agreement made with Lurgan when I left. As far as I'm aware, if I were to make a bid for one of their players, it would be treated exactly as it would be from any other club'. I was in my first press conference as the new manager of Ayr United, and the local press seemed very keen to find out if any of my former players would be making the same journey as I had yesterday. 'Sorry lads, I won't be discussing transfers today, I've only been here 24 hours, and the Transfer Window isn't open yet anyway'.

They were quite well informed it seemed, and the chances are that they didn't believe me when I answered. They'd be right not to as well. I had already tabled offers for three players, and I was eyeing up another two or three that I thought could come and play at this level. Offers had been accepted for Aidan O'Kane and James McLean, with contracts discussed. I had also made an offer for Jordan Baker, but Lurgan came back to us with a quote of nearly £30,000 for the striker.

I would look at other options. Neil Brown would have been an obvious one, but as he had been contracted to North Village Rams back in Bermuda until September 1st, he couldn't play for another club until next summer anyway. I did table offers for Justin Murphy, Aaron McElwee and Stephen Magennis later in the day. The latter had been banished to the Reserves by Graham McConnell, my assistant who had been appointed as the new man in charge at Knockramer Park.

Wednesday 22nd December
With no deal possible for Jordan Baker, I had to seek out other options. I have to be honest, there wasn't too much out there in our price range that were worth considering, with one just one exception. An International striker who had fallen through the levels, would get a work permit easily, and at the age of 31, still had plenty of life left in him yet. There were other clubs interested, so I made him the best offer we could afford.

The news the fans had feared would never arrive has also been announced today. New Club Captain and stalwart of the team, Ryan Stevenson, has signed a two year contract extension, and will remain at Somerset Park until the summer of 2013. Better still, he isn't even getting a pay rise. I predict good things from this player over the coming months and years.

Thursday 23rd December
The first signing is in through the door. The man who I had most wanted to sign in the summer for Lurgan Celtic had now become the man I most wanted to sign for Ayr United in January. Aidan O'Kane had been nothing short of outstanding for Celtic this season, and with a weakness at full back, it was a no brainer to go and get him. He has 8 goals, 7 assists and 7 man of the match awards in 22 competitive games for Celtic, and he would be here on New Year's Day. We had paid £1,000 for his signature. A bargain.

Friday 24th December
My first match in charge of Ayr United will be on Sunday afternoon, Boxing Day. We'll host Berwick Rangers, who are just a point behind us. The bookies have us as 4/6 favourites for this one, though I'm wary of building up the expectation. A new manager, a new way of playing, and then on top, a forecast of heavy rain and a ref who has shown 19 yellow cards and 2 red cards in just six matches.

I have my second signing confirmed for January 1st as well. A former Northern Ireland Under-19 International winger who I know quite well. He was superb last season, but has been slightly indifferent this season, possibly due to an early season injury that cost him an chunk of the early season. I am of course talking about James McLean, who we have agreed to pay £2,000 for. We have also now offered the same amount for Aaron McElwee, after Celtic originally asked for £5,000.

Sunday 26th December
Lurgan Celtic have accepted our offer for Aaron McElwee, and we have now started discussing terms with the 19 year old midfielder who can also play on the right wing. We're one step further forward with South African/British defender Justin Miller, who has also agreed to become an Ayr United player from January 1st. This one is a Free Transfer, and is a very good signing for us I think.

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (8th) v Berwick Rangers (9th)
Attendance :-
1,049. Weather :- Strong Winds, Downpours, 8c.

There wasn't too many in the way of important selection decisions to make. The biggest was probably where to play Ryan Stevenson. It was pretty clear that he would be best on the right wing, but that would leave my midfield under strength, and a perfectly good right winger on the bench. I guess that solves that problem then.

On an absolutely soaked playing surface, we created the first real chance of note in the 12th minute, Ryan Borris beating his marker before getting the ball to Mark Roberts. The veteran striker was forced to shoot from a tight angle, and Lloyd Saxton stood firm and pushed the ball away. Set pieces were our bread and butter in Lurgan, but a flurry of corners around the half hour mark proved that as of right now, we had a lot of work to do on them here, Andrew Hageman's header over the bar from Ryan Stevenson's delivery the closest we managed to get in the first half. Berwick's best chance wasn't really a chance as such, more a dipping and swerving effort from range by Neal Bishop that flew closer to Stephen Grindlay's post than he had anticipated, but still wide all the same. After a first half where the ref had showed just one yellow card, he changed tactic entirely after the break, and cautioned Stevenson and Hageman within a few minutes of each other. But a rapid counter attack so nearly put the smile back on our faces, Kenny Connolly setting up Marc McCann, but the wingers left footed drive flew through the goalmouth and whistled agonisingly past the far post. After Hageman headed over from another corner, and with Roberts struggling a little, I made a pair of changes, Roberts and McCann going off, Stevenson moving to the left wing, and Kevin Ireland and Jamie Campbell came on. The changes didn't seem to help us too much, and neither did Borris shooting right at Saxton when he was played clean through on goal. What could have possibly helped us was Berwick's midfielder Seán Kelly picking up his second yellow card with just five minutes left to play. We couldn't take advantage of that either though, and instead had to make a late substitution when Borris limped away from a challenge in injury time.

Ayr United (0) 0
Berwick Rangers (0) 0

Stephen Grindlay; Aaron Murihead, Gavin Cadwallader, Andrew Hageman, William Dyer; Ryan Stevenson (capt), Kenny Connolly; Ryan Borris (inj - Chris Hamilton 90+3), Marc McCann (Jamie Campbell 66); Mark Roberts (Kevin Ireland 66), Daniel Powell.
Unused Substitutes :- Robbie Bradley, Fraser Donnelly.
Bookings :- Ryan Stevenson 47, Andrew Hageman 55
Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- Connor Rafferty (Berwick Rangers).

With Berwick failing to get a shot on target, I have to say, I thought we deserved a bit more than we got from that game. The draw actually allowed Arbroath to move off the bottom and leapfrog both sides. I assume the deciding factor was alphabetical order, as we're now down in 9th, though we are tied on points and goal difference with two other sides, though East Fife have scored more goals. My first Saturday in Scotland hadn't gone to plan, and it wouldn't get much better when I heard firstly that Ryan Borris had damaged his foot and was going to be out for around 3 to 4 weeks.

It got worse when I heard later in the evening that we had missed out on our first choice striking target. That target had been 31 year old Kristen Viikmäe. The man with 106 caps for Estonia, and 14 goals for his nation has been plying his trade for Austrian amateur side, Sportclub Bregenz. Rather than move to Scotland, he has decided to remain in Austria, and has agreed a deal that will see him sign for second tier side, Grazer AK.

We had at least secured a consolation prize. That would be a fourth arrival from Lurgan Celtic, in the shape of striker Stephen Magennis. It might not be Jordan Baker, or a player with over 100 International caps, but Magennis has scored goals everywhere he has gone, and I was confident he would do so here too. The reality was that barring any more new strikers arriving, he would immediately become our best striker, and Celtic had chucked him straight into their Reserves before my flight had even left Belfast airport. Needless to say, we got him on a Free Transfer.

Monday 27th December
Marc McCann has been named in the Scottish Second Division Team of the Week. I think that says a lot about the rest of the league.

We've had an offer to sign a striker on loan for the rest of the season accepted. I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of striking options availabe within our price range, and frankly, that is the only reason we have landed at this option.

Tuesday 28th December
January 1st will see a fifth arrival at Ayr United from Lurgan Celtic. This time it's Aaron McElwee, who costs us the last £2,000 from our transfer budget, and I had to throw in a little bit of my wage budget to make up the difference as well. His arrival could free up Ryan Stevenson to play on the right wing. I think this level of football will suit the 19 year olds development very well.

Thursday 30th December
Local lad and young right back, Fraser Donnelly, has urged the club to engage in contract talks to extend his deal that expires in the summer. It's not an easy one to deal with. Clearly, the player is not good enough to help us achieve what I want us to do. However, we might need him over the course of the season, so I don't want to batter the lad right away. So instead, I challenge him to prove he is worthy of a new deal. He responds positivley, relieved that the door is not yet closed on him continuing to play for the club he holds close to his heart. Man management lesson 1.0 is complete.

Friday 31st December
New Year's Eve, traditionally a big night here in Scotland. But not tonight. Not for my players. They know that we have a big job to do in 2011, and there will be no celebrations permitted tonight. Midway through the season, and tomorrow afternoon we have a home match with the team in the position that we want. East Stirlingshire come to us in 4th place, six points better off than us, but on a run of three matches without a victory. There's no reason why we can't pull off a result tomorrow, and we'll have half a dozen new players on board to help us, with the sixth of those sealed today.

17 year old striker Steve Wood is 6'0, and as determined as they come. He has signed for us on loan for the remainder of the season from First Division club, Hamilton Academicals. He's been banging goals in for their Youth side, and despite not having made a Senior appearance yet, he is already valued at £120,000 by his club. Hopefully he can show us what the fuss is all about.

Am I done now? Not even close. I've barely started with my overhaul of this squad. It's going to be a very busy Winter Transfer Window here at Somerset Park.

**Apologies, the league table shown in the second post was premature, as that was actually how the table looked after the match with Berwick Rangers and not before.**

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Saturday 1st January 2011
Our six new players are all present and correct, and available if required for today's opening match on our calendar of the New Year, our home match with fourth placed East Stirlingshire. But even today, I'm still looking for new players to improve our playing staff, and two players who have now been released by their clubs in the Republic of Ireland at the end of their contracts have been offered deals to come to us.

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (9th) v East Stirlingshire (4th)
Attendance :-
869. Weather :- Downpours, 4c.

I ring the changes for my second match in charge, with all five of my new signings from Lurgan Celtic brought straight into the side. That means that William Dyer, Gavin Cadwallader, Ryan Borris, Marc McCann and Mark Roberts are all dropped from the starting lineup, though all except the injured Borris do take places on the bench. Ryan Stevenson is moved out wide into what I suspect will be his best position.

We couldn't have been more than a couple of heavy downpours or some sustained rainfall away from this one getting called off, as the pitch was holding a fair bit of water. The game was on though, however it took a little while to get going, as two teams that looked reasonably well matched fought out a midfield battle in the early stages. Ryan Stevenson took a knock around the 20th minute, and while he was receiving some treatment, we launched an attack, Aidan O'Kane getting to the byline and sending a cross into the near post that James McLean headed over the bar. Meanwhile Stevenson was feeling that knock, and blasted a shot over from the edge of the box after stepping away from a couple of defenders. But five minutes before the break he drifted in a corner kick that Andrew Hageman connected onto with a bullet header that defender Robbie Dunne tried to keep out, but it deflected off his head and in, Hageman really unfortunate to not be credited with the first goal in my reign as boss at Ayr United. That knock was enough to convince me to take Stevenson off at half time, and Marc McCann came on in his place for the second half. Our visitors came out brightly for the second half, but Dean Keenan sent one over the bar, while sub Anthony Mason's effort was pushed over the top by Stephen Grindlay. Our attempt at a counter attack from that corner was scuppered by Daniel Powell's almost absolute lack of pace. Soon East Stirlingshire were causing us problems again, and they created their best chance so far, Mark Clifford making a midfield tackle on Stephen Magennis, and sub Sean Mackle lifted the ball over our defensive line and got it to Mason who had stayed onside, but Grindlay was quick off his goal line to narrow the angle, and then spread himself well to block the attempted shot. Mason would try again moments later, curling an effort from the corner off the box that bounced back off our cross bar before being cleared by Marc McCann. The Northern Irish forward has acquitted himself well since coming on, and he would play a bigger role with just under a quarter of an hour to play. He received the ball just inside the visitors half from Aaron Muirhead, and procceded to turn, and leave a pair of opponents for dead. He angled his run into the box, and when he hit the dead ball line, he lifted it deftly towards the far post, where striker Powell showed what he is good at, stretching across the soaken surface to reach the ball in front of a defender, and poke it into the net to secure the points, and my first win for my new club.

Ayr United (1) 2 - Robbie Dunne (40 og), Daniel Powell (76)
East Stirlingshire (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay; Aaron Murihead, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly, Aaron McElwee (Jamie Campbell 80); Ryan Stevenson (capt - inj - Marc McCann 45), James McLean; Stephen Magennis (Gavin Cadwallader 80), Daniel Powell.
Unused Substitutes :- William Dyer, Mark Roberts.
Bookings :- James McLean 90+3
Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Aidan O'Kane (Ayr United).

Ahhhh, it was just like old times back at Knockramer Park. A nice win on the board, and a man of the match award for Aidan O'Kane. Just throwing this out there, even at the age of 31, it might not be too late for O'Kane to force his way into a Northern Ireland squad that may well be doing ok right now, but is undeniably lacking quality. Michael McKerr of Birmingham City was named in the last squad, and he's currently on loan at Grays Athletic of the Blue Square South.

In considerably less good news, Ryan Stevenson's knock turned out to be a twisted ankle. With the next game not for ten days, I elect not to give him an injection to get him through the next game. Instead, our skipper will be out of action for around five or six weeks.

Monday 3rd January
There is no place for Aidan O'Kane in the Second Division Team of the Week, but there is a spot for Justin Miller, who also had a very good debut game for us after his move from Lurgan Celtic. I'm now looking to address the right side of that back four, and the target has now started to discuss personal terms after our offer was accepted by his club in the Republic of Ireland.

Tuesday 4th January
I was hoping to pick up Neil Brown from Knockramer Park in the summer, but it looks like that might now become a very difficult task. Since I left, Celtic have played twice, and won both matches by a score of 4-0, with Brown pitching in with three goals in those two matches. His list of admirers has expanded, and continues to do so. Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood gave him a glowing report in the press, Dundee United and Motherwell are also keeping tabs on him, as are Plymouth Argyle south of the border. Further afield, there is also reported interest from Bulgaria and one of their perennial contender clubs, Levski Sofia.

Wednesday 5th January
Today would be a very good day for us, as another two players joined the influx of Northern Irish players into the town of Ayr. But neither of these had come from Lurgan Celtic. Striker Daryl Fordyce turned 23 on New Year's Eve, and the former Portsmouth youngster has joined us on a Free Transfer after two seasons playing for Bohemians in the Republic of Ireland. Signing on a two and a half year deal worth £300 a week, Fordyce can do a bit of everything, and the former Republic Under-21 International (2 goals in 18 caps) could well be the striker we were looking for. I'm a happy manager today. As are the fans, and even club icon Gary Teale.

The second arrival is a guy I tried to sign for Celtic at least twice. Midfielder Gordon Hillis is now 29, and the former Glentoran and Ards moved to Cliftonville when I arrived in Northern Ireland when I first tried to sign him. He went to England for a stint with Farsley Celtic, and then when I tried to sign him again, he elected to go to the Republic of Ireland, and played part of the 2010 season with University College Dublin. This time I have secured his signature, and he signs for us on a Free Transfer, signing an eighteen month deal for £60 per week. While he is widely considered as more of a defensive midfielder, I think his skills are underated, and I'm hoping he can prove that at Somerset Park.

Friday 7th January
There are still improvements to be made to the playing squad I believe, and I have offered a contract to a 21 year old forward who was released by his club last summer and has yet to find a new employer. He is a Senior International for his country of birth, though is also a Brittish passport holder and as such, would not require a work permit.

Further down the line, and as of lunchtime today, now a done deal, is our quest to get in a new right back. It's a second raid on Dublin based side Bohemians, with the target this time 22 year Ciaran Foy. Quick, good in the tackle, and with a great combination of bravery, determination and compusure, I believe Foy will be an excellent signing for us, and he signs an eighteen month deal for £300 a week. He is keen to get stuck into playing First Team football, having had no game time at all from Bohemians last season.

I said in my pen pictures that I didn't think Darren Rice would be here very long. I was right too. This afternoon he was offered a mutual termination of his contract. He left my office and told a member of staff that the brief conversation left him feeling upset and worthless. He won't have felt a whole lot better when 45 minutes later, he was called back into the office, handed a cheque for £1,000, and told to clear his belongings and not come back.

Saturday 8th January
With new midfielders arriving at the club, I asked 19 year old midfielder Jamie Campbell to turn out for the Under-19 side today as they entertained Queen of the South's youngsters. Campbell captained the side, and scored a goal, and also set up one for on loan striker Steve Wood in a 3-0 win. Jamie showed he can play a bit, and might still make the First Team yet.

Sunday 9th January
Now much less likely to see First Team action, and likely very aware of that fact, club favourite and veteran striker Mark Roberts has today announced that he will be hanging up his boots at the end of the campaign. Apart from half of season with Shelbourne in the Republic of Ireland, he has played his career exclusivley in Scotland, and has averaged better than a goal every four games for Kilmarnock, Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Airdrie, St Mirren, Partick Thistle, and of course, Ayr United. There is a real possibility that I could look to offer Roberts a job on our backroom staff when I start to address that later this month or into February.

The colder winter weather in the West of Scotland clearly doesn't agree with our new midfielder Gordon Hillis. He has caught the flu soon after arriving, and will be out for around a week.

Monday 10th January
Call it ambitious, call it stupidity. Call it what you like, but if you don't ask, you don't get. It may well be that I don't get anyway, but I have asked Manchester United about loaning two of their players, a defender, and a striker. They have said yes, and now left it up to the players if they want to join us for the remainder of the season. I'm not holding my breath, but we'll see. I also made an enquiry to non-league side Linlithgow Rose about a former Manchester United defender, however, the price they came back to us with was outside of our budget.

Tuesday 11th January
Tomorrow will be my first away game as boss of Ayr United, and we'll travel to Cowdenbeath, who currently sit second in the league. It says a lot about our form and the perceived quality of our recent signings that despite going into the match in 6th place, we're still the favourites with the bookies. Another win tomorrow evening could catapault us up into the top half, which would be a marked improvement on where we were a few short weeks ago.

We'll have another potential debutant in the squad for that trip as well. 21 year old Congo International (1 cap) forward, Peggy Lokando has rejected an offer from Aldershot of Coca-Cola League 2, and will try his luck here in the West of Scotland. A former Arsenal youngster who moved onto Southend United after being released by The Gunners, he was released by them after four seasons with them which saw him given just one First Team outing in the league. Able to play in midfield or on the right, and also comfortable in advanced positions, he made his Senior International debut as recently as October against Angola despite being without a club at the time. He has signed to be here for eighteen months at £150 a week, and has the flair and skill to get fans out of their seats.

Wednesday 12th January

Scottish League Second Division
Central Park, Cowdenbeath
Cowdenbeath (2nd) v Ayr United (6th)
Attendance :-
604. Weather :- Dry, 3c.

My first away trip with Ayr, and my team sheet shows three more debutants, as I quickly start to shape this team as my own. Ciaran Foy at right back, Peggy Lokando on the right wing and Daryl Fordyce up front all get their first chance to impress the United fans. William Dyer and Mark Roberts have lost their places on the bench, replaced by Aaron Muirhead and Daniel Powell, who have in turn lost their places in the starting eleven.

What a start we made today at Central Park. In the 4th minute, Aaron McElwee swept the ball out to the right, and Peggy Lokando chased it down before whipping it into the box, where Daryl Fordyce managed to get goal side of Andy Brand, and he headed it home from eight yards out. We weren't going to let up either, as in the tenth minute Ciaran Foy sent over a corner, and Andrew Hageman sent a bullet header high into the net. And in the 14th minute Foy sent another of those corners over, Hageman and James McLean jumped for the ball with a defender, the ball spun loose, and Justin Miller managed to bring it under control before sliding it into the bottom corner to send our lead out to 3-0. The home supporters watched on with grim faces, not used to seeing their side demolished in this way. When their players did try and push themselves forward, they had cross after cross cleared before they could make Stephen Grindlay do any work. At the other end, we could have moved even further ahead, McLean cut the ball back into the box, and Kenny Connolly sent a shot only just over the cross bar. Our sturdy defence meant that we got to half time with that three goal lead intact. Our luck would run out just over ten minutes into the second half, Mark Baxter squared the ball infield from the right, and Noel Johnston didn't get an awful lot of power on his shot, but he placed it perfectly from 25 yards out, curling it past Grindlay's dive and inside the post. Buoyed by their success, Cowdenbeath made a pair of changes and had a real go at us, but our defence had regrouped well, and had got right back to supporting each other well. But then one misplaced pass in midfield, and we sprung them once more. Lokando burst into space down the right, and curled the ball into the far post, Fordyce knocking it down this time, and Stephen Magennis swept home his first goal for the club from close range to put our lead back out to three goals. With only twenty minutes to go now, I decided it was safe to make my changes, and Lokando, McLean and Fordyce were all brought off, replaced by Jamie Campbell, leaving Aaron McElwee to move to the right, Marc McCann going out on the left, and Daniel Powell going up front. We seemed to settle back into our sturdy defensive way again, with Cowdenbeath getting no closer than Johnny Flynn-O'Connor's header into the side netting. But then Johnston sent a through ball into the box and picked out sub Darren Farquhar, who was brought down by Hageman. The ref pointed to the spot, Hageman escaping a booking for the foul, Campbell earning one for his protests. Farquhar would go behind the goal to have some treatment, while full back Dean Howell sent the ball into the bottom corner of the same goal to reduce our arrears back to two goals with only six minutes left to play. But then with the clock into the last minute, Howell sent a cross into the box, the ball pinged around the box, before falling to Johnston, who slammed it home from close range. With four minutes of injury time to get through, I was desperatley trying to get my players organised. Cowdenbeath would throw the kitchen sink at us, but the closest they would get was Michael Graham's inswinging cross that looked like it was just creeping under the bar at the near post, until Grindlay flung out a hand and turned it over. We had only just clung on there.

Cowdenbeath (0) 3 - Noel Johnston (57,90), Dean Howell (84 pen)
Ayr United (3) 4 - Daryl Fordyce (4), Andrew Hageman (10), Justin Miller (14), Stephen Magennis (69)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (capt), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Jamie Campbell 73), James McLean (Marc McCann 73); Stephen Magennis, Daryl Fordyce (Daniel Powell 73).

Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Aaron Murihead.
Bookings :- Jamie Campbell 83
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Noel Johnston (Cowdenbeath).

So I have learnt my first valuable lesson of my time in Scotland. When I was at Lurgan, I could judge pretty well when the game was won, and when I could afford to take players off for a rest. The goal posts had moved when I came here though, and I hadn't given Cowdenbeath enough credit. On another day, we could have been caught out again late on, and I'd have had to carry the can if that had happened.

Fortunately, it didn't, and we had pushed our way up into fifth place, and started to close in on the sides above us. You could almost feel the optimism returning to Somerset Park, and I would imagine that was exactly what the Chairman had in mind when he offered me this job.

Thursday 13th January
The Chairman at Ayr United wasn't the only one who thought I could get a job done apparently. Today I was offered the chance to take charge of an International side. They were even happy for me to continue the job at Ayr as well. The side in question was the Caribbean nation of Netherlands Antilles, who's manager of just four months, Marcos Capó, had not only resigned, but also retired as well. The most likely explanaition was that he got bored, as they played their last competitive fixtures in early 2008, and have played just three matches since then, and have only one Friendly arranged for this year. As much as I thought I might be able to do something with them, as they have some pretty good players, most of whom play in the Dutch Leagues, it wasn't the right job or the right time, and I told them that it wasn't for me right now.

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Friday 14th January
Alloa Athletic are one of the sides we have overtaken since I arrived here, and tomorrow we face them at Somerset Park as we look to continue the good start we have made since my arrival. Seven points from three matches so far has done wonders for our confidence and league position. Another good result tomorrow and we might be taken seriously to make a charge for the Promotion Playoffs, with Livingston well out in front and seemingly out of sight at the top. The bookies fancy us for another win tomorrow, as we're short odds favourites. I tell the press that momentum is vital in a small league like this one.

Saturday 15th January

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (5th) v Alloa Athletic (6th)
Attendance :-
1,145. Weather :- Gales, Wet, 9c.

What a difference a few good results make, in this case, an increase of nearly 300 on the gate. With a lack of match fitness, I have to rotate Ciaran Foy, Peggy Lokando and Daryl Fordyce out of the lineup for today's match, all three going to the substitutes bench. In their places are Aaron Muirhead, Marc McCann and Daniel Powell.

Visiting Athletic passed the ball around nicely to create a 5th minute chance, but Kevin Ramsey didn't get anything like enough power on his shot from 12 yards out, and Stephen Grindlay made a very routine save. It took us 18 minutes to really get into the opposition half, and when we did, Justin Miller's attempt to cross to the far post for Daniel Powell was plucked out of the air by keeper Raymond Jellema. Midway through the half, and a ball into the box went to the feet of Gordon Norrie, but he couldn't force Grindlay into any serious work either. With ten minutes left in the first half, we finally started to get wingers Marc McCann and James McLean into the game. But a series of corners and crosses yielded nothing until first half injury time, when Kenny Connolly picked a pass to Aaron McElwee in the box, but the midfielders low shot was blocked superbly by Jellema, and the game remained goalless at the break. We got to the hour mark without having created anything of note, and I made a pair of changes. Aaron Muirhead had showed up really well at right back, but he wasn't an attacking threat, so he was replaced by Ciaran Foy. Up front, Stephen Magennis hadn't done much of anything today, and Daryl Fordyce came on to try and link up with young Daniel Powell. But it just wasn't happening for us today, and a later substitution with McLean coming off, Peggy Lokando coming on to play on the right with McCann switching to the left didn't provide us with a breakthrough either. We hadn't played very well, but we had taken another point, and right now, I'm ok with us taking those on our off days.

Ayr United (0) 0
Alloa Athletic (0) 0

Stephen Grindlay; Aaron Muirhead (Ciaran Foy 60), Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (capt), Aaron McElwee; Marc McCann, James McLean (Peggy Lokando 77); Stephen Magennis (Daryl Fordyce 60), Daniel Powell.
Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Jamie Campbell.
Bookings :- Aaron McElwee 90+5
Possession :- 59% - 41%. Man of the Match :- Aidan O'Kane (Ayr United).

So not a great day at the office for us, and probably a bit disappointing for the decent sized crowd who braved some pretty awful weather on Scotland's west coast, paying £12 for the privilege was well. We have retained our fifth place though, and we're only a good result or two away from being closer to the Promotion Playoff spots than we are to the Relegation Playoff. The improvement is going to come, it's already shown it's face, and it hasn't even been a month yet.

Sunday 16th January
The FA from the Netherlands Antilles decide to chance their arm again before appointing another. They approach me and ask if I would reconsider. I decline, and later in the day they appoint a native, with 47 year old Emilio Toledano taking the job.

Back in Ayrshire, I get the news that Ryan Borris will be back in training tomorrow morning. In less satisfying news, my attempt to get us an upgrade in the position of target man striker has fallen on stoney ground. The man we were chasing is a veteran with almost 200 league goals to his name, 37 year old former Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday marksman, Andy Booth. He is still playing and scoring goals for Basingstoke Town in the Blue Square South. We asked to take him on a Free Transfer, but they want £2,500. While it isn't a lot of money, there is no budget remaining for transfers, so I'll have to bow out for now at least.

Monday 17th January
Despite us not getting the result we wanted on Saturday afternoon, we still have three players named in the Second Division Team of the Week. Good jobs in defence from Justin Miller and Andrew Hageman see them named in the side, while a thirteen minute cameo from Peggy Lokando on the wing see's him named in the side too.

Other than that, there isn't too much good news today. Nick Keown-Robson is a 21 year old New Zealand age group International who is playing for Waikato at the moment. We get an identical response to our one for Andy Booth, so again have to leave that one be for now. He would have been cover for the entire right side of the park.

But we would receive a much bigger kick in the teeth later in the afternoon. A National newspaper let the cat out of the bag, reporting that we were very close to securing the loan signing of Manchester United striker Federico Macheda. And then we would hear the news that Cardiff City of the Coca-Cola Championship had also now made an offer.

Tuesday 18th January
After keeping us waiting for over a week, Manchester United striker Federico Macheda decides to join Cardiff City on loan barely an hour after United accepted their offer. Then within a couple of hours of that, we hear that despite having no other offers, full back Richard Eckersley has also rejected our offer, and will remain at Old Trafford instead. The general consensus is that we need to be a minimum of one division higher before players of that calibre will even consider the move to us as a realistic option, even if it is just a loan.

Friday 21st January
Tomorrow we will travel across the country to the county of Fife, where we will face East Fife at their New Bayview all seater stadium. They are currently sat in 9th place in the Relegation Playoff spot, while we have nudged ourselves just inside the top half in the month since my arrival, and remain unbeaten during my so far short tenure. Since their 4-0 win at home to Berwick Rangers in mid December, East Fife have played five league games, losing once and drawing four, and also been knocked out of the Scottish FA Cup with a home defeat to Scottish Premier League club, Hibernian.

Saturday 22nd January

Scottish League Second Division
New Bayview, Methil
East Fife (9th) v Ayr United (5th)
Attendance :-
407. Weather :- Showers, 1c.

On paper, this is a good chance to move ourselves further out of the clutches of the relegation scrap below us. We should keep things in perspective though, and it was only weeks ago that we were involved. A few bad results would quickly see us involved again. I make three changes from the scoreless draw with Alloa Athletic, reversing the changes I made for that match. Ciaran Foy, Peggy Lokando and Daryl Fordyce all return, taking the places of Aaron Murihead, Marc McCann and Daniel Powell. The three dropped players are all on the bench, and with them for the first time is Gordon Hillis, who has taken the spot of Jamie Campbell and will be hoping to make his debut.

An early charge down the left wing from Paul McManus led to a chance for David Muir after the ball was cut back towards the edge of the box. The midfielder tried to place his shot in the top corner, but got a little too much on it and sent it just over the top. McManus would be involved again in the fifth minute, this time sending the ball wide to Darren Smith. He crossed from the left, and Chris Templeman jumped between our two centre backs, and headed it back across goal and inside the post to put the side from the Kingdom of Fife into an early lead. Jim Lachlan miscued his shot in the 15th minute when Templeman played a free kick square instead of sending it into the box, while Michael Howard tried an ambitious 30 yard volley midway through the half, connecting with a cleared corner that dipped violently, only just clearing the bar. It took us nearly half an hour to get an attack worthy of the name going, Aaron McElwee sent the ball wide right for Peggy Lokando, and his cross was met with a diving header from Stephen Magennis, keeper Glyn Garner managed to push that away, Daryl Fordyce just beaten to the rebound by the boot of a defender. Aidan O'Kane whipped in a free kick from the right that was too deep for anyone to latch onto, while Fordyce curled a free kick from outside the box that missed the target. Things almost got worse for us at the other end, McManus picking a through ball between our defence, and Nathan Taggart fired it into the bottom corner, our hopes of getting back into the match saved only by the flag of the linesman. At the break I told my players that I expected more of them, and demanded that they do better in the second half. But as they did in the first half, East Fife started the half the better, with Templeman making a brilliant mazy run down the right, and cutting the ball back to Muir, who kept his shot lower this time, but Stephen Grindlay made a fairly comfortable save. We started to get our act together, O'Kane sending a great ball down the left wing, which curled right into the path of Fordyce who sped away from a defender, but struck his shot just too high. Kenny Connolly sent the ball from midfield out wide to James McLean on our next venture forward, the winger sending over a cross that Fordyce controlled, but ended up with his back to goal. With no shooting chance for himself, he laid the ball off to Connolly, who missed the target by lifting his shot just too high. Our next attack in the 63rd minute produced a corner, and O'Kane's inswinging delivery saw Andrew Hageman rise above two defenders and the goalie to get his head to the ball and put us level. After a quarter of an hour without managing to create anything more, and sensing we were wasting an opportunity to bring home all three points, I made my three changes for a last assault. McElwee, Lokando and Magennis were all brought off, Gordon Hillis, Marc McCann and Daniel Powell came on. Connolly tried a shot from range that took a huge deflection, massivley wrong footing the keeper, but the ball went wide of the goal frame. Connolly was the man who was alert enough to prevent East Fife counter attacking after Garner easily caught the corner, and we would come away with another point to add to our tally.

East Fife (1) 1 - Chris Templeman (5)
Ayr United (0) 1 - Andrew Hageman (63)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (capt), Aaron McElwee (Gordon Hillis 78); Peggy Lokando (Marc McCann 78), James McLean; Stephen Magennis (Daniel Powell 78), Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Aaron Muirhead.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 41% - 59%. Man of the Match :- Andrew Hageman (Ayr United).

That result meant we dropped a position back to sixth, and we were now in the bottom half of the table once again. Not the end of the world, but next weekend we would take on the runaway leaders of the division, and Livingston have been beaten just once in the league all season.

There should be a word at this point for Andrew Hageman. The 6'3 centre back from Drogheda is seeing his average rating rise since my arrival, thanks largely to me deploying him as an integral part of my set piece routines that are beginning to provide some fruits. He is out of contract in the summer and a decision will be made in the coming weeks. At this point, I'd look favourably on him staying with us.

Sunday 23rd January
With only just over a week remaining of the Transfer Window, I spend my day looking at further options to improve our squad, mostly in the loan market. Dundee United reject our bid for winger Gavin Swankie as we won't cover his £600 weekly wage. Offers for Shaun Smith, a midfielder from the other club in Dundee, forward Darren Kelly of Hibernian and Norwegian attacking midfielder Thomas Kind Bendiksen are all accepted, but on each occassion, the player rejects the loan move to Somerset Park.

Monday 24th January
Two of our players are named in the Second Division Team of the Week this time around, and it's a pair of members of our back four that are included, Andrew Hageman and Justin Miller.

I continue to send out loan offers, with defenders Keith Watson of Dundee United and Aberdeen and Faroe Islands International centre back Rovgi Holm. Once more, the clubs are happy for the players to make the move, but the efforts fail. Watson isn't coming as he is discussing a permanent transfer to Southampton. As for Holm, well it seems he'd rather use a spoon to take out his own eyeballs and eat them than play here right now.

Tuesday 25th January
Today's target is Heart of Midlothian's winger, David Templeton. We would face pretty stern competition for his signature on a loan contract, with Airdrie amongst others also interested. He is another who is not exactly excited by the prospect of a move to the Second Division though.

After getting the flu almost as soon as arriving in Scotland, midfielder Gordon Hillis, who only made his debut from the bench on the weekend, has now been laid low by a virus that will keep him out for another two or three weeks.

Friday 28th January
With our attempts to improve the squad failing miserably this week, attention switches to a really big chance to show the progress we have made in the last six weeks, with our home match with league leaders Livingston. With a nineteen point lead at the top of the table, and currently on a 12 match unbeaten run, the professional outfit who are only just over fifteen years old are looking firm favourites to move themselves up the ladder. They have been led by a very impressive trio. Former Dundee United striker, David Winters has formed a prolific partnership up front with John Akinde, a 21 year old striker who is on loan from Bristol City. Even more impressive has been midfielder Ryan France. The former Hull City man is now up to double figures for both goals and assists this season.

Saturday 29th January

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (6th) v Livingston (1st)
Attendance :-
945. Weather :- Drizzle, 1c.

A disappointing crowd of under 1,000 arrive at Somerset Park on another miserable Saturday afternoon to watch us try and overturn the dominant side in the division, and put only the second black mark on their record this season. It's an unchanged lineup from last weeks draw against East Fife, with just a change on the subs bench to report, Jamie Campbell returning to replace the ill Gordon Hillis.

Stephen Grindlay had to be on his toes early on, Andy Haworth's corner swirled in the wind, Brian Saah got his head to it, but our keeper pushed it over the bar. Aidan O'Kane got on the end of the second corner, and then smashed it up the park, Daryl Fordyce almost getting to the ball before keeper Roddy McKenzie. We had to be wary of the threat from David Winters, and in the 5th minute he would go out to the right to collect the ball and run a wide line into the box, O'Kane marshalled him well, and Winters shot was from an angle too acute to hit anything other than the side netting. Our next chance would come in the 12th minute, and would give us the lead. Fordyce curled his free kick on a low trajectory, around the defensive wall and inside the post to hand us an advantage. Unfortunately, that lead wouldn't even last a quarter of an hour. Saah got the ball forward to Sean Lynch, who in turn passed the ball to John Akinde. The striker didn't have a shot, but spotted the run of Ryan France through our defence, and played in the midfielder, who shot first time before Grindlay could set himself, the ball rising past the keeper and high into the net to level the score. O'Kane hadn't tracked France's run, and looked furious with himself. The left back immediately set about making up for his error, and started an attack that led to Peggy Lokando crossing on the run towards Fordyce, who brought the ball down and hit a shot that flew over the bar. He tried again in the 38th minute, getting the ball to Kenny Connolly. The ball would go through Aaron McElwee, Lokando and Magennis, before being swung left towards James McLean. The winger headed into the box and down for Fordyce, who moved it from his right foot to his left to protect it from a defender, before sending a shot skidding inside the far post and putting us back into the lead with his second of the match. Not used to being behind, there was quickly a desperation about Livingston's work as they attempted to get that goal back. But all they could come up with before the break was a wild effort that was way off target by France. They would continue in that manner early in the second half, starting with Akinde smashing an effort high and wide after good work on the wing from Haworth. Then Lynch missed the target with an effort from range, and Ciaran Foy produced a last ditch tackle to prevent Haworth making anything of Akinde's knock down. Foy would deliver a corner that Andrew Hageman headed off target as I prepared the first of my changes, Lokando and Magennis were replaced by Marc McCann and Daniel Powell. The efforts from our visitors were starting to become fewer and far between now, and Lynch's curling effort over the corner of the goal frame summed up their frustrations. With McLean having had his name taken by the ref, I took him off for fresh legs late on, meaning a reshuffle. Jamie Campbell came on to play in the midfield, McElwee moved out to the right, and Marc McCann switched across to the left. Connolly came close to increasing our advantage late on, a curling effort from the edge of the box just whistled past the outside of the post. But Livingston's last ditch attempt to salvage a point would draw a blank, with Haworth's cross far too deep, and Grindlay catching it comfortably. We had laid down our biggest marker to date.

Ayr United (2) 2 - Daryl Fordyce (12,38)
Livingston (1) 1 - Ryan France (27)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (capt), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Marc McCann 72), James McLean (Jamie Campbell 84); Stephen Magennis (Daniel Powell 72), Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Aaron Muirhead.
Bookings :- James McLean 39, Daryl Fordyce 90+4
Possession :- 50% - 50%. Man of the Match :- Daryl Fordyce (Ayr United).

That was a huge win for us to end the month on, and moved us back up into the top half and fifth spot, now just two points away from the Promotion Playoff spots. With our next three matches all against sides in the bottom half, albeit all away from home, there is now a genuine belief that this season might not be quite the write off that a lot of people expected six weeks ago. Daryl Fordyce in particular seems to be thriving after his move to Ayr.

Sunday 30th January
Two days left in the Transfer Window, and I try to get a headstart on our final attempts to bring in some more support. Welsh International defender David Partridge is one of my main targets, but I'm unable to agree a deal that we can afford with his club, Dorchester Town. However, much closer to home, I do agree a deal with Cowdenbeath for a forward who, despite being long in the tooth, knows where the net is, and could well provide some decent back up for us. We can now discuss terms with the player.

A move for Solihull Moors utility forward from Ireland is fruitless, as they are looking for almost £100,000 for him while a move for another Welshman is also unsuccessful, as Greek based former Under-21 International forward Dylan Hughes sees him agree to a summer move to the Republic of Ireland side, Sporting Fingal. Later in the day, I tried my luck with Dorchester Town again, this time the target being former Scottish Under-21 International midfielder, Alex Burke. He has huge experience with Kilmarnock, Falkirk, Clydebank and Dunfermline Athletic amongst others, and while his club agree to let us speak to him, he won't budge on the huge wages he is being paid.

Just as I was about to give up hope for the day, we finally got a positive repsonse. In the swiftest of negotiations, veteran forward Andy Liddell agreed to join our promotion drive. This man who made his name through the 90's with Barsnley and Wigan Athletic, and continued to score goals with Oldham Athletic. He doesn't seem ready to retire just yet, and he could be a person to look up to for the younger players in our squad, and might even be able to chip in. We get him on a Free Transfer, and he has signed for the rest of the season on a £60 a week deal.

Monday 31st January
Transfer Deadline Day, and I still have one or two irons in the fire, especially a target man who would be an upgrade on Daniel Powell. Full backs Ciaran Foy and Aidan O'Kane get our day off to a good start, as both are named in the Second Division Team of the Week.

A further attempt to sign David Partridge fails, while I also have failed attempts to sign former Arsenal and Watford midfielder Paolo Vernazza from FC United of Manchester on a Free Transfer, and Dumbarton midfielder Ryan McStay on what would have been a loan to buy to deal. I do have more luck with moves for Aberystwyth Town's left sided player Adam Campbell, and Dergview's striker Gareth Sproule. Another pair of Ulstermen to potentially join our group.

And join they both did as well. Adam Campbell is 22, and can play anywhere down the left side, providing cover for both Aidan O'Kane and James McLean. He has played 50 games in the Welsh Premier League in the last season and a half with Neath and Aberystwyth after starting his career with Portstewart. It's a £75 per week deal until the end of the 2011/12 season, and I think the lad might surprise a few people.

Gareth Sproule is contracted for the same amount of time on £110 per week. The 6'0 striker is now 30 years old, and is going to be playing outside Northern Ireland for the first time in his career. He has scored 40 goals in 120 matches for Institute and Dergview, so is good for a goal every 3 games right now. His arrival might see young Daniel Powell moved out of the First Team picture for the moment at least.

The Transfer Window slams shut, and we have brought in twelve new players this month. The squad is now my own. If we can't get the job done, I won't be able to use the excuse that the club haven't supported me with signings.

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Posted (edited)

2010/11 Scottish League Second Division, Up To & Including Monday 31st January 2011

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | Livingston         |       | 23    | 17    | 4     | 2     | 49    | 17    | +32   | 55    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 23    | 10    | 7     | 6     | 36    | 32    | +4    | 37    |
| 3rd   |       | Stirling           |       | 23    | 9     | 8     | 6     | 38    | 31    | +7    | 35    |
| 4th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 23    | 8     | 7     | 8     | 30    | 32    | -2    | 31    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Ayr                |       | 23    | 8     | 5     | 10    | 28    | 29    | -1    | 29    |
| 6th   |       | Alloa              |       | 23    | 7     | 8     | 8     | 22    | 30    | -8    | 29    |
| 7th   |       | Berwick            |       | 23    | 6     | 7     | 10    | 21    | 33    | -12   | 25    |
| 8th   |       | East Fife          |       | 23    | 5     | 8     | 10    | 28    | 33    | -5    | 23    |
| 9th   |       | Arbroath           |       | 23    | 5     | 8     | 10    | 25    | 32    | -7    | 23    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  |       | Peterhead          |       | 23    | 5     | 8     | 10    | 27    | 35    | -8    | 23    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sincere apologies for the large time gaps between posts. My health hasn't been so good over the last few weeks, and I have had little desire to play or write. I'm hoping the worst of it is behind me once again, and I can make some progress with both of my current active saves. Sorry once again, and thanks for reading.

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Tuesday 1st February 2011
February would be a pretty big month for us. Four league matches, three of them away from home. We don't play at home again until the back end of this month, by which time we'll have hopefully confirmed our new found status as Playoff contenders, as opposed to the relegation candidates that we were when I first arrived here.

Despite being overlooked for the Team of the Week for the most part in January, it's our Northern Irish left back Aidan O'Kane who has been awarded the Scottish Second Division Player of the Month award. He isn't the only award winner at the club either, as three wins and two draws from five matches see's me named as Manager of the Month in my first full month at the club. It's the second monthly award of my career.

Much better than monthly awards howver, is the news that Club Captain and the man I still believe will be our star forward given time, Ryan Stevenson, is back in training after missing around a month with a foot injury.

Wednesday 2nd February
Midfielder Kenny Connolly has proved his worth in the six weeks or so I have been at the club, and the 23 year old has now signed a contract extension that will take him through to the summer of 2013. The Glasgow born player has declared himself pleased to get the contract issue out of the way, and is now focused on trying to help United climb the table.

Thursday 3rd February
Two more players have committed their futures to the club today by signing contract extentions, and both are members of our back four. Despite the arrivial of Ciaran Foy, the man who has been in possession of the right back spot, Aaron Murihead, has decided to continue his spell at the club until next summer.

Joining him will be centre back Andrew Hageman. The 6'3 Irishman has impressed many in recent weeks, seemingly reviatlised by his new role as a main weapon in our set piece routines. He has also signed up to remain at the club until next summer.

Friday 4th February
Tomorrow we'll embark upon one of our longest treks for an away match, as we travel to Aberdeenshire to face Peterhead. The trip of over 200 miles will take around four and a half hours, and isn't the ideal preparation for my 100th match as a football manager. Despite the lengthy journey, we are slim favourites to bring back the points from the bottom of the table side.

Saturday 5th February

Scottish League Second Division
Balmoor Stadium, Peterhead
Peterhead (10th) v Ayr United (5th)
Attendance :-
529. Weather :- Wet, 1c.

It's feels like it's been raining for weeks, and it's no different here in the North, as the rain continues in Peterhead for our trip to Aberdeenshire for this League match. I make one change from the side that beat league leaders Livingston last time out, with new signing Gareth Sproule brought into the starting eleven in place of Stephen Magennis. There are more changes on the bench, with another new signing Adam Campbell taking the spot of Aaron Murihead, while the returning skipper Ryan Stevenson is fit enough to start on the bench, replacing Jamie Campbell. And Daniel Powell suffers the same fate as Magennis, as he is also dropped from the squad, with new signing, veteran striker Andy Liddell, also sat on the bench today.

Both sides looked they had brought their bus legs to the game with them in the early stages, with passes going awry and tackles being missed. Neither side threatened to create anything worthwhile from anything other than a set piece, and even they weren't having their desired impact, with corner deliveries missing their targets and free kicks being wasted. When we did manage to get one right, Aaron McElwee sent a shot way over the top after Gareth Sproule had touched the ball to the side to try and assist him with getting it by the wall. Peterhead got closer before the break, Seán Evans whipped delivery headed over the bar by Marty Robinson. With the players told at half time that I needed them to try and test the home keeper, we finally got a shot on target in the 53rd minute, a short throw in routine leading to an effort from Kenny Connolly that Polish keeper Michal Kula easily dealt with. That was quickly followed by The Blue Toon getting their first effort recorded, Evans twisting and turning for space, Stephen Grindlay pushing that one aside despite seeing it late as it came through the crowd of players. On the hour, Jamie Tolley neglected to shoot when Anthony Pulis had produced a superb piece of skill to play him in. When Sproule had forced a save out of Kula, and Andrew Hageman had headed the resulting corner delivery against the top of the bar, I decided that we needed to make some changes to try and make this one count. Ineffective wingers Peggy Lokando and James McLean joined Sproule in coming off, with Ryan Stevenson, Marc McCann and Andy Liddell all coming on. But instead it was our hosts who started to get on top, Tolley heading wide from a corner, Pulis striking a shot from range off target, and Martin Bavidge forcing a good stop from Grindlay at close range. But in the 82nd minute, they found a way through, full back David Donald's first attempt at a cross was blocked, but his second picked out Scott Gemmill at the far post who had moved goal side of his marker, and he powered his header past a helpless Grindlay and into the roof of the net. Now we had no choice but to go for broke, and I switched us to a back two with the full backs pushed to wing backs, Stevenson playing behind the strikers. It had worked to great effect many times for me in the past, but today it was sprung, sub Greg Moseley almost finding the top corner with a curling effort, but then placing one low into the net after Bavidge found him with a cut back. I suspect in a few months time, we might be looking back at this as three points we very much left behind in Northern Scotland as we set off for home with our tails between our legs.

Peterhead (0) 2 - Scott Gemmill (82), Greg Moseley (87)
Ayr United (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (capt), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Ryan Stevenson 73), James McLean (Marc McCann 73); Gareth Sproule (Andy Liddell 73), Daryl Fordyce.
Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Adam Campbell.
Bookings :- Aidan O'Kane 90+3
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- David Donald (Peterhead).

I wouldn't have said that anyone in our colours would have come out of that one with too much credit. It's the first defeat the club have suffered since I arrived, but it's the third time we have been held goalless in that same seven game spell. It's not too difficult to see where we're going wrong, and it has seen us nudged back into the bottom half of the table, as we now sit in sixth spot after that defeat.

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Monday 7th February 2011
I was surprised, maybe even shocked, when I saw Justin Miller's name announced as part of the Team of the Week after that weak performance in Peterhead on the weekend. I know what Miller is capable of from his time in my team at Lurgan Celtic, and if he can get back to that kind of form, they might as well name in advance every Monday morning.

Tuesday 8th February
Gordon Hillis will be available to boost our midfield options after overcoming his virus. We could use the Northern Irish midfielder getting back to full fitness and strutting his stuff at Somerset Park, as up till now, he has spent more time in the treatment room than he has on the park.

Friday 11th February
We will get an immediate chance to overcome that poor performance last weekend with another trip to a struggling side this weekend. Berwick Rangers were my first opponents as United boss on Boxing Day, and held us to a goalless draw. Now we'll travel down to Shielfield Park in the Borders for my 8th match at the helm, and they haven't been on the best of runs since that match, finding themselves down in 9th spot and in the Relegation Playoff place as it stands right now.

On loan striker Steve Wood has suffered a thigh strain tonight while playing for our Under-19's as it was their turn to take the long trip north to Balmoor Stadium. The age group side did at least manage to come away with a share of the spoils, coming from behind twice, including an 89th minute equaliser from Fraser Cowie in a 2-2 draw that leaves our youngsters 3rd in the fourteen club Group 3.

Saturday 12th February

Scottish League Second Division
Shieldfield Park, Berwick-Upon-Tweed
Berwick Rangers (9th) v Ayr United (6th)
Attendance :-
311. Weather :- Breezy, 1c.

We're far enough south that it has finally stopped raining, but it hasn't got any warmer on the eastern coast near the border between Scotland and England. Despite last weeks abject performance, I limit the changes to just one, with Ryan Stevenson stepping up from the bench in place of Peggy Lokando, who takes his place amongst the substitutes. Stevenson has then switched with Aaron McElwee, who will play on the right wing.

Ryan Stevenson played a sloppy pass in midfield in the 10th minute, but he made up for his mistake as he chased back while opposition skipper Mark Rooney (not the one I had in my early squad at Lurgan) and Jamie Sheldon launched a counter attack, ending with Stevenson bravely blocking a shot from Marlon Pack. Moments later we were defending again, this time a Michael McCann corner that Pack headed at goal, the ball heading just inside the near post, until Aidan O'Kane headed it off the line! Our left back would play a crucial role in another set piece in the 24th minute, as he curled across a free kick that Andrew Hageman half volleyed home from six yards out to put us ahead. The same duo nearly doubled our lead on the half hour, O'Kane sending over a corner this time, Hageman connecting with a header that rattled off the angle of post and cross bar. The loose ball would find it's way to Stevenson, who curled an effort just over the top. And wouldn't you just know that we would be punished for missing those chances. Hageman's slide tackle on McCann only saw the ball roll to the corner of the box for Neal Bishop, and with no shot at goal, he managed to pick out Rooney on the edge of the six yard box, and he twisted and turned to earn a yard of space, before sending a low shot past Stephen Grindlay and levelling the match. A late first half curling effort from Kenny Connolly was too high, and at the break, I told my players that they had to do a better job of taking the chances we were creating if we were going to take the points west with us this evening. But the chances continued to come and go, Stevenson's diagonal pass picked out Fordyce, who's shot on the turn also hit the angle of the goal frame, Seán Kelly nearly miscontrolling the rebound into his own net, but managing to hack it off the line in the nick of time. But worse was that Rangers were far more clinical when their chances arrived, as they proved in the 63rd minute. Ryan Strachan intercepted a wayward header on halfway, and fed the ball to Rooney, who turned and popped open the offside trap with a diagonal pass that sent sub Stewart Irvine in on goal. He sprinted into the box, and then surprised Grindlay by taking a quick and sweetly struck shot that flew past our keeper, Irvine netting less than three minutes after coming off the bench for his club debut. I didn't make an immediate change, we had created quite a few chances, and I still had confidence that we would eventually take one, at least. We would immediately set about that task, Fordyce sending one just over, and O'Kane picking out James McLean with a neat pass, the winger finding the net, but his celebration halted when he spotted the raised linesman's flag. If he was offside, it was mighty close. Then came a pivitol moment with just under a quarter of an hour to go. Stevenson going down after a very innocuous looking challenge, and unable to leave under his own steam. The Captain would go off, and I would take the chance to make that a treble change, Justin Miller had played poorly at the back, Adam Campbell would make a debut as a winger with Peggy Lokando also coming on, freeing up Aaron McElwee to play behind the strikers. But our efforts were foiled, and even our route one attempts would be doomed when Gareth Sproule came up lame from a tackle late on. Back to back defeats for us.

Berwick Rangers (1) 2 - Mark Rooney (34), Stewart Irvine (63)
Ayr United (1) 1 - Andrew Hageman (24)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller (Gavin Cadwallader 76), Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly, Ryan Stevenson (capt - inj - Peggy Lokando 76); Aaron McElwee, James McLean (Adam Campbell 76); Gareth Sproule (inj - 89), Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Marc McCann, Andy Liddell.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 41% - 59%. Man of the Match :- Mark Rooney (Berwick Rangers).

That was another bad result, and we were now four points away from a Promotion Playoff place, and just three points above the Relegation Playoff. Our misery was compounded with the news on Ryan Stevenson. The 26 year old has suffered a twisted ankle once again, and will miss around 5 or 6 weeks this time. As yet, I have failed to get anything like the best out of Stevenson, and he has shown only a proneness to injury rather than doing his talking on the park so far.

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Monday 14th February
Despite what I consider to be a fairly abject performance, at least defensivley, Andrew Hageman is included in the Team of the Week. Every time I see something like this, it convinces me that once we get the new players settled in, we'll prove ourselves a bit too good for this level.

Wednesday 16th February
We are set to take on bottom of the table side Arbroath on the weekend, and they won't be feeling too great I'm sure after being thrashed 4-0 away to league leaders Livingston this evening. With a twenty point lead at the top, it's just a matter of time before they confirm the title and promotion up to the First Division.

Friday 18th February
That's six matches without a win now for Arbroath, and we really need to get back on track and make that seven. After two defeats of our own this month, we can't afford to drop any more points ourselves at this point if we are to continue looking at a place in the top four and a shot at the Playoffs. The bookies once more have us as favourites tomorrow, but only just.

Saturday 19th February
We're not the only ones travelling today, as our Under-19 side make the trip to play Elgin City in a League match. In appalling conditions which included very high winds, our youngsters slipped to a 1-0 defeat, Mark Carroll netting the winner five minutes before half time. The age group side drop to fourth in the table as a result, five points behind leaders Ross County.

Scottish League Second Division
Gayfield Park, Arbroath
Arbroath v Ayr United
Attendance :-
508. Weather :- Breezy, Drizzle, 1c.

I need a job abroad, I can't put up with this weather much longer! With Ryan Stevenson once again in the injury room, a forced change is needed, and it is the only change to the starting lineup from last weekends defeat at Berwick Rangers. It's Peggy Lokando who is recalled to the side, and he takes the berth on the right wing, while Aaron McElwee changes back to the centre midfield once again. There are two changes on the bench, with Gordon Hillis called into the matchday squad into the spare spot on the bench, while Andy Liddell is dropped, replaced by Stephen Magennis.

We needed to be better today, but we were nearly behind inside 70 seconds, Luke Barrett with a shot on the turn, and Stephen Grindlay making a great low save. At the other end, there was a better display of finishing in the 8th minute, Ciaran Foy's inswinging corner finding Andrew Hageman six yards out, the big Irishman managing to wrestle himself free of a pair of markers, and then connect with a diving header that flew into the corner of the net to hand us the lead. Hageman almost quickly turned from hero to villain though, as he gave away possession on halfway with a sloppy pass, and one through ball later, Bryan Scott was barrelling in on goal, but his poor finish missed the target to Hageman's relief. Grindlay would have to make a save next time Arbroath attacked, as he pushed away Dale Binn's curling effort that was just sneaking inside the post. The game entered a quieter period for goalmouth action, with the exception of Mark Love planting a header from a corner into the side netting at the far post. But that didn't mean there was a lack of action altogether, as a series of hefty tackles meant the ref dishing out yellow cards like confetti, the majority of them to the hosts. Those fouls broke the game up, and helped us get to half time with our lead still intact, where I told the players that they couldn't get into the mindset that the job was done here. It was almost very close to being done moments into the second half though, an attempted clearance bounced off Gareth Sproule, and ran into the path of Aaron McElwee, who let fly with a shot that thumped off the top of the bar. Unfortunatley, our defending wasn't any better on the hour, Scott bringing down a long ball, Chris Ross and Shane Duggan combining, the latter sending the ball left to Binns. With Foy trying to stop the ball going wide, Justin Miller was forced to try and close down Binns, but that just left a gap in the middle, and Barrett moved into it, Binns finding him with the cross, and Barrett heading home from close range with almost an hour on the clock. I encouraged my players from the touchline as they set about getting the lead back, Aidan O'Kane and Kenny Connolly linking up to find Daryl Fordyce, but his effort at goal was wild, and well off target. He would have another go midway through the half after breaking the offside trap with a well timed run from O'Kane's measured ball over the top, but this time he shot right at Jamie Jones. His hatrick of chances came a few moments later, as he got on the end of Sproule's knock down, but this time Fordyce got well underneath the bouncing ball, and again missed the target. I needed to make some changes, but one of them would be forced, goalscorer Hageman would be helped off the park, Gavin Cadwallader replacing him, while Peggy Lokando and a spent Sproule would be replaced by Marc McCann and Stephen Magennis as we searched for a winner. Two of those subs would almost find a way through, McCann skipping by a challenge before cutting the ball back to Magennis, but Jones kept his name off the scoresheet with a full length diving save. We were starting to pin our hosts further and further back into their own half, and McCann was starting to see more and more of the ball as he clearly had their left back's number. His next cross picked out Magennis again, Jones once more making a diving save, but the ball fell to James McLean, who had a gaping target to aim at, but didn't connect properly, and sent the ball flying across the goalmouth and wide of the far post. Had our best chance eluded us? Well, not quite. Magennis came short to pick up a throw in from Foy, and tricked his way past beleagured left back Marc McCulloch. Our striker sent the ball into the near post area, where McCann brought it down with his back to goal, produced a stunning 'Cryuff turn', and then sent a rising left footed shot high into the net to win it for us in the 84th minute. On days like this, I love my job!

Arbroath (0) 1 - Luke Barrett (59)
Ayr United (1) 2 - Andrew Hageman (8), Marc McCann (84)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman (inj - Gavin Cadwallader 71), Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (inj - 90+2), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Marc McCann 71), James McLean; Gareth Sproule (Stephen Magennis 71), Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Adam Campbell, Gordon Hillis.
Bookings :- Ciaran Foy 22, Daryld Fordyce 38.
Possession :- 39% - 61%. Man of the Match :- Andrew Hageman (Ayr United).

So we have established that I'm a happy manager, well at least as far as the result goes. I'm much less happy with our injury news, which isn't good at all. Lets start with Andrew Hageman. The lumbering Irish centre back that most Ayr fans had been used to watching before Christmas, has been transformed into a powerful presence in any opponents penalty box when a set piece is slung over. We will be without that set piece weapon for the next month, as Hageman suffered a twisted knee in the second half.

And the injury news didn't end there. Deep into injury time, Kenny Connolly hit the deck and had to be helped from the park. He did try to return, but it was clear that he could put little if any weight on his right leg, and we were effectivley finishing with ten men. Connolly has twisted his ankle, and the physio estimates he'll be out for around five or six weeks. For a squad such as ours that is limited on both numbers and talent, those two injuries are something we could do without, and the timing is poor with third placed Stirling Albion visiting next weekend.

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Monday 21st February 2011
Aidan O'Kane, Andrew Hageman and James McLean are all named in the Team of the Week after Saturday's victory away to Arbroath. With his injury putting him on the shelf for a few weeks, it will be the last time Hageman gets near that selection for a while at least.

Tuesday 22nd February
After his heroics from the bench on the weekend, Marc McCann had been called into the office yesterday morning to discuss a new deal, with his current one scheduled to expire this summer. The 30 year old Northern Irish winger who is playing his first season outside of Ulster, immediately expressed his relief that we were discussing a deal with him. That was a mistake on his part, as I then low balled him with an offer that would reduce his weekly wage from £120 a week, down to £75 on a one year extension. He really did want to stay, as he signed it anyway. I will certainly be looking for him to improve on the two goals and two assists he has posted so far, but he does bring the versatility of being able to play either wing.

Thursday 24th February
Add another name to our increasing list of First Team players who are unavailable to us. This time it's Aidan O'Kane, the 31 year old left back going down with a virus, and he is immediately sent home. He will be out for between two to three weeks, and means we are without four First Team players who would have almost certainly started this weekends match.

Friday 25th February
Third place Stirling Albion will travel across to the west coast tomorrow afternoon, and they are Even money favourites to make the trip back home three points better off. 46 year old Allan Moore is a former player of theirs and the current manager at Albion. He is feeling good about things after they pinched a point from Livingston last weekend. With ten games remaining, they are seven points in front of us, so we really can't afford to drop points against them. In fact, I'd prefer we didn't drop points anywhere.

The press conference was short, and not particularly sweet. After being asked if I thought that the win at Arbroath would raise confidence levels in the squad, I was then asked repeatedly to speak about the fans discontent with Justin Miller's poor performances. After repeating the same 'no comment' answer twice, I snapped at the third time of asking. 'Look, it's me who is paid to pick the team. Not you, not the Chairman, not the team mascot, not my next door neighbour, and not any of the fans who come to the games or not. If that situation does change, you'll be asking someone else your lame questions.'

Ok, so that might not have been a wise response, and it wasn't going to win too many friends. But the facts are that I either had to defend or criticise Justin Miller who is playing an average of 6.73 since getting here, or I had to turn the attention elsewhere. It was a simple choice. None of the those I could pin the pressure onto are needed to play centre back against Stirling Albion tomorrow afternoon. And it's not like I have any other choices right now.

Saturday 26th February

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (6th) v Stirling Albion (3rd)
Attendance :-
870. Weather :- Wet, 7c.

Another Saturday, and another soaking from the weather on the West Coast of Scotland. Changes are required to our starting lineup, with Adam Campbell starting at left back in place of the ill Aidan O'Kane, and also in the back four, Gavin Cadwallader is brought into the side to replace the injured Andrew Hageman, and yes, Justin Miller does start next to him. In the midfield, Gordon Hillis steps into the spot left by Kenny Connolly's injury. On the right wing, game winner from last time out, Marc McCann, replaces Peggy Lokando. With the injuries taking a toll on the squad numbers, Aaron Murihead, Jamie Campbell and Andy Liddell are all called up to sit on the substitutes bench.

Where to even start with this one! Well, early I suppose, just three minutes in to be precise. Gareth Sproule lost possession in the centre circle, and the ball was played down the Albion left for Kris Maxwell. The winger cut back infield, before crossing to the far post, where he picked out midfielder Pat McWalter. Stand in left back Adam Campbell threw himself in for a block, but McWalter was clever, bringing the ball under control instead of shooting first time, leaving Campbell sprawled on the wet grass, as the Albion man shot across goal and gave his side an early lead. Campbell would attempt to make amends, firing a free kick just inches wide of the post in the 7th minute, but he would be involved again moments later. Campbell won a vital challenge on the edge of his own box, and then got the ball to James McLean. He turned, and from inside his own half, set off on a run that had the Albion defence back tracking. After getting to halfway, he chose to lift the ball over the defence with a diagonal pass. Sproule ran onto it, using his not inconsiderable strength to hold off a defender, before rounding Scott Christie and tucking in his first goal in a United jersey. But then, a little over five minutes later, our current injury jinx struck again, and this time it was right winger Marc McCann who would be the player we would lose. He would be replaced by Peggy Lokando, so at least we had a straight replacement this time, but that didn't take too much of the sting out of our predicament. But the players dug in, and Gordon Hillis nearly had us in front, his sweetly struck shot from the edge of the box hitting the angle of the goal frame, the defence scrambling to prevent McLean getting a shot from the rebound. We would have an even better chance a minute later, right back Joe Magunda winning a foot race against Daryl Fordyce, but then played an awful pass across his own box, and Sproule got there before Rossi Jarvis, but Christie threw himself to his left to push away the placed effort. Even when McLean didn't get enough power on his daisy cutter shot around the half hour mark, we were looking in decent shape. But lady luck would intervene, dealing us yet another cruel injury blow. Gavin Cadwallader was in the side after Andrew Hageman was injured, and now the centre back would join his colleague in the treatment room. Aaron Muirhead is a right back by trade, but can also operate in the centre of the back four, and he would now be pushed into action there. But the heads didn't drop, and there was no sense that this still wouldn't be our day. And we would take the lead for the first time this afternoon to the delight of a the rather smaller than usual home crowd. Some nice passing around the middle of the park saw Aaron McElwee put the ball to the feet of Peggy Lokando on the edge of the box. When he shaped to shoot, Jarvis stopped, unwilling to make a challenge as he was already on a yellow. Lokando took that split second to nudge the ball past the centre back, sprint beyond him, and then drive a low shot under Christie and into the net. It was his first goal for the club as well, and it had been a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, that adversity was not yet over, as we were forced to use our last change before we got to the break. In first half injury time, McLean, having arguably his best match so far in an Ayr shirt, was forced off, and with no winger to bring on, Stephen Magennis came on in his place. It would get to the laughable stage when less than two minutes into the second half, Magennis himself then got injured, and we would now have to play almost the entire second half with ten men. I couldn't actually believe what was happening, as Lokando was asked to play behind the strikers in a modified 4-2-1-2. Campbell just missed the target again with a free kick, which would have given us an unlikely two goal advantage. Not the way our luck was going though, and ten minutes after the break Ryan Wallace got past Campbell, drove a low cross into the middle, and Maxwell turned it in to level the match up once more. I suppose I have to concede that it could have been worse, as two minutes later McWalter took a tumble in the box after Aaron Murihead's tackle. The Albion players all appealed for a spot kick, but finally a bit of luck would go our way, the ref steadfastly refusing to point to the spot. The remaining half hour would pale into the background of the game for notable incidents. Sproule struck a shot just over while slightly off balance after Hillis picked him out, while Lokando's mazy run into the box didn't get the ending it deserved with him unable to pick out a team mate. Albion would suffer an injury of their own when Rene Steer went off in the 72nd minute, but they had yet to use any substitutes at that stage. Wallace and Maxwell both missed chances to give Albion all three points, Stephen Grindlay stopping Wallace's effort at the near post, while Maxwell's late strike was well blocked.

Ayr United (2) 2 - Gareth Sproule (11), Peggy Lokando (38)
Stirling Albion (1) 2 - Pat McWalter (3), Kris Maxwell (55)
Stephen Grindlay (capt); Ciaran Foy, Gavin Cadwallader (inj - Aaron Muirhead 32), Justin Miller, Adam Campbell; Gordon Hillis, Aaron McElwee; Marc McCann (inj - Peggy Lokando 17), James McLean (inj - Stephen Magennis 45+2 (inj - 47)); Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Jamie Campbell, Andy Liddell
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- Peggy Lokando (Ayr United).

What an unbelievable afternoon, and I believe the players deserve credit for dealing with everything thrown at them today. Gareth Sproule and Aaron McElwee both had their best games so far for Ayr, while Justin Miller marshalled an inexperienced back four well in the latter stages. Our injury list already made pretty heavy reading, and now you can add three more players to it. Stephen Magennis was the last to go off, leaving us a man down after coming on and playing for less than four minutes in total. He's the least badly hurt of the three that are going to be out. The striker damaged a heel and will miss anything up to two weeks.

It does get worse though. Marc McCann suffered a twisted ankle, with the Northern Irish winger who has just seen the ink on his new contract dry set to miss up to six weeks. Worse still is centre back Gavin Cadwallader, who fractured his ribs, and will be on the sidelines for around two months, leaving us desperatley short at the back now. In one piece of good news, James McLean shouldn't miss any time at all.

Stirling boss Allen Clarke couldn't care less about our injury woes, and he was furious that his side were not awarded a penalty in the second half. Personally, I thought his side had the rub of the green as it was, but Clarke disagreed and went too far with his critisism, earning himself a dressing down from the Scottish FA for his after match comments.

Monday 28th February
As the month draws to a close, Gordon Hillis is the only Ayr player named in the Team of the Week.

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Posted (edited)

2010/11 Scottish League Second Division Table, Up To & Including Monday 28th February 2011

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | Livingston         |       | 27    | 20    | 5     | 2     | 59    | 20    | +39   | 65    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 27    | 11    | 8     | 8     | 40    | 41    | -1    | 41    |
| 3rd   |       | Stirling           |       | 27    | 10    | 10    | 7     | 44    | 37    | +7    | 40    |
| 4th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 27    | 9     | 9     | 9     | 33    | 35    | -2    | 36    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Alloa              |       | 27    | 9     | 9     | 9     | 29    | 34    | -5    | 36    |
| 6th   |       | Peterhead          |       | 27    | 8     | 9     | 10    | 37    | 38    | -1    | 33    |
| 7th   |       | Ayr                |       | 27    | 9     | 6     | 12    | 33    | 36    | -3    | 33    |
| 8th   |       | Berwick            |       | 27    | 7     | 8     | 12    | 26    | 40    | -14   | 29    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 9th   |       | East Fife          |       | 27    | 6     | 10    | 11    | 32    | 37    | -5    | 28    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  |       | Arbroath           |       | 27    | 5     | 8     | 14    | 27    | 42    | -15   | 23    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Tuesday 1st March 2011
In a desperate search for some good news, the calendar tells me that we only have three matches for our now injury ravaged squad to deal with in the month of March. The bad news is that they are all against sides who we are hoping to overhaul in the now fading hopes of snatching a Promotion Playoff place. The draw on the weekend with Stirling Albion has seen Peterhead leapfrog us and push us down to 7th.

Three goals in four matches in the month of February was enough for Livingston striker John Akinde to win the Young Player of the Month award. James McLean finished third, behind Kal Naismith, the Rangers forward who is on loan at Alloa Athletic.

Despite our disappointing month, the Board are still satisfied with our performances overall, picking out Peggy Lokando as our best signing so far, and Daryl Fordyce as the one they are most concerned about. They do have a point, as considering he is one of our top earners, Fordyce does miss an alarming amount of chances in front of goal. The club recorded a loss of over £20,000 last month.

Friday 4th March
Graham McConnell, my replacement at Lurgan Celtic, is putting my effort to annoy people well and truly in the shade. Having already publicly spoke of his unhappiness with Lee Shepherd earlier in the week, he has now turned his attention to Bermudan striker Neil Brown. It's tough to pinpoint why he is unhappy with Brown, who has scored 22 goals in 22 starts in all competitions this season. If he wants him out of the club, I'd be perfectly happy to accomodate him at Somerset Park, heaven knows we could use someone to find the net regularly.

In matters much closer to the Scotland's west coast, we're away to East Stirlingshire tomorrow afternoon, and the bookies have us as favourites to take the points against the side sitting in 4th place. I'm not quite sure how they came to that conclusion, but I do know that I would be a lot more comfortable without having seven First Team players out, and down to the absolute bare bones in defence.

Saturday 5th March
The Under-19's start the action today, as they kick off at lunchtime against Alloa Athletic at Somerset Park. A first half goal from Richard Wylie was enough to give the visitors the points, and after a good first half or so of the season, our youngsters are now starting to fall back into the pack.

Scottish League Second Division
Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir
East Stirlingshire (4th) v Ayr United (7th)
Attendance :-
798. Weather :- Gusty, Downpours, 14c.

The latest raft of injuries mean that some more changes are required for our lineup today. Aaron Muirhead is going to be required to try and do a job at centre back for the forseeable as he steps into the jinxed spot vacated by both Andrew Hageman and Gavin Cadwallader. The injury to Marc McCann means that Peggy Lokando starts this one, fresh from his man of the match display which included his first goal for the club last time out. Fortunatley, James McLean is good to go on the opposite wing, which is just as well, as the subs bench shows we are down to the bare bones for Senior players. William Dyer is recalled from the Reserve side, the left back covering the defence, while I then have a pair of right wingers also available to us, Ryan Borris and Chris Hamilton are both called up for sub duties today.

We started on the back foot last weekend, and we were caught out early once again today. When East Stirlingshire were awarded a free kick near the right corner of our box, we seemed to have a good grip on the marking task. That would prove useless, as Jamie McCallum spotted the crowded penalty box, and instead rolled the ball along the edge of the box, where Dean Keenan walked onto it and drove his shot low through the forest of legs in front of him, and found the net to our dismay. As he was last week, Adam Campbell was once more on free kick duties, and the left back tried his luck ten minutes later, once again just missing the target. We continued to push, James McLean slinging over a cross that Daryl Fordyce met with a header that flew over the bar. At the other end, Shane Huke went closer with a shot from the edge of the box that thumped back off the bar before we scrambled it clear. We were now starting to ship chances more frequently, and Stephen Grindlay had to be alert at his near post to turn away Barry McGrory's well struck effort. With the first half just about to come to a close, we launched our best attack so far, Ciaran Foy swinging in a corner, McLean heading it against the bar, Fordyce trying to turn the rebound home but finding his route blocked, so he pushed the ball into the path of Aaron McElwee, who's powerful shot struck the back of a brave defender who had thrown himself in front of our midfielders shot. After 14 minutes of encouragment, and then a minute to allow them to let what I was saying sink in, the players went back out for the second half. Unfortunatley though, I have to report we were second best by far. While we didn't concede too many chances at least, Anthony Mason's placed shot easily saved by Grindlay, we created very little of our own. I made a treble change with just over a quarter of an hour left, Gordon Hillis is still not match fit and came off alongside Peggy Lokando and Gareth Sproule who had both been ineffective. They were replaced by Jamie Campbell, Ryan Borris and veteran striker Andy Liddell. That failed to galvanise us into action as well though, and once more, we leave points behind. Frustrating.

East Stirlingshire (1) 1 - Dean Keenan (7)
Ayr United (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay (capt); Ciaran Foy, Aaron Murihead, Justin Miller, Adam Campbell; Gordon Hillis (Jamie Campbell 74), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Ryan Borris 74), James McLean; Gareth Sproule (Andy Liddell 74), Daryl Fordyce.
Unused Substitutes :- William Dyer, Chris Hamilton.
Bookings :- Aaron Murihead 70
Possession :- 44% - 56%. Man of the Match :- Jamie McCallum (East Stirlingshire).

There are now just eight matches left, and after a promising start to my time in charge, the Playoffs are now six points away from us, while the Relegation Playoff spot is only five points beneath us. In short, we have made absolutely no progress as far as a promotion tilt is concerned, but we have at least pulled ourselves away from relegation danger for the time being at least. Still, I can't help but feel a little disappointed with how things are going right now.

Sunday 6th March
After telling the press how angry he was with Graham McConnell's comments, I decided it would be a good time to start buttering up Bermudan International striker Neil Brown. I told a local newspaper that I thought with the right development at the right club, I thought Brown could become a star player, and he  was showing the promise I suspected he had when I signed him for Lurgan Celtic last summer. While he is grateful for my comments, I might need to do a lot more praising though, Coca-Cola Championship leaders Bolton Wanderers are the latest club to show interest in Brown.

Monday 7th March
In a team meeting, everyone is told that we have to continue aiming for a Promotion Playoff place, as an acceptance that our season is over could see us sucked back into a relegation dogfight that should have been left far behind.

Thursday 10th March
Some good news at last, as both Aidan O'Kane and Stephen Magennis have returned to training today. Whether they will be fit for Saturday is another matter, but for now, I'll take it.

Friday 11th March
We'll host second placed Cowdenbeath tomorrow. They have all but given up chasing Livingston, who could become Champions this weekend, and are instead focussing on securing their place in the Promotion Playoffs. We haven't yet given up our own quest to pinch one of those Playoff places, but we absolutely have to start putting a run together now.

My stand off with the media continues today too. I attend the press conference, but manage to not actually answer of the questions put to me directly, and then leave as soon as possible. Who knows how long it will be before we make up.

Saturday 12th March

Scottish League Second Divsion
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (7th) v Cowdenbeath (2nd)
Attendance :-
868. Weather :- Drizzle, 1c.

While there is still no sign of an improvement in the weather in Scotland, there has been a slight improvement in our injury crisis. The improvement is not enough to convince me that either player is fit to start today's match though, and I name an unchanged starting eleven from the defeat against East Stirlingshire last weekend. There are two changes amongst the substitutes however, with Aidan O'Kane and Stephen Magennis named in place of William Dyer and Chris Hamilton, who are both allocated back to the Reserve squad. We'll use the two returning players sparingly, if at all. Last thing we need is them going off injured again.

We have been guilty of starting slowly in the last few matches, but that was not the case at all today. We nearly went in front in the 7th minute, Daryl Fordyce was on free kick duty from the left side, and he curled a shot around the wall and only just over the bar. We would create an even better chance just two minutes later, Aaron McElwee hitting a superb pass from midfield with the outside of his boot, and it faded nicely into the path of James McLean, who had nipped inside of his marker. The Northern Irish winger failed to net his first goal for the club though, and his clipped shot shaved the post on it's way past, McLean looking to the heavens after that one. We kept plugging away though, and Ciaran Foy would intercept a 20th minute ball down his side of the park, and give the ball quickly to Peggy Lokando. With no pass infield or space to make a run, he switched on the burners, and tore off down the right wing, speeding past two blue shirted defenders before sending over a low cross towards the penalty spot. It bounced up at an awkward height for Gareth Sproule, but he let it go across his body, before hitting a left footed shot that he managed to keep down, and was rewarded with the sight of it nestling into the bottom corner. Cowdenbeath were not playing like a second placed side right now, and were struggling to get crosses into our box, resorting to shooting from range by the late first half. I made one change at the break, Gordon Hillis is still looking to recover match fitness after so long without any football, Jamie Campbell came on to replace him. He nearly made a quick impact, his curling shot from the edge of the box was just a little too high. But we kept coming forward, and shortly after the hour McLean, Adam Campbell and Jamie Campbell were all involved in some slick passing down the left. The latter sent the ball to Fordyce, who expertly shifted the ball away from his marker, leaving him stranded, before moving down the left channel of the box. He had Sproule unmarked and begging to be played in just ten yards out, but Fordyce wasn't having that, smashing a shot across goal that hit the inside of the far post before finding the net, the 25th goal of his career, and snapping a goal drought that had just extended over the 500 minute mark. Jamie Campbell was really enjoying himself, and he took a pass from McElwee, shimmied past a defender, and then tried a ridiculously cheeky lob over Stefan Jolovic, not quite managing to get that one right. With Cowdenbeath continuing to give the ball away and show very little sign of being a threat, I took Fordyce off to give Stephen Magennis a run out. With that going well, I then looked to introduce Aidan O'Kane as a left winger with about five minutes to play, but the ball stubbornly refused to go off the park. He did finally make it on with a minute plus injury time remaining, as we strolled to a surprisingly comfortable victory.

Ayr United (1) 2 - Gareth Sproule (20), Daryl Fordyce (62)
Cowndenbeath (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay (capt); Ciaran Foy, Aaron Muirhead, Justin Miller, Adam Campbell; Gordon Hillis (Jamie Campbell 45), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando, James McLean (Aidan O'Kane 89); Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce (Stephen Magennis 77).
Unused Substitutes :- Ryan Borris, Andy Liddell
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 56% - 44%. Man of the Match :- Peggy Lokando (Ayr United).

There wasn't much that we didn't enjoy about that one. A much more straightforward victory than expected, a goal apiece for both our strikers, no new injuries to report, and a second man of the match award in three games for Peggy Lokando.

That win means that since I have arrived, we have notched wins over all of the top four sides, apart from Stirling Albion, who we drew with, though we do hold two wins over Cowdenbeath. It's against clubs lower down the order that we have been struggling. But now with seven matches remaining, we are only points away from the coveted fourth position, and also have the joint best goal difference of the clubs fighting for that position. We have also stretched our gap back down to the 9th placed Relegation Playoff side out to six points. Just a week after it looked like our ambitions were all but over, it's all changed again. There is still plenty to fight for.

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Sunday 13th March 2011
More good news, as centre back Andrew Hageman will be fit to resume training tomorrow morning. The 6'3 Irishman has been the centre piece of our dead ball routines since I got here, and it's fair to say that we haven't been anything like as effective from those since his injury. Hopefully Hageman's return can spark an improvement in that area, and aid a late run up the league table.

Monday 14th March
Gordon Hillis is the only Ayr player named in peculiar looking formation for Team of the Week. I'm starting to think this league may be hard up for good midfielders, Hillis played just 45 minutes on the weekend, though that was more for fitness reasons, and he did play pretty well.

Peggy Lokando has been called up by The Congo to play for their Under-21 sides Friendly International against Namibia this weekend. He is called straight into the office, and I tell him the situation here means I have no choice but to exercise my right to withdraw him from their squad, and ask him to play for us instead in Saturday's vital match away to Alloa Athletic. He said he understood, and while he would love the chance to represent his country, he appreciated that the club match was more important at this time and with our current circumstances. The 21 year old has just earned my respect.

Tuesday 15th March
Ryan Stevenson is back in training as well today. The skipper has a 50/50 chance of being available for the weekend. It would be a big boost to have him back, but I have learned the lesson already where Stevenson is concerned. Rushing him back again would almost certainly be a mistake.

Wednesday 16th March
Our Under-19's have had a torrid evening in Coatbridge. Two goals in each half saw Albion Rovers demolish them 4-0 at Cliftonhill, leaving them fifth in the Group 3 table. Promising 18 year old striker Sandy Ritchie, who has made a couple of First Team outings for Rovers, scored twice in the first half. I ask my scouting team to keep an eye on him.

Friday 18th March
Game of the weekend. That's how the media are building up tomorrow's clash away to Alloa Athletic. The bookies have the home side as favourites, but if we can come back from Recreation Park with the points, we will move past our opponents and take a step closer to getting ourselves a spot in the Promotion Playoffs.

Saturday 19th March

Scottish League Second Division
Recreation Park, Alloa
Alloa Athletic (5th) v Ayr United (7th)
Attendance :-
584. Weather :- Dry, 8c.

This one has a 'big match' feel about it today, and may prove to be a gut check for my players. We could learn a lot today about the character of our squad, which in game is currently listed as 'fairly professional', which is not a bad thing. The changes are kept to a minimum after the win against Cowdenbeath last time out, Aidan O'Kane coming back into the side at left back, with Adam Campbell switching to the bench. Also on the bench today in changes from last weekend are Andrew Hageman and Ryan Stevenson, who are both returning from injuries, and replace Ryan Borris and Andy Liddell.

We so nearly got off to the worst possible start. Within a minute, left back Mark Ferguson sent a deep ball forward, and Aaron Muirhead didn't do a very good job of clearing the ball, Elliott Buchanan sent it towards goal, the ball rustling the side netting on it's way just wide of the goal frame. Murihead didn't really settle, as in the 10th minute he missed an interception altogether, and only an alert and exceptionally well timed challenge from Justin Miller stopped Brian Graham from being clean in on goal. While we did then manage to settle a little, it was still Alloa who were making the chances, both Tom Taiwo and Graham sending efforts over the cross bar. By the time Kal Naismith nodded a header just wide, I was starting to get concerned, and was formulating a plan to change things around at the break. We still needed to limit the damage at the very least up to that point, and we just about made it, Joe Cardle's cross from deep fortunatley fell between the far post and Naismith and rolled harmlessly out of play.

At the break, I told the players I wasn't happy with what was happening, but didn't think they were entirely to blame, and that we were going to change things up. I had a captive audience as I explained exactly what I wanted to do, throwing away everything we have been doing for the last three months, and going to three in the middle to try and quieten Athletic's creative players somewhat, no wingers, and an attacking midfielder behind the strikers to try and exploit the middle of the park. It would mean James McLean being sacrificed, Ryan Stevenson coming on to play in the middle three, while Peggy Lokando moved inside to play behind the strikers. I would also withdraw Muirhead, and Andrew Hageman would make his return for the second half. It had the desired effect quickly, with Alloa's midfield players being starved of space. The home side immediately found chances much more difficult to come by, and as an unexpected added bonus, they also started to get frustrated, and the ref started to dish out some yellow cards. I'm not going to lie, I was delighted to see my players match fire with fire when Alloa started to up the intensity of their tackling. We still weren't creating anything of real note, but right now, I would live with that. I brought fresh legs on for the final ten minutes, Gordon Hillis coming off, and Stephen Magennis brought on, asked to play behind the strikers for build up play, but to move up to form a front three when we were in attacking positions, Lokando dropping back into the midfield trio. The pace of the game seemed to increase late on, and we rode out luck a little, Stephen Grindlay mishandling a cross, and Lokando kicked it off the line, Naismith sending a cross to the far post, Ferguson met it with a diving header, Grindlay spotted it late through the crowd of players, but did well to get it around the post at the last moment. Still Athletic kept coming, the other full back, Kris McQuilken, connected with a corner, but Ryan Stevenson tackled him at the same time, taking all the sting from the shot, and Grindlay gathered it safely. Finally we started to apply some pressure of our own, aided by Stephen Magennis putting in a great shift in the slightly deeper role. Aidan O'Kane swung in a free kick from the right flank, Andrew Hageman connected with a header that looked for all the world to be destined for the top corner, until Raymond Jellema stuck out a hand and touched it over the cross bar. Now we were starting to dominate the midfield, and against a tired looking unit, we were having our way and pouring forward, Aaron McElwee striking an effort from the edge of the box that stuck the outside of the upright and jammed in the side netting, Gareth Sproule only just failing to spring the offside trap as Stevenson played a superb one touch pass through the Athletic rearguard. We were not playing like a side who desperatley needed the win, we were playing like a side that thought we would win. And we would do just that. Stevenson turned on a sixpence to open up the entire midfield, and spread it wide to Ciaran Foy, who was eagerly pushing forward at every opportunity. He lifted it down the right wing, and Magennis won the race against a Eugene Killoran who was not only knackered, but already on a yellow card. He clipped it into the middle, sub Jonathan Cowan headed it away from the lurking Daryl Fordyce, but only to the edge of the box. As it bounced back up, McElwee deftly flicked it back to Fordyce, and the striker brought it down, spun away from Cowan, and struck a shot on the turn that beat the helpless Jellema. It was right in front of our small pocket of travelling fans, and the entire team apart from Grindlay joined Fordyce in the celebration in front of them. Game on!!

Alloa Athletic (0) 0
Ayr United (0) 1
-
Daryl Fordyce (90+2)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Aaron Muirhead (Andrew Hageman 45), Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane (capt); Gordon Hillis (Stephen Magennis 80), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando, James McLean (Ryan Stevenson 45); Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Adam Campbell, Jamie Campbell
Bookings :- Aidan O'Kane 70, Peggy Lokando 88
Possession :- 49% - 51%. Man of the Match :- Aaron McElwee (Ayr United).

At half time, we had only had 40% of the ball, and in the entire match, we only managed two shots on target. Andrew Hageman's late header, and Daryl Fordyce's even later effort that proved to be the difference between the sides. I'm getting a lot of credit for changing things up at the break, not least from the players. Stephen Grindlay and Ryan Stevenson both spoke out to suggest I'd turned the match on it's head with my change in tactics and inspiring team talk. Always nice to have the respect of the players.

Ryan Borris decided to play mood killer. He chose the bus trip home to have it out with me, stating that he should be in the First Team more often than he has been, and is now demanding more football, or he'll be forced to activley seek a transfer. I told him in no uncertain terms that this was hardly the time, and most certainly not the place to discuss this. So he made the press aware of his demands. How and why he possibly thought that would help his cause is an absolute mystery to me.

Onto happier, and frankly, much more important news. Our better goal difference means we have leapfrogged past Alloa Athletic, and sit sixth, level on points with Peterhead who are in front of us by virtue of their two goal better goal difference, and just a point behind fourth placed East Stirlingshire. There are eight matches remaining, including us hosting Peterhead, and Peterhead playing at home to East Stirlingshire. There's a lot that could happen yet.

Sunday 20th March
As Ryan Borris has decided that his request should be public knowledge via the medium of the sports media, he can have his answer through them. I tell The Daily Record that Borris is a backup player, and as such, is finding himself on the fringes of the First Team more often than in the lineup. I suggest that he might be better served by knuckling down in training to try and earn a spot.

I get a phone call from the winger that very afternoon, apologising for his behaviour, and admitting that he should have realised running to the media wasn't going to help, and that he now realises he has done his chances of starting games no good whatsoever.

Monday 21st March
Gordon Hillis is named in the team of the week lineup once more. With his fitness improving week by week, Hillis has very much taken advantage of the injury crisis, and might take some shifting from the First Team.

Tuesday 22nd March
Maybe Gordon Hillis' spot isn't quite as safe an everyone thought, with the news that Kenny Connolly will return to training this week. With another ten days before our next match, a home game against 8th placed East Fife, the returning Connolly has time to improve his fitness and out up a fight against not only Hillis, but also Ryan Stevenson as well for a starting eleven spot.

Saturday 26th March
Scotland have had a pretty horrific opening four games in Group F of the UEFA 2012 European Championship Qualifiers. After being thumped out in Spain in their first game, they then managed to lose at home to Hungary. They looked like they might be able to recover the situation when they followed that up with a home win against the Republic of Ireland, but defeat in Denmark left them on three points. They haven't helped themselves much today either, after being held to a 1-1 draw at home against Lithuania.

Sunday 27th March
It's a good news day for our Under-19 side, as they thump Arbroath's youngsters 3-0 at Somerset Park this afternoon. On loan striker Steve Wood was amongst the goals as the lads move back up into fourth place.

Tuesday 29th March
It looks like the injury situation is over, with Marc McCann returning to training today. That means from the injury list we had a couple of weeks ago, only Gavin Cadwallader is now still missing from the First Team squad.

Wednesday 30th March
What is with this Scotland side? After putting in an abject performance at home against Lithuania on the weekend, they then travel to Almaty and thump Kazakhstan 5-0, thanks in the main to a nine minute first half spell that saw three goals.

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Posted (edited)

2010/11 Scottish League Second Division Table, Up To & Including Thursday 31st March 2011

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | C     | Livingston         |       | 30    | 22    | 5     | 3     | 64    | 21    | +43   | 71    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 30    | 12    | 9     | 9     | 41    | 43    | -2    | 45    |
| 3rd   |       | Stirling           |       | 30    | 11    | 11    | 8     | 46    | 39    | +7    | 44    |
| 4th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 30    | 10    | 10    | 10    | 35    | 37    | -2    | 40    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Peterhead          |       | 30    | 10    | 9     | 11    | 40    | 39    | +1    | 39    |
| 6th   |       | Ayr                |       | 30    | 11    | 6     | 13    | 36    | 37    | -1    | 39    |
| 7th   |       | Alloa              |       | 30    | 10    | 9     | 11    | 30    | 38    | -8    | 39    |
| 8th   |       | East Fife          |       | 30    | 7     | 10    | 13    | 33    | 40    | -7    | 31    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 9th   |       | Berwick            |       | 30    | 7     | 9     | 14    | 28    | 45    | -17   | 30    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  |       | Arbroath           |       | 30    | 6     | 10    | 14    | 30    | 44    | -14   | 28    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

Friday 1st April 2011
This will be a huge month for us at Ayr United, with five of our remaining eight league matches scheduled to take place, including the huge clash with Peterhead at home in mid month. We'll start tomorrow though, with a home game against struggling East Fife. With two wins in three matches in March, I have just beaten Derek Collins of Peterhead and Harry Cairney of Livingston to the Manager of the Month award, my second in three months, and the third of my career.

The Board remain satisfied with how the club is being managed at the moment, and continue to be impressed by the efforts of 21 year old winger Peggy Lokando. As far as underperforming is concerned, they have now switched their attention to defender Aaron Muirhead. It's a hard one to dispute. Once more the club made a loss for the month, and once more it's in excess of £20,000.

Saturday 2nd April

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (6th) v East Fife (8th)
Attendance :-
1,132. Weather :- Drizzle, 19c.

Another big game day at Somerset Park, in front of a much improved attendance, if not improved weather. I suppose at least it's warmer though. Andrew Hageman starts at centre back today, with Aaron Murihead dropping out of the matchday squad altogether in the only change to the starting lineup from the dramatic win in Alloa last time out. There are two further changes on the subs bench, with Marc McCann coming into the squad to take the spare place, and Kenny Connolly replacing Jamie Campbell. There is still no starting place for Club Captain and midfielder Ryan Stevenson at this point.

We immediately set about stamping our authority on this match, James McLean tricking his way past his marker in the left channel of the box with just 90 seconds on the clock, and driving a cross towards the near post, Daryl Fordyce closed down just as he was about to try and finish the move off. We would have plenty of early corners as well, but East Fife were well drilled, and clever too, leaving Andrew Hageman to appear unmarked, and then two, sometimes three, would crowd him as soon as the kick was delivered. It would actually be Gordon Hillis who would come closest in the first half, his 27th minute drive from just inside the box was only just over the cross bar. It wasn't quite all one way traffic, first Hageman and then Justin Miller having to make well timed tackles late in the half as East Fife made a rare excursion into our penalty area. Still goalless at the break, and I was forced to tell the players that they hadn't done enough in that opening half, and I needed to see some more from them. But a quiet opening spell after the restart would only see visiting midfielder David Muir send a weak shot from the edge of the box well wide of the target. With the hour mark approaching, we would finally create a better chance, Ciaran Foy breaking up play on halfway and quickly playing a pass inside to Hillis. The midfielder would use the wet surface to add an extra bit of pace to his low through ball, and Fordyce angled his run perfectly, and also judged his slide well, getting his toe to the ball first, and prodding past Glyn Garner and watching as the ball rolled into the bottom corner of the net despite the defenders desperate attempt to prevent that from being the outcome. It would have been very easy to stick there, and move to a more conservative tactic and take the sting out of the match, but we're not really that kind of side, at least, not at 1-0 anyway. We would nearly lose that lead in the 70th minute though, Foy forced into a hurried backpass that arrived at a horribly awkward height for Stephen Grindlay, the keeper badly hooking the spinning ball, relieved to see it go behind his own goal. Fresh legs would arrive with fifteen minutes left, Hillis and Peggy Lokando replaced by Ryan Stevenson and Marc McCann as we looked to see this one to a happy conclusion. The Northern Irish winger would give the fans a brief glimpse of what they had been missing the last few weeks, speeding past one defender, then moving inside a second before delivering a cross to Fordyce, the now in form striker catching a shot that thumped off the underside of the cross bar before being headed to safety. I say it was a brief glimpse of McCann, because that's exactly what it was. Just ten minutes after coming on, and with the final substitute being prepared, McCann would suffer another injury. So he would be the one to come off, Stephen Magennis asked to prove his versatility again, this time by playing on the right. Aside from an injury time McLean cross that Michael Howard almost put into his own net in his efforts to keep it away from Gareth Sproule, the game meandered it's way to the almost inevitable conclusion.

Ayr United (0) 1 - Daryl Fordyce (59)
East Fife (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane (capt); Gordon Hillis (Ryan Stevenson 75), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Marc McCann 75 (inj - Stephen Magennis 85)), James McLean; Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce.
Unused Substitutes :- Adam Campbell, Kenny Connolly.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- Andrew Hageman (Ayr United).

So a few surprises, especially for me when I saw that possession stat. At no point during that match did I get the impression we were anything other than on top. Andrew Hageman being awarded man of the match was also a bit of a surprise, as while he didn't do anything wrong by any means, he simply didn't have a lot to do. Not that I'm complaining, it's a big win again, and our third consecutive clean sheet. In fact, we haven't conceded a goal since the 7th minute of the match against East Stirlingshire, which makes 353 minutes not including injury time if my maths is correct.

And that wasn't even the best news. East Stirlingshire have lost today, 2-0 away to the new 8th placed side Berwick Rangers, who leap out of the Relegation Playoff spot above East Fife. But it gets better still, as Peterhead are thrashed 5-1 away to Livingston, the Champions obviously not about to start taking things easy, which is a shame, as we visit them next. But all that does now mean we're up to fourth place, and if the season were to finish right now, we would be in the Promotion Playoffs. It doesn't however, so we still have plenty of work to do yet.

One last thing to mention, is the unfortunate Marc McCann. On his return from injury, the winger picks up another one. Fortunately, it's not a serious one, a gashed leg will keep him out of action for anything up to a fortnight.

Wednesday 6th April
Our Under-19 side have been in action once again this evening as their season draws towards a close as well. They have drawn 1-1 at Hampden Park against the age group side of Queen's Park, left winger Pat MacDonald giving us an early lead, the match being levelled up on the hour, despite the hosts playing the last hour of the match a man short after Stuart Henderson was red carded. Ross County are Group 3 Champions, and the best our lads can do now is finish fourth.

Friday 8th April
According to both press and bookies, we will be no match at all for the Champions tomorrow afternoon, as we prepare to visit Livingston, who have already booked their ticket up to the First Division for next season. We beat them last time we met, and both sides are coming off a win last weekend, but the hosts are priced as 1/3 favourites, while you can get as much as 7/1 on us winning tomorrow.

Saturday 9th April

Scottish League Second Division
Almondvale Stadium, Livingston
Livingston (1st) v Ayr United (4th)
Attendance :-
2085. Weather :- Gusty, Downpours, 24c.

And still the rain continues. We have the second best average attendance in the league, with Livingston being the only side who get more than us, however, they do get nearly double our attendances. Today there is over 2,000 in Almondvale, our Directors dream of figures like that. Just one change made today, and this is an enforced change to the substitutes, where the injured Marc McCann is replaced by Jamie Campbell.

From the first whistle, it was clear that neither side was in the mood to concede any ground. Daryl Fordyce whistled a free kick just over the goal frame inside the opening minute, but our next attack would have more success. Gordon Hillis' looping ball forward caught out Aaron Labonte, who mistimed his jump allowing James McLean to pick the ball up. He sent it on to Fordyce, who ran down the left channel, before crossing from the byline. On the penalty spot, Gareth Sproule hung in the air like a basketball player, and guided his header inside the far post, past the desperate dive of Roddy McKenzie, and we had ourselves a very early lead. Ryan France set about getting that one back, and a 9th minute strike from all of 30 yards out was only just wide, though Stephen Grindlay had that one covered. One was never likely to be enough for us against this talented Livingston squad, and they were level in the 13th minute, though this one did look suspiciously offside to me, and no less so after seeing the replay's. Andy Haworth played a ball from a central area through our defence, and David Winters latched onto it. While our defenders all appealed for a flag, Winters slotted the ball low into the bottom corner. The flag stayed down, I wasn't happy, and Grindlay's clean sheet streak was over at the 363 minute mark. But I would be happier with my sides reaction, as they set about our hosts again, a superb cross field pass from Aidan O'Kane found Peggy Lokando, and he picked out Aaron McElwee on the edge of the box, his shot just wide of the far post. With half time starting to get close, it was Livingston who lost their composure. Labonte was involved again, massivley overhitting a sideways pass from right back to Brian Saah. The centre back could do little to prevent Sproule moving in on goal as he was already on a yellow, but McKenzie parried his shot aside. Unfortunatley for the keeper, Fordyce won the race against two defenders, and swept the loose ball into the net to reinstate our lead. If you had taken a punt on us at 7/1, you were looking in good shape at half time.

I told my players that they had been superb, but these guys weren't Champions for nothing, and we had to keep working hard and make sure we didn't allow complacency to creep in. I felt sure that Livi would be getting a rocket across the corridor, and that they would come out fired up. But that wasn't really the case, as the second half started at a much slower pace, and we successfully held them at arms length. They were forced into a change on the hour Keeghan Jacobs was injured and replaced by Jean-José Cuenca, with Sean Lynch replaced at the same time by Nicky Smith. They would quickly get their first chance since the restart, John Akinde holding up the ball and then clipping the ball through to Winters. He ran in on goal on the angle, but Grindlay stood firm, and pushed that shot safely behind goal. In the 70th minute, both sides would have to make a change, Fordyce and Haworth crunching into a 50/50 tackle, and neither would be able to continue, Fordyce looking to be slightly better off, but he had a gashed leg. Stephen Magennis came on in his place, and at the same time, Peggy Lokando and James McLean were also replaced, Adam Campbell and Ryan Stevenson coming on. Campbell would play left wing, Stevenson would go into midfield, McElwee would move out to the right wing. We were starting to struggle to keep Livingston out now, Nicky Smith curled in a free kick, France brought it down and then shot on the turn, just missing the target thankfully. It was a case of too many cooks in the 74th minute, when three players all moved towards the same ball on the edge of our box, Ciaran Foy's clearance hit his own team mate, and Akinde shot the loose ball over the bar. Our resolve would finally snap a minute later, Akinde and Winters both winning headers to get the ball wide to Cuenca. His cross gave Grindlay a huge problem, and Smith slid in at the far post, just able to divert the ball inside the far post before running out of room. That felt like a big goal, and so it would prove to be, as the momentum was all with the Champions now. In the 83rd minute, Winters would pop up on the right wing. He produced an almost identical cross, and Smith would produce an equally identical finish. Now we were behind with time ticking down, and we would be forced to chase the game. But as I was organising, we capitulated once more. A clearance from McKenzie down our right, left Foy racing against Akinde. Our defender won the race, but attempted to thump the ball across field. Winters was in place to take hold of that one and wander in on goal, sliding the ball past a helpless Grindlay for the second time this afternoon, and his 20th of the season. Three goals in a ten minute spell, and we had been taught a very painful lesson. We would have a late chance to bring ourselves back into the match, McElwee tripped in the box in the 88th minute, and the ref gave us a penalty. Skipper and sub Ryan Stevenson stepped up, but after beating McKenzie's dive, his spot kick thumped back off the inside of the post, rolled behind the prone keeper, and across the goal face before being cleared. When it's not your day.....

Livingston (1) 4 - David Winters (13,85), Nicky Smith (75,83)
Ayr United (2) 2 - Gareth Sproule (3), Daryl Fordyce (40)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane (capt); Gordon Hillis, Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando (Ryan Stevenson 70), James McLean (Adam Campbell 70); Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce (inj - Stephen Magennis 70).

Unused Substitutes :- Jamie Campbell, Kenny Connolly.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 42% - 58%. Man of the Match :- Nicky Smith (Livingston).

That was an eventful game, but we lost our way late on when the game was on the line. That is the difference between Champions and also rans right now. We will need to pick ourselves up quickly from that one, as we have a huge match with Peterhead at home next weekend. For now, we have dropped back down to fifth, and that game is a must win to keep our noses firmly in the Promotion Playoff race. We will have to do it without Daryl Fordyce though, as the in form striker has suffered a gashed leg that will keep him out for around two weeks.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sunday 10th April 2011
A feature has been run on us by one of the sports Sunday papers. Very nice it was too, complimenting the club on the job it had done since the turn of the year, both on the park, and with the acquisitions that we have made as well. Aaron McElwee was singled out as the best of the players we have brought in. The piece concluded by stating that with the season now very much at the business end, it would be a brave punter who backed against Ayr reaching the Playoffs, and possibly even prevailing. With just four league matches remaining, it's all to play for.

Friday 15th April
It was a quiet week heading into our vital league clash with Peterhead tomorrow, and that suited us just fine. With home advantage, comes the tag of narrow favourites from the bookies. Defeat would be a blow to either sides hopes of earning a place in the end of season Promotion Playoffs. Going into the match, Peterhead sit in 4th, one spot ahead of us, by virtue of a better goal difference only.

Marc McCann is available again, the winger has proven to be quite injury prone, but on his day, he is capable of turning in match winning performances. Hopefully he can stay fit for the remainder of the season.

Our Under-19's have played their penultimate match of the season, travelling north to face the already crowned Champions of Ross County. They return from their long trip to Victoria Park without any points, losing 1-0 to Hugh Reid's first half header.

Saturday 16th April

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (5th) v Peterhead (4th)
Attendance :-
861. Weather :- Wet, 17c.

After being demolished in the final quarter of an hour by the Champions a week ago, it would have been easy to make wholesale changes. I would resist though, making just the one forced adjustment to the starting lineup, with the injured Daryl Fordyce replaced by Stephen Magennis. That would of course lead to one change on the bench as well, with Andy Liddell brought into the matchday squad to replace Magennis amongst the replacements.

What was probably the biggest day of our season up to now at least, would get off to a pretty horrible start. Our defence managed to make a mess of a simple marking job from a short throw deep into our half, and that would allow Scott Gemmill to get to the byline and cut the ball back into the middle, where Jamie Tolley was waiting, and he blasted his shot high into the net to hand the visitors a 4th minute lead. We really had some work to do now, and we set about getting it done quickly. Aidan O'Kane's corner had to be headed clear as it looked like it might curl inside the near post, while Aaron McElwee scuffed a shot wide after the ball was recycled back into the box. McElwee would be involved in our next burst forward just a minute or so later, crossing halfway, holding up the ball, spinning away from a tackle beautifully, then pinging the ball low into the box, where Stephen Magennis swept it low into the net to level the match up just 7 minutes after we'd fallen behind. Now we were starting to look like the better side, Peggy Lokando doing good work on the right, before his cross picked out Gareth Sproule. The striker had his back to goal, but shot on the turn, his effort rolling the wrong side of the far post. We would come close to earning a lead to take into the break, Lokando again proving to be a threat, jinking in and out to confuse Stuart Smith, before powering in a shot designed to catch out Michal Kula on his near post, the Polish keeper didn't fall for that one.

I didn't need to say too much at the break this time, the boys had the fresh memory of what had happened in the second half last weekend, and there was a spirit about them as they made their way back out for the restart. Just over ten minutes later, O'Kane proceded at pace down the left, beating both Conan Byrne and Tolley. His cross didn't match his effort, as it was far too deep, but Ciaran Foy retrieved the ball, and played a clever pass into the corner of the box, where it was picked up by Lokando. The winger teased at sending in a cross, but then fired in a shot that caught Kula unaware on his near post, the keeper managing to get a hand to it, but only able to push it inside his near post, and we had come from behind. It wasn't a huge attendance by any means, but those inside Somerset Park were mostly delighted. Now we had to hold on, including through a flashpoint, Byrne and James McLean launching themselves in for a loose ball just inside our box, the ref blew, and it went in our favour, the man with the whistle convinced that Byrne had tried to deceive him, and booked the Peterhead player. That would bring about a rash of bookings as tackles flew in, and one with a quarter of an hour remaining would put Gordon Hillis on the floor and looking particularly uncomfortable. The midfielder came off, with Kenny Connolly replacing him, Andy Liddell providing fresh legs in place of Sproule at the same time. I had just made my final change in the 88th minute, replacing McElwee with Ryan Stevenson, when Peterhead's hopes of a late leveller were dashed, Mark Duncan was about to lose a race against Lokando down the right, and grabbed a handful of the wingers jersey. That would earn him a second booking within moments of the first, and an early bath, while we earned ourselves a place in the top four, for now at least.

Ayr United (1) 2 - Stephen Magennis (11), Peggy Lokando (57)
Peterhead (1) 1 - James Tolley (4)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane (capt); Gordon Hillis (inj - Kenny Connolly 75), Aaron McElwee (Ryan Stevenson 88); Peggy Lokando, James McLean; Gareth Sproule (Andy Liddell 75), Stephen Magennis.

Unused Substitutes :- Adam Campbell, Jamie Campbell.
Bookings :- Peggy Lokando 68, Aidan O'Kane 72
Possession :- 59% - 41%. Man of the Match :- James McLean (Ayr United).

It was a sombre Ronnie Sheridan who would give me the news of Gordon Hillis after the match. The physio told me that the 29 year old midfielder had suffered a damaged hip in that over exuberant challenge. He told me that his preliminary outcome would be a spell of 6 to 8 months out, though specialist treatment could easily half that and then some. I told him I'd speak to the Board, but he waved his hand, and said there was no need, they had already agreed to foot the bill. Hopefully, Hillis would be fit for the start of next season.

It would take the shine off a superb come from behind performance after that poor start, and we were now up to fourth spot again with a very winnable home match next weekend. Right now, I really liked our chances of cementing a spot above the dotted line, but I had learned enough in this league to know that it would be fool hardy to count our chickens.

I would spend my evening visiting our stricken midfielder, and answering emails. One of the more interesting ones was from the administration team of Dagenham & Redbridge, who had put their entire First Team squad up for sale following today's 2-0 home defeat to Hereford United, a result with meant that the Daggers had now been confirmed as relegated, and would no longer hold Football League status after this season. If anyone at Victoria Road is reading this, I think I know a man who can help! Someone call the 'Romford Miracle Worker'!

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sunday 17th April 2011
As one suffers an injury, another returns to the squad. Centre back Gavin Cadwallader has been given the all clear to return to training tomorrow after recovering from his fractured ribs.

Monday 18th April
Man of the match from our weekend win, James McLean, is also the only Ayr United player named in the team of the week. While he hasn't quite produced the goals and assists that he managed to notch in Lurgan, the 20 year old left winger has been a consistent performer for the most part since his move here in January. That said, the Ayr public have yet to see the best of the former Northern Ireland Under-19 International.

Friday 22nd April
We are odds on favourites to pick up another three points tomorrow, as we entertain 8th placed Arbroath. They will be no pushovers, as they seek to move themselves away from the bottom end of the table, and avoid either relegation of the Relegation Playoff spots. Striker Daryl Fordyce has declared himself fit for tomorrows clash, though he has done so without the backing of the physio. Ronnie Sheridan urges caution, saying that his gashed leg is not yet fully healed, and that a place amongst the subs with some game time if absolutely necessary should be all I can realistically expect from our top scorer at this point.

One of our rivals for a Promotion Playoff spot are Alloa Athletic. They might be rueing a massive admin error right now, as they have just lost Kal Naismith. The forward has been playing very well since arriving on loan from Rangers and playing a dozen matches. But they didn't make the loan long enough, and it has expired today. It's entirely possible that may cost Allan Maitland and 'The Wasps', which is not the name of a band.

Saturday 23rd April

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (4th) v Arbroath (8th)
Attendance :-
980. Weather :- Breezy, 7c.

It's a better crowd for our penultimate home league game of the season, and it's stopped raining as well! Gordon Hillis' absence means a return to the starting lineup for Kenny Connolly, who also takes the skippers armband at the same time. It was a straight choice between Connolly and Ryan Stevenson, and I would have been more inclined to include the Club Captain had it been Aaron McElwee who had been missing. Up front, Stephen Magennis retains his place in the lineup, as I take my physio's advice and give Daryl Fordyce a place on the subs bench only in place of Andy Liddell. There is also a place on the bench for Marc McCann, while Gavin Cadwallader replaces Jamie Campbell.

Call it foolish, but I wasn't expecting too much of a hard time today as long as the players did their job. Attempting to try and prove he could nail down a place in the starting lineup, Stephen Magennis tried to get us up and running with an audacious lob in the 11th minute, but unfortunatley, he missed the target. At the other end, Stephen Grindlay had to show he has good handling after the ball fell to centre back Ian Ryan following a free kick. But their raids into our half were rare, and in the 27th minute, Aidan O'Kane sent over a free kick from the right, and Gareth Sproule took advantage of the space left by the defenders all gravitating towards Andrew Hageman, the striker half volleying home from four yards out. Magennis would have our last chance of the first half, speeding between two defenders and shooting from 20 yards out, the effort just clearing the cross bar. While we hadn't created a huge amount of chances, the ones we had created were quality chances, and I was surprised we were only a goal to the good at the break. I told my players that I really wanted this one put to bed as soon as possible, and Sproule attempted to do just that two minutes into the second half, reaching Aaron McElwee's through ball, and sliding it under the dive of Jamie Jones, but the ball came back off the foot of the upright. That was as good as the opening spell of the second half got, as we started to get sloppy, Ciaran Foy giving the ball away, Steve Weir thumping his shot against the outside of the post. On the sideline, I was trying to gee my players up, threatening to make changes. I wish I had done, as in the 72nd minute, James McLean went down and stayed down, having to be helped from the park. I made it a triple chance, Hageman and Kenny Connolly joining the injured winger, Gavin Cadwallader, Ryan Stevenson and Marc McCann coming into the game. That did the trick, Peggy Lokando skipping away from a challenge on the right edge of the box, and then slipping the pass back to McElwee, who placed his shot beautifully inside the near post from the edge of the box. It was his first goal since joining the club, and it was worth the wait. A few minutes later the points were confirmed in spectacular and bizarre fashion, Stevenson sending a ball into the right channel, Lokando mishitting his attempted cross, and it smacked the underside of the cross bar before bouncing down over the goal line. The winger could have had another late on, but he didn't get enough on his shot. It didn't matter, we got what we had needed today.

Ayr United (1) 3 - Gareth Sproule (27), Aaron McElwee (75), Peggy Lokando (79)
Arbroath (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman (Gavin Cadwallader 72), Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly (capt - Ryan Stevenson 72), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando, James McLean (inj - Marc McCann 72); Gareth Sproule, Stephen Magennis.
Unused Substitutes :- Adam Campbell, Daryl Fordyce.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- Peggy Lokando (Ayr United).

There was no reason to be anything other than happy with that, job done with the minimum of fuss, though we were a bit lucky to get out of that one with a clean sheet. Our luck ran out with injuries again however, James McLean suffered a twisted knee, and will be out for around 3 or 4 weeks. If we don't make a Promotion Playoff position stick, that'll be the end of the wingers season.

Speaking of wingers, Peggy Lokando had a great afternoon, causing Arbroath all kinds of problems. He should have walked away with more than the one goal and the man of the match award that he did get. Alloa Athletic win at home to an East Stirlingshire side who have fallen out of contention, and now cannot claim a top four spot. Peterhead win as well at home to Cowdenbeath, while Stirling Albion lose 5-3 away to the Champions. Look at how tight it all looks now with just two matches remaining.

2010/11 Scottish League Second Division, Up To & Including Saturday 23rd April 2011

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | C     | Livingston         |       | 34    | 25    | 6     | 3     | 78    | 27    | +51   | 81    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 34    | 13    | 11    | 10    | 51    | 51    | 0     | 50    |
| 3rd   |       | Stirling           |       | 34    | 12    | 13    | 9     | 56    | 50    | +6    | 49    |
| 4th   |       | Ayr                |       | 34    | 14    | 6     | 14    | 44    | 42    | +2    | 48    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Alloa              |       | 34    | 12    | 11    | 11    | 34    | 39    | -5    | 47    |
| 6th   |       | Peterhead          |       | 34    | 12    | 9     | 13    | 45    | 47    | -2    | 45    |
| 7th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 34    | 10    | 11    | 13    | 38    | 45    | -7    | 41    |
| 8th   |       | Berwick            |       | 34    | 8     | 10    | 16    | 31    | 50    | -19   | 34    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 9th   |       | Arbroath           |       | 34    | 7     | 12    | 15    | 32    | 48    | -16   | 33    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  |       | East Fife          |       | 34    | 7     | 11    | 16    | 37    | 47    | -10   | 32    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday 24th April
Some managers feel the pressure late in the season. It looks like Graham McConnell may be one of them. Lurgan Celtic should have been promoted weeks ago, but a poor run of just one win in their last seven, including yesterday's home draw means they still need to win their final match of the season to get the job done. He has blamed a lot of people over the last few weeks, but today he pinned the blame on top scorer Jordan Baker. The striker didn't look too kindly on that, and bit back. I'll be keeping a close eye on that situation. If the opportunity arises to bring Baker to Somerset Park, I don't want to miss out!

Monday 25th April
Three of our players feature in the team of the week for last week, Aidan O'Kane, Aaron McElwee and Gareth Sproule all included.

Thursday 28th April
Out of favour right winger Ryan Borris has been diagnosed with arthritis. He's been sent to a specialist, and at the moment they think he'll be out for a month. I don't want to sound too unkind, and I hope it isn't too serious, as I'm hoping to sell him this summer.

Friday 29th April
The day starts with the news that 27 year old Bulgarian striker Krasimir Georgiev has retired from football. He never managed to find another club after being released from his poor spell at Lurgan Celtic.

Tomorrow we're away to Stirling Albion, and a look at the league table will tell you exactly how important the game is going to be. A win could see us confirm a Playoff place if other results go our way. Of course, if we lose and other results don't go our way, it could be an entirely different situation on Sunday morning. A draw wouldn't be too bad, as we have a home match on the final day next weekend. Albion are the favourites for tomorrow, we're going to need to be on our game.

Saturday 30th April
It's match day, not just for us, but also for our age group side, as they complete their schedule with a home match against Dumbarton Under-19's. A goal early in the second half from Stevie McStay sent our Under-19's on their way, and Patrick Fleming wrapped up the win later on. That would earn the youngsters a 4th place finish with 42 points from 26 matches.

Scottish League Second Division
Forthbank Stadium, Stirling
Stirling Albion (3rd) v Ayr United (4th)
Attendance :-
561. Weather :- Wet, 25c.

Changes would be needed for another vital match for our Playoff ambitions. There would be two of them in todays starting lineup, one of them forced. James McLean is missing from the left wing, and while I have options, they are not plentiful or ideal. Adam Campbell can play there, but is more adept as a defender. Aidan O'Kane could move forward, but that is an untried tactic. Marc McCann and Ryan Stevenson are the more natural options, both have proven themselves to be injury prone. I plump for the Club Captain, and Stevenson will play today, but not on the left, as I revert to the three man midfield that won us the match late at Alloa last month. Peggy Lokando moves in from the right wing, and he will play behind the strikers. Up front, Daryl Fordyce has reclaimed his spot from Stephen Magennis, who is back amongst the subs. There is also a spot on the bench for Jamie Campbell.

That change in tactic almost fell flat on it's face inside 90 seconds, Nathan Cartman moved across the edge of the box before slipping a pass to Kris Maxwell. The winger shot across goal and found the net via the inside of the post, but the flag went up, Cartman had held the ball just a second or so longer than Maxwell had held his run for. The midfield trio was doing the trick, keeping us in the game, and restricting Albions chances, Darren Young just missing with a shot from range, and Liam O'Loughlin getting snared in the offside trap. Ryan Wallace put one over the bar, and then his cross from the right missed all his team mates, Kenny Connolly thumping it up the park. We had created absolutely nothing, but we were frustrating the life out of Albion too as we got to the break goalless.

Connolly's clearance was one of his last contributions, as the midfielder had injured himself, and at half time he was replaced by Jamie Campbell as I opted to keep our shape. Our lack of attacking prowess changed early after the restart, Gareth Sproule twice taking control of the ball in space, the first time he was quickly crowded out, but the next time he threaded a pass to Ryan Stevenson, and the skipper did something we haven't seen him do for months, as he ran at defenders before putting in a through ball that was whipped away from Daryl Fordyce right at the last second. That spell out of our own half was brief, and a long ball over our defence left Justin Miller and Andrew Hageman scrambling to chase the quick Maxwell. Miller did well enough to force the winger wider than he would have liked, and Stephen Grindlay pushed away his driven shot without too much fuss. But the game had reverted back to what we had seen in the first half, and a dangerous O'Loughlin cross was only partially cleared by Hageman's diving header, Young failing to capitalise by firing over the top. With a little under 15 minutes to play, I made a change, bringing on the fresh legs of Stephen Magennis in place of Daryl Fordyce. Three minutes later, the sub had the ball in the net, reaching Peggy Lokando's diagonal through ball and tucking it into the far corner just like Maxwell had earlier. Unfortunately, just like Maxwell, he hadn't quite got his timing of the run right, and he was also offside, though it was close enough for Aaron McElwee to earn a booking for a prolonged complaint. Cartman sent another shot just over, despite being down to ten at the time as O'Loughlin received treatment, while O'Kane came off with a few minutes remaining, Adam Campbell replaced him. Then with just one minute left to play, our rearguards offside trap was punctured by a long ball over the top again, Wallace having as much space as he could have wished for. He surprised Grindlay by shooting early, the keeper left helpless, but rescued by the goal frame, the ball smacking back off the face of the bar and into the grateful arms of our keeper. We had survived, just!

Stirling Albion (0) 0
Ayr United (0) 0

Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane (Andrew Campbell 87); Kenny Connolly (inj - Jamie Campbell 45), Aaron McElwee, Ryan Stevenson (capt); Peggy Lokando; Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce (Stephen Magennis 76).
Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Marc McCann.
Bookings :- Aaron McElwee 79
Possession :- 48% - 52%. Man of the Match :- Ciaran Foy (Ayr United).

I'm not going to lie, we were absolutely clinging on at times there, and we also got a huge slice of luck in the closing moments. We didn't get much luck as far as injuries were concerned, but lets face it, we haven't had any of that for a while. Kenny Connolly has suffered a groin strain attempting a sprint late in the first half, and he is ruled out for three to four weeks, which pretty much rules him out for the rest of the season, even if we were to make it to the Playoffs and progress.

So, where does this leave us going into the last day? Well, it's not ideal, but it might not be the end of the world either. Peterhead have now joined East Stirlingshire in dropping out of contention for a Playoff berth, as they lose 2-1 away to Arbroath. A 2-0 win for Alloa Athletic away to Cowndenbeath means they have now joined their opponents on 50 points, leapfrogging us into the top four into the bargain as well. Also on fifty points are Stirling Albion after our draw with them today.

One point seperates the four clubs that are looking to squeeze into the three available Playoff spots. We are the club on the outside of the dotted line, but we have the second best goal difference of the four, and a more desirable final day fixture than our rivals. We are at home to bottom of the table Berwick Rangers, who simply have to get a win to stand any chance of avoiding the drop automatically thanks to their woeful goal difference. Perhaps the only side with a better fixture than us are Alloa Athletic, who are at home to a Peterhead side that now have nothing but pride to play for. Stirling Albion and Cowdenbeath are both away to the other sides still in the relegation mix, as they travel to Arbroath and East Fife repectively. Would you want to have to try and predict what will happen at the top or bottom next Saturday afternoon?

Edited by neilhoskins77

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2010/11 Scottish League Second Division Table, Up To & Including Saturday 30th April 2011

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | C     | Livingston         |       | 35    | 26    | 6     | 3     | 81    | 28    | +53   | 84    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   |       | Stirling           |       | 35    | 12    | 14    | 9     | 56    | 50    | +6    | 50    |
| 3rd   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 35    | 13    | 11    | 11    | 51    | 53    | -2    | 50    |
| 4th   |       | Alloa              |       | 35    | 13    | 11    | 11    | 36    | 39    | -3    | 50    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Ayr                |       | 35    | 14    | 7     | 14    | 44    | 42    | +2    | 49    |
| 6th   |       | Peterhead          |       | 35    | 12    | 9     | 14    | 46    | 49    | -3    | 45    |
| 7th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 35    | 10    | 11    | 14    | 38    | 47    | -9    | 41    |
| 8th   |       | Arbroath           |       | 35    | 8     | 12    | 15    | 34    | 49    | -15   | 36    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 9th   |       | East Fife          |       | 35    | 8     | 11    | 16    | 39    | 47    | -8    | 35    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  |       | Berwick            |       | 35    | 8     | 10    | 17    | 32    | 53    | -21   | 34    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sunday 1st May 2011
May has arrived, traditionally a busy time of the football season in the UK, as league and cup matters are settled, and the always exciting end of season Playoffs get underway as the last hurrah of the domestic games schedule. Depending on how next weekend goes, we might only have one match left of our campaign. If it goes well, that would be then be three to go, and should that also go well, it would then be five remaining, ideally before a bloody big party!

We're getting ahead of ourselves there though, so let's stick with facts. Nathan Cartman of Stirling Albion has been named Young Player of the Month for April in our league, an award that Peggy Lokando finished third in behind Luke Barrett of Arbroath. There is also a third place for myself in the Manager of the Month running, won deservedly by Harry Cairney of Livingston, who's superb side notched four wins and a draw from five games in April. The runner-up was Allan Maitland of Alloa Athletic.

While we are talking about Livingston, the Champions might be as busy as anyone, but not on the park. They are going to face some work to prevent the Title winning squad from splitting up, as the vultures try to pick at their playing staff. Very much in demand is Sheffield born midfielder Ryan France. He has had a superb second season with the club, but his contract is now less than two months from running out, and he is attracting attention from south of the border in the form of MK Dons and Southend United.

The Board at Somerset Park remain satisfied with the work done so far, and once more they have picked out Peggy Lokando as a signing that has been particularly pleasing to all at the club. Less pleasing though from their point of view, is the form of Ryan Stevenson. It's quite a statement from the Board to criticise their Club Captain, and let's face it, most valuable asset in the squad. To be fair, they are right though. For one reason or another, Stevenson has been average at best since I got here.

The club lost a little over £14,000 in April, but the Board are keen to do something about that. They have today announced that the final match of the season on Saturday against Berwick Rangers will be a 'fan day'. Any adult can bring a child to the match for half of the usual admission price, as the club attempt to promote the club to prospective new fans.

Friday 6th May
It's been a good week of work heading into another huge Saturday afternoon for us. They have all been huge for what seems like the last month, but if things don't go our way, then it's season over. We're 4/6 favourites to win tomorrow, but that in itself may not quite be enough, and we will need a favour or two this weekend. We might be playing the team who the league table suggests is the weakest in our division right now, but they are fighting to try and avoid the drop, so there will be no lack of fight from Berwick Rangers.

Saturday 7th May
It's matchday, and we will of course be keeping everyone updated with how we're getting on at Somerset Park against Berwick Rangers, where a bumper crowd has gathered thanks to the fan day promotion.

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United (5th) v Berwick Rangers (10th)
Attendance :-
1,259. Weather :- Gusty, Wet, 24c.

At least we won't have to worry about weather conditions we are not used to, as the rain is falling once again in the west of Scotland. I have abandoned the three man midfield that we deployed last weekend to get the job done in Stirling, as we go back to the tried and trusted 4-2-2-2 wide formation as we seek to keep up our end of the bargain at the very least against a Berwick Rangers side desperate to win to try and avoid relegation. The injury to Kenny Connolly means that there is a role to play today for Jamie Campbell, who is still waiting on a decision to see if he will be offered an extended contract. Club Captain for us, Ryan Stevenson, remains in the lineup again this week, where he is asked to play on the left wing, where we are light following the injury to James McLean. On the bench, Andy Liddell is brought into the matchday squad, just in case we need to throw another striker into the mix late on if things are not going our way.

Enjoy the minute by minute coverage from around the grounds, including extended info from Somerset Park, as Scotland's third tier comes to it's conclusion.....

3pm :- Whistles blow across the country as the final day of the football season is underway. There are five matches in the Second Division today at Alloa, Arbroath, Ayr, East Fife and Livingston.

3:11pm :- Manager Neil Hoskins is determined that neither the weather, or anything else, will spoil today after the hard work they have put in to climb the table this year. Someone might need to remind his players though, as Aaron McElwee gives away the ball in midfield, and a counter down the right from Fraser McLaren sees him find Ian Daly. He strikes from the edge of the box, but his effort is blocked. The ball bounces back to McLaren, who tries to find the net in speculative fashion, but only endangered a couple of seagulls and an ice cream van.

3:13pm :- **GOAL** - It's the first goal of the afternoon, and it's come at a considerably drier Recreation Ground, where Alloa Athletic have got exactly the start they wanted, midfielder Anthony Barry sending a low free kick through a poorly assembled wall, and inside the near post. It's advantage Alloa in the race to secure a Playoff spot, but it makes no difference to Peterhead whatsoever.

3:16pm :- **GOAL** - Straight back to the Rec, where Alloa have doubled their lead courtesy of another set piece. Joe Cardle's free kick from the right wing found it's way to the back post, Elliott Buchanan headed it back towards the goalmouth, Ian Curran brought it down with his back to goal, and squared it to Brian Graham. He steered his shot past Stephen Hall, but it came right back into the middle off the upright, and quickest to react was Anthony Barry, who lifted it over the prone keeper, high into the net, and Alloa are looking really good against a slightly disinterested looking Peterhead side.

3:19pm :- **GOAL** - After a slow start to the afternoon, it's all happening now, though this one will fall on the less important end of the scale, as it's the Champions who have moved the scoreboard at Almondvale Stadium. In front of a crowd of well over 4,000, Brian Saah's cross field ball picked out Andy Haworth on the right, and he passed it back inside to Ryan France. The crowd favourite and one of the front runners for Player of the Year in this league, sent his shot inside the near post past Tom Woodhead, and the miserable end to East Stirlingshire's season looks to be continuing......

3:19pm :- .....and while that was going on, back at Somerset Park, it's Ayr United who are starting to turn the screw against bottom of the table Berwick. Midfielder Aaron McElwee spins away from a tackle and sends the ball right to flying winger Peggy Lokando. He was looking for a route to get a cross over, but settled for picking out Gareth Sproule, who used his first touch to push the ball away from a defender, and his second to crack off a shot that beat Lloyd Saxton's dive, but also just climbed over the top of the goal frame as well.

3:26pm :- **GOAL** - We are headed back to Somerset Park, where it's disaster for Playoff chasing Ayr, but you better believe they are not happy about it! A Fraser McLaren cross was cleared out of the box, but only as far as Neal Bishop. He sent a low through ball back into the box, where Ian Daly knew he was offside, and stood where he was with his arms in the air to signal that he wasn't involving himself in play, but did manage to block at least two defenders with his action, or lack off. That led to Ryan Campbell reaching the ball first, quite possibly from an offside position of his own. But the flag stayed down, and Campbell blasted the ball low beyond Stephen Grindlay to give Berwick a precious goal that right now, has them off the bottom and staying up for now at least! The Ayr players surrounded both referee and his assistant, but the goal stands!

3:28pm :- So as it stands with nearly half an hour on the clock, Ayr are behind, which means that Stirling Albion, Cowdenbeath and Alloa Athletic are all going into the Playoffs regardless of how they finish, though Alloa are two goals to the good already. At the other end, Berwick are off the bottom and East Fife are going down, while Arbroath are still level, enough to keep them out of the Playoff on goal difference only.......

3:29pm :- **GOAL** - This one is a big goal at both ends of the table! At Gayfield Park, there is breathing room for Arbroath, as they take the lead against Stirling Albion. A pass into the box from Darren Green picked out striker Steven Weir. He let his shot go, though it didn't look too threatening, that was until it struck Rossi Jarvis, sending the ball into the opposite corner of the net, keeper Scott Christie unable to move his feet and shift his weight quick enough to get back across his goalmouth. If it stays like this, Arbroath will be safe no matter what East Fife or Berwick Rangers do, while at the other end, Stirling are at risk of missing the Playoffs if Ayr can turn their game around, though a draw won't be enough for them, as Albion has the better goal difference.......

3:30pm :- .....and at Somerset Park, there is certainly a sense that Ayr have upped the tempo as they lay siege upon the Berwick Rangers goalmouth. They tried to go through the middle firstly, Aaron McElwee clipped the ball through to Daryl Fordyce, who really got his boot behind a drive at goal, which Lloyd Saxton did superbly to keep out. Then within seconds, they tried down the right wing, Peggy Lokando curling in a deep cross that Ryan Stevenson met at the far post, attempting to send it back across goal, but it would have crept inside the far post had it not been hooked clear by Adam Quinn!

3:32pm :- **GOAL** - It had started off as a quiet afternoon in the Second Division, not anymore though! It's raining goals now, particularly at the Recreation Ground for Alloa Athletic. That pair of Anthony Barry goals were a show of brute force, but this was a real finesse goal as Athletic got the ball down, passed it through the Peterhead side, and Elliott Buchanan passed to Gordon Norrie, who let the ball run across his body, allowed himself a touch to settle the ball and move it from a defender, before striking low and true, finding the net to make it 3-0. Surely now, Alloa have sealed their place in the end of the season Playoffs.

3:34pm :- **GOAL** - It's becoming a goal-fest, and we are headed to Almondvale Stadium this time. The Champions are enjoying themselves, and have gone about as route one as you can go for a second goal against East Stirlingshire. Keeper and Captain of the side, Roddy McKenzie has launched a huge goal kick down the park, and as it dropped from the sky around 25 yards out from the opposite goal, David Winters caught it with a sensational volley that flew over Tom Woodhead and just under the cross bar. 2-0 to Livingston......

3:34pm :- **GOAL** - .......and while that was happening, this was going on at New Bayview, where we visit for the first time this afternoon. This goal from the home side East Fife may not be enough to see them escape a Relegation Playoff, but it might yet see Cowdenbeath miss out on the Promotion Playoffs, despite looking dead certs to be involved as little as a few weeks ago. Michael Howard sent the ball down the left touchline, and Darren Smith kept the ball in play and set off down the wing. He slung a cross over from near the byline, and Chris Templeman threw himself at it, getting there ahead of Pat Scullion and finding the net to potentially add another level of drama to the race at the top.

3:36pm :- **GOAL** - It is all going off at the top end of the table, and we are hot footing it back to Somerset Park, where it's all changed around again with an equaliser for Ayr United. This one started with an important tackle by Jamie Campbell as he took the ball away from Marlon Pack, before sending it into the left channel of the box for Ryan Stevenson. The skipper went for goal himself, Lloyd Saxton getting down low to keep it out, but when a defender slipped at the vital moment, Daryl Fordyce was on hand to slam the ball in from 8 yards out to square this match up. With Cowdenbeath now behind, as it stands, Ayr would take a Playoff spot, while Berwick would be condemned to relegation!

3:40pm :- Ayr are not satisfied with just the leveller at Somerset Park, and they are trying to get their noses in front. A cross from Ciaran Foy was chested down by Gareth Sproule, but Anton Blackwood fearlessly threw himself in to block the fiercly struck shot. He caught Sproule on the follow through too, sending the Northern Irish striker to the grass. There were some appeals for a penalty, but they were mostly from the terraces.

3:43pm :- Don't count Berwick Rangers out of this one just yet. They are fighting for their lives, hoping something will go their way elsewhere too. After Daryl Fordyce's chested down pass to Ciaran Foy was picked off, Neal Bishop picked up possession and let fly, his effort curling and swerving, before striking the top of the cross bar on it's way over. Still one apiece here.

3:46pm :- As the half time whistles sound across the country, the ball is in the net at Somerset Park. A shot on the turn by Fordyce was well saved by Saxton, but Sproule was on hand to net the loose ball. The flag is up however, Sproule deemed offside by the linesman, and a bumper crowd will have to be satisfied with parity as they enjoy a half time refreshment after a very entertaining first half.

3:50pm :- Half time across all the games in the Scottish Second Division now, and it's been a frantic first half of action on the final day of the season. Alloa Athletic have had a superb opening 45 minutes, and they lead 3-0 against Peterhead, which surely will see whem secure a Promotion Playoff spot around an hour from now. Ayr United have come from behind to square their game with Berwick Rangers, which right now is enough for them to continue their season, and that's because Cowdenbeath are behind against East Fife, while Stirling Albion are also in danger, but clinging on for a top four spot at the moment despite trailing at Arbroath. Of less significance, but no less entertaining, Livingston are two to the good at home to East Stirlingshire, thanks in part to a stunning volley from David Winters. The Champions are very much enjoying their crowning day at Almondvale in front of the division's largest crowd of the season.

3:52pm :- Okay, so you are all up to date, for a few minutes at least until it all begins again shortly. Here's the news headlines, and we'll be back shortly to take you through the second half action around the grounds in the Scottish Second Division.

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Saturday 7th May 2011 (cont)
Good afternoon, and welcome back to our coverage of the final day of the domestic football season, and here, we're concentrating on the drama unfolding in the Second Division. If you weren't with us for the first half action, where were you? Of course, you could just scroll up, but if you're feeling particularly lazy today, allow us to recap. Two of the sides fighting for Promotion Playoff places are behind by a goal at the break, Stirling Albion trail at Arbroath, while East Fife are ahead at home to Cowdenbeath. With Alloa well in front, and Ayr level at home to Berwick, as it stands, Cowdenbeath will be the ones to miss out. It's not going right for Berwick Rangers, who surrendered a lead at Ayr, but with both of their rivals in front, they would go down anyway. There are still 45 minutes to play of course, and it could very easily all change yet. We have reporters at each of the grounds, and we will of course keep you up to date with all the goings on......

4:00pm :- We're underway again across the grounds, and some teams have work to do, others like the Champions, can sit back and relax if they wish.

4:06pm :- We've had the first booking of the match at Somerset Park, and it's home midfielder Jamie Campbell who has been cautioned after a foul on the edge of his own penalty area. Mark Rooney took the free kick, but he missed the target with it. The home side won't want to give the Borders side too many looks at goal with their season hanging by a thread.

4:10pm :- **GOAL** - Did I say hanging by a thread? Well it looks a lot rosier for the home faithful at Somerset Park right now, as they're ahead for the first time this afternoon. Jamie Campbell didn't let that yellow card impact him, winning the ball with a crunching tackle on halfway, before sending it to Ryan Stevenson. The skipper picked out Daryl Fordyce on the edge of the box, but with no opportunity to try and net his second, he squared it for Peggy Lokando, who continued his impressive form by picking out the top corner! Ayr were already doing enough to take a Playoff spot with other scores going in their favour, but now they look in a really strong position.

4:15pm :- It's Somerset Park once again, and Ayr continue to push forward to try and secure the points, Stevenson not able to get a cross in from the left, so he rolled it back into the path of Aidan O'Kane. The left back picked out Aaron McElwee on the corner of the box, and he whistled a shot just wide of the near post.

4:16pm :- **GOAL** - Now Cowdenbeath are really in trouble of letting their season slip away. Darren Smith has produced another superb cross from the left, and nobody picked up Chris Galer at the far post, and he found the net with a downward header. The visitors have around half hour to try and salvage this, but it's not looking good, while East Fife are now looking at avoiding the automatic relegation spot at least.

4:20pm :- **GOAL** - Can you believe this! Just as it was all looking good for Ayr United at Somerset Park, they have been caught cold, and it's all square again. A quick throw created panic, Mark Rooney bringing it down, and as the flustered defence converged on him, he squared the ball to Neal Bishop, who picked out the far corner with a well struck shot. It's only Cowdenbeath being behind that's preventing Ayr from having to go all out.

4:23pm :- So close to Ayr going right back in front, an Aidan O'Kane corner found dangerman Andrew Hageman, but the centre back just couldn't keep his header down. It's still 2-2 here.

4:26pm :- Still at Somerset Park, and Ayr are continuing to push forward. Ciaran Foy plays a one-two with Aaron McElwee before bursting down the right wing and sliding the ball just inside the box for Peggy Lokando, who fires across goal, just missing the top corner.....

4:26pm :- **GOAL** - .....there was no such problem at the Recreation Ground however, where Alloa Athletic have their fourth. Kris McQuilken worked really hard down the right to earn the room for a cross, and it was a good one. Nearly as good as the finish, which was supplied by Brian Graham, who jumped near the penalty spot, and sent the header back across goal where Stephen Hall had moved from, and it found the net via the inside of the post. It was already a done deal for Alloa, this was nothing more than exclamation point.

4:30pm :- There isn't exactly a sense of urgency at Somerset Park. While Berwick Rangers appear resigned to their fate, Ayr seem to have made the decision to stick, aware of the situation elsewhere, but also with the knowledge that if they were to lose, the results elsewhere would be meaningless. With Jamie Campbell on a yellow, Adam Campbell comes on to replace him, and he'll move out to the left wing, with Ryan Stevenson going into midfield.

4:44pm :- Hearts were in mouths for a few seconds at Somerset Park, as Conor Rafferty managed to get the ball to Marlon Pack, who briefly caught Stephen Grindlay off his line. The ball dropped just over the bar and onto the roof of the net. Breathe folks....

4:45pm :- **GOAL** - In the grand scheme of things, this was probably the most unimportant goal of the season, but also the most fitting. The all conquering Livingston would notch the final goal of the Second Division season, a handball in the box seeing the ref point to the spot, and Jason Burke dispatched the ball into the bottom corner. 3-0 Livingston.

4:49pm :- That's your lot folks, the final whistles have all sounded, and after a few anxious seconds, fates are revealed. The travelling Cowdenbeath fans and then slowly the players, learn that their season is over, while their hosts East Fife are relieved to at least have the chance to stay up via the Relegation Playoff. There is relief all around at Arbroath, as the hosts discover they are safe, while Stirling Albion will go to the Promotion Playoffs despite their last day defeat. At Ayr, there is jubilation from the home fans, as their sides hard work since Christmas has seen them earn a Playoff spot, while for Berwick Rangers and their supporters, it's the heartbreak of relegation. Alloa Athletic and their fans will also continue their season as they still hope for promotion, while for Livingston, it's time to celebrate, as they receive the Second Division Championship trophy in front that huge crowd at Almondvale Stadium.

Ayr United (1) 2 - Daryl Fordyce (36), Peggy Lokando (55)
Berwick Rangers (1) 2 - Ryan Campbell (26), Neal Bishop (65)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Jamie Campbell (Adam Campbell 75), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando, Ryan Stevenson (capt); Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce.

Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Marc McCann, Andy Liddell, Stephen Magennis.
Booked :- Jamie Campbell 51
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Neal Bishop (Berwick Rangers).

The second half turned out to be much less stressful than the first half had been, and the news that Cowdenbeath were a couple of goals down left us safe in the knowledge that a draw was going to be enough to get us into the Promotion Playoffs. A little over a month ago, Cowdenbeath were six points in front of us and looked pretty good for a chance to get promotion. There will surely be an inquest into what happened to the 'Blue Brazil'. I have to say, that we were a little fortunate today as well. It looked a little bit like Berwick gave up the chase a bit when they realised things were going against them elsewhere, though that first goal looked dubious to say the least.

The Board were delighted with how 'Fan Day' had gone, despite the weather not helping things in the slightest. A season high attendance of 1,259 was a good way to finish the scheduled season, and they are optimistic that the excitement of the match might well produce a long term boost to attendance figures. They have another reason to be in a good mood in the Boardroom as well, as a 4th place finish secures the club prize money of £60,000.

It had been an exciting Saturday, but it wasn't quite done with us yet. I had assumed that as the fourth place side in the final league table, we would have to play the side placed 9th in the First Division. That would be, well, logical. So obviously that wasn't what would happen, this is the SFA after all. No, a draw would take place to determine who would face each other in the Semi-Finals.

That draw would take place at 6pm, and we would be paired with Alloa Athletic, while it was Stirling Albion who would face Partick Thistle. As we came out of the velvet bag second, we would be away in the First Leg on Wednesday evening, and then home in the Second Leg next Saturday.

On a negative, I wouldn't have minded playing Partick Thistle, who might be a more reputable club and would have certainly been favourites, but they have won just ten matches all season, losing twenty. Confidence can't be too high at Firhill. On the positive side, the club have split their four games with Alloa Athletic this season, a win apiece and two draws, though we did win the one game against them since I arrived at the club. How much of a gauge that will be is anyone's guess. The end of season Playoffs are usually full of excitement and drama.

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2010/11 Scottish League Second Division Final Table

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   | C     | Livingston         |       | 36    | 27    | 6     | 3     | 84    | 28    | +56   | 87    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 2nd   | Pl    | Alloa              |       | 36    | 14    | 11    | 11    | 40    | 39    | +1    | 53    |
| 3rd   | Pl    | Stirling           |       | 36    | 12    | 14    | 10    | 56    | 51    | +5    | 50    |
| 4th   | Pl    | Ayr                |       | 36    | 14    | 8     | 14    | 46    | 44    | +2    | 50    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 5th   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 36    | 13    | 11    | 12    | 51    | 55    | -4    | 50    |
| 6th   |       | Peterhead          |       | 36    | 12    | 9     | 15    | 46    | 53    | -7    | 45    |
| 7th   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 36    | 10    | 11    | 15    | 38    | 50    | -12   | 41    |
| 8th   |       | Arbroath           |       | 36    | 9     | 12    | 15    | 35    | 49    | -14   | 39    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 9th   | Pl    | East Fife          |       | 36    | 9     | 11    | 16    | 41    | 47    | -6    | 38    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| 10th  | R     | Berwick            |       | 36    | 8     | 11    | 17    | 34    | 55    | -21   | 35    |
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Monday 9th May 2011
Our season is still alive, just about. It's a short turnaround before Wednesday evening's trip to Alloa Athletic for the First Leg. It's not ideal for us, as it doesn't give us enough time to get any of injured players back into the squad with any kind of fitness. That will give us a dilemma as to how we approach the First Leg. Do we stick to the 4-2-2-2 that has served us well so far, or do we switch to the 4-3-1-2 that got the job done at Alloa in mid-March?

Ciaran Foy has been named in the team of the week, the only Ayr player selected in a side made up primarily of Livingston, Alloa and East Fife players.

Tuesday 10th May
Alloa have been made favourites for tomorrow evening's First Leg, which is no surprise at all, they are the form side going into this one, though they are missing a few players themselves. Japanese International left back Eugene Killoran is out with injury, as is striker Kevin Ramsey. Midfielder Stephen Maguire will also miss out, as he has been laid low by the flu, while impressive teenage right back Kris McQuilken is away on International duty with Scotland Under-19's.

Wednesday 11th May

Scottish League Second Division Promotion Playoffs, Semi-Final, First Leg
Recreation Park, Alloa
Alloa Athletic v Ayr United
Attendance :-
919. Weather :- Dry, 20c.

Spring has very much sprung in Scotland, and it's a beautiful evening for what should be a close game between two sides looking to progress into the Final and play for a place in next season's second tier. After much thought, I have elected to go with a 4-3-1-2 formation, which will leave us quite narrow, but will allow Peggy Lokando a free role behind the front two. The key will be our midfield three of Aaron McElwee, Jamie Campbell and skipper Ryan Stevenson. Ironically, it's the Captain that I'm most concerned about, he really needs to put in a shift tonight to make this work. Flitting in and out of the game as he see's fit isn't going to get the job done.

From the outset it was clear that Alloa were looking to get this done nice and early, as they came out looking for goals. Brian Graham's low cross attempt in the first minute was deflected into the path of Joe Cardle, and he fed it into the box for Matt Grainger on the right. Stephen Grindlay stood up tall and made a superb save from close range, though Grainger was offside, Grindlay wasn't to know that though. Anthony Barry curled a 3rd minute free kick around the wall, but just wide of the target. But in the 8th minute, Grainger received the ball back from a throw in, and lifted a cross into the centre, Graham jumping between Justin Miller and Ciaran Foy, heading back across goal and into the top corner to put Alloa in front. The home side sensed that we were there to be killed off early, and they cut us open once more in the 16th minute, this time it was Barry feeding a low diagonal pass into the box, and exciting young midfielder Tom Taiwo had ghosted into the box unmarked, and by the time the defence realised he was there, he had fired his low shot past Grindlay and doubled Alloa's lead. All our hard work was being torn apart, and the tie had barely gotten started yet. Thankfully we started to settle down, get the ball on the deck, and start passing it around, and in the 25th minute Jamie Campbell sent a ball forward that Gareth Sproule got to before his marker, his first touch giving him enough time to tee up a powerfully struck shot that Raymond Jellema had to settle for palming away.

A half time worth of being shouted out seemed like it might be counter productive, so I settled for encouragement instead as I attempted to coax an improved second half out of my side. That fell by the wayside just three minutes after the restart, Andrew Hageman's headed clearance didn't get the distance it required, Taiwo's square pass found Greig Spence, and he was allowed to move unchallenged to the edge of the box before placing a sidefooted shot between the post and Grindlay's dive. It felt like groundhog day from the first half! I made an immediate change, moving us back into our usual 4-2-2-2 formation to try and get a bit of joy down the flanks, Jamie Campbell replaced by Marc McCann who would play on the left, with Peggy Lokando going to the right wing. That seemed to make the players a bit happier, but we were still giving the ball away, Hageman trying a ridiculously difficult cross field pass that he frankly isn't talented enough for, and Graham intercepted it, but sent his shot wide of the target. That said, we were more competitive, and in the 63rd minute we gave our hosts food for thought, as Lokando went on a superb run down the right, and from the corner of the box he fed the ball into the danger zone. Sproule moved the ball to his favoured left foot, and then stretched in front of a defender to hook the ball enough to beat Jellema and find the bottom corner, giving us a route back into the tie, and something to cheer for our beleagured travelling supporters. That forced Athletic to be more wary at least, but it didn't stop them wondering if there was another goal or two in this one for them, and there might have been in the 71st minute if Foy hadn't been alert to Cardle's deep cross from the right and knocked it away from Greig, who's eyes were lit up at the prospect of a second. With fifteen minutes left, and subs about to make their entrance, Daryl Fordyce and Ryan Stevenson manufactured some space for Marc McCann. The winger gleefully took the chance to stretch his legs, but with two defenders marshalling him, a cross was always going to be tricky. But a delightful piece of skill allowed him to get the ball back to Stevenson, and skipper made up his mind to go for goal, dragging his shot disappointingly wide. Miller and Fordyce had both had poor afternoons, Gavin Cadwallader and the experienced Andy Liddell came on in their places. We really could use another goal, but that last venture forward had convinced Alloa that it was time to shut up shop, and now anytime we got within 30 yards of goal, we were swarmed by players in 'Wasps' colours. We were going to have our work cut out for us on Saturday afternoon.

Alloa Athletic (2) 3 - Brian Graham (8), Tom Taiwo (17), Greig Spence (48)
Ayr United (0) 1 - Gareth Sproule (63)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller (Gavin Cadwallader 76), Aidan O'Kane; Jamie Campbell (Marc McCann 49), Aaron McElwee, Ryan Stevenson (capt); Peggy Lokando; Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce (Andy Liddell 76).

Unused Substitutes :- Adam Campbell, Stephen Magennis.
Bookings :- None.
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Tom Taiwo (Alloa Athletic).

I decided that the dressing room at the Recreation Ground was absolutely the right place to hold the inquest into that one. I started it by holding my hands up, maybe I had made the wrong call by opting to take us out of our usual tactic. But I certainly wasn't going to let the players off the hook for a gutless hour of football when we needed a performance more than ever. I told them that no matter what happened on the weekend in the Second Leg, they weren't just playing for promotion now, they were playing for their very futures at Somerset Park. Yeah, not a particularly happy boss today.

We could have done with taking a leaf out of Stirling Albion's book, as they did exactly what I had hoped we would manage tonight, securing a goalless draw against Partick Thistle in their First Leg, leaving them in a good position going into Saturday's match at Firhill.

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Thursday 12th May 2011
The media are aware that the team were locked in the dressing room after the match for over an hour. It appears the source of the story was Ciaran Foy, not that I'm particularly worried about the media getting hold of that. They can do their apologising on Saturday afternoon on the park in front of a home crowd who'll be expecting much better than what they saw last night.

I wasn't bluffing when I said they would be playing for their futures though, if we go up we'll certainly need to improve, and I've seen enough in the last four or five months to now know that even if we don't go up, this squad needs to be a lot better. And I'm starting right now. I started with a move for a former Northern Irish Under-21 International who has spent a considerable amount of time playing in Scotland and was born north of the border, but is currently earning his money in Australia. We'll need to do a bit more work, as for the moment, he has knocked back our offer and elected to sign a one year deal with Sunshine Coast FC after being on a month to month contract with them for a while. I think we'll be back though, there is interest from the player, and he can cover centre back, right back and centre midfield. That would bring some much needed versatility to our squad.

Things were looking much more encouraging for my second target however. A 20 year old striker who looks good enough to take us to the next level, but that has yet to be seriously tested. The Ivory Coast Under-21 International had a couple of years as a youngster at Rangers, but after two years they let him move on to our closest rivals, Kilmarnock. He has played just twice for them in three seasons now, and they have decided to cut him loose. I swoop in, and he accepts our offer within hours. There is a bit of a 'but' though. He doesn't hold an EU passport, and is 212 days short of qualifying for UK citizenship. So we will need a work permit for him, which I'm told could go either way. It will be next Tuesday when we hear the verdict.

Friday 13th May
The unluckiest date in the calendar, though I think we've had our share for the week. The press conference features the usual predictable questions about whether we can turn things around tomorrow afternoon and keep our season alive. I give the press a rare piece of information, telling them that if the prospect of laying to rest the memory of Wednesday's poor performance wasn't enough, then the thought of it possibly being their last game for the club might be enough to gee the players up for a rousing performance. The bookies have set their stall out to entice the punters, they think we might win tomorrow, but they still have Alloa as favourites to progress into the Final.

Saturday 14th May
An omen for a good day maybe? We start the day off with some great news, as our first summer signing has been secured. 21 year old centre back Laurence Gaughan will be an Ayr United player next season. Sheffield born to Irish parents, he has two Under-21 caps for the Republic, and spent a year as a youngster on the books of Liverpool, before moving on to Celtic. After three seasons of development at Celtic Park, he moved across the Irish Sea to Drogheda United, where he made a dozen appearances in the 2010 season. I think the 6'2 right footer is a very good first recruitment success, and if we keep up this standard, then performances like the other night's will be a thing of the past.

Scottish League Second Division Promotion Playoffs, Semi-Final, Second Leg
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United v Alloa Athleic (1-3 on aggregate)
Attendance :-
1,686. Weather :- Dry, 22c.

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon on the west coast, and a season high attendance has arrived at Somerset Park, more in hope than expectation, as we look to overturn a two goal deficit from the First Leg in Alloa on Wednesday night. I wanted to make changes, oh I really did, but none of the injured players were available, James McLean the closest, but that would have been a big risk for the winger. So I settled for us reverting to our 4-2-2-2 wide formation that we had used almost exclusivley since I arrived, with one personnel change, Jamie Campbell dropped to the bench, replaced by Marc McCann, who would start on the left wing.

It was so nearly the perfect start for us. In the third minute, Aidan O'Kane, who maybe hasn't quite replicated his Lurgan Celtic form in the Ayr jersey, whipped a free kick from the right corner of the box around the wall, and then clutched his head in frustration as he watched it crash back off the cross bar. Alloa would have been forgiven for sitting back and defending that two goal advantage, but they didn't look too much like they intended doing that, and Brian Graham's deep cross from the left in the 15th minute was only just over the head of Gordon Norrie. And our guests would cause some more problems ten minutes later, Elliott Buchanan the danger man this time as he cut inside from the left wing, and kept cutting across the park until he reached the right corner of the box, from which he took a pot shot at goal that stung the hands of Stephen Grindlay. At the other end in the 34th minute, we came close again, Aaron McElwee dancing away from a tackle, and slid a pass to Peggy Lokando. The winger cut inside from the right, and on his weaker left foot unleashed a driven shot that Raymond Jellema got fingertips too, but still wasn't sure until it crept just wide of the near post. That would prove to be the catalyst for a late half period of sustained pressure, during which Lokando combined with Ciaran Foy down the right to get the ball in the box for Gareth Sproule, but the striker just couldn't quite get the ball out of his feet, and he was quickly closed down. As half time rapidly approached, we attempted to exploit that right flank again, Foy dropping the ball down the line and over the defense, and Lokando was away at pace. This time he cut into the box himself, and despite having options to square the ball, he was going alone, only a last ditch block tackle preventing him from testing the keeper. If we had got a goal in that first half, we might well have been the favourites, but despite the urgency levels looking good, we were still goalless at the break, and would have it all to do in the second half.

I told the players that they had them worried, but we needed that all important opening goal, and we needed it as soon as possible. We couldn't afford to waste any more chances. If we didn't get that goal, I knew I would have to pull the pin, it would just be a case of trying to time that right. But the second half was frustrating, as the first nearly half hour after the restart would produce just one meaningful shot from either side, and that would be Buchanan for the visitors firing just over the top from the edge of the box when he was off balance. It got to the 72nd minute, and with our season slipping away, I made the call. Justin Miller came off, with Stephen Magennis coming on in his place. We would have three at the back, though neither Foy or O'Kane were centre backs at all, they were just there to help Andrew Hageman out, and still supply crosses when the chance to get forward arose. Magennis would sit behind the strikers for the time being, though he was absolutely encouraged to make it a front three if we started to pressurise for spells. Five minutes later Lokando swung in a cross from the right that went right through the box. Marc McCann retrieved it and sent it quickly back into the box, Sproule took it on his chest, trying to put it into the path of Daryl Fordyce, a defender got his foot to the ball, but Sproule prodded it goalwards, and found the bottom corner! Just under 15 minutes to go, and another would put us in the Final on away goals, but Alloa were now going very defensive, and breaking them down again was proving difficult. With just under five minutes to go, I made another change as we went for broke. Ryan Stevenson came off for Andy Liddell, and he would go up front with Fordyce and Sproule, and Hageman would be the only man in our defence, as O'Kane and Foy were both pushed into the wings, playing just behind McCann and Lokando as we loaded up. We were nearly caught almost right away, Joe Cardle stealing the ball and playing in Greig Spence, who blasted wide of the target. It was a let off, one that we wouldn't be able to capitalise on. We just never managed to create that one single opportunity, and the dream is over, for now at least.

Ayr United (0) 1 - Gareth Sproule (77)
Alloa Athletic (0) 0
(Alloa Athletic win 3-2 on aggregate)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Justin Miller (Stephen Magennis 72), Andrew Hageman, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan Stevenson (capt - Andy Liddell 76), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando, Marc McCann; Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce.
Unused Substitutes :- Gavin Cadwallader, Adam Campbell, Jamie Campbell.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 51% - 49%. Man of the Match :- Mark Ferguson (Alloa Athletic).

I can't complain, really, I can't. We just weren't good enough, and we didn't have a squad capable enough of getting the job done. We would have the summer to regroup, improve and have another go. And I certainly planned on making sure we improved, though I would say that even though I'm not being judged on this season, I have actually achieved the goal set out by the Board for the season before I arrived.

It wouldn't be an easy task to get the job done next season of course. While Livingston would be out of our way, we had Airdrie United coming back down, and they would now be joined by Partick Thistle, who lost their Second Leg today against Stirling Albion and will now be looking to make an immediate bounce back up to the First Division.

That evening as we all sat down to have a meal together before the holiday began, my physio told me that if the game had been another 48 hours away, we might have been able to get James McLean out there for half hour. Obviously we'll never know now if it would have made any difference.

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Sunday 15th May 2011
Everyone else might be preparing to go on holiday, but not me. There's too much to be done here this summer. Let's start with right winger Ryan Borris, who has done little but whinge since I got here and decided he wasn't good enough to play for us. He is also now fit to train after his problem with arthritis. So I slap him straight on the Transfer List and offer him out to the clubs who claim to be interested in signing him.

Tuesday 17th May
The work permit hearing for Lacine Cherif is today, and it's not good news, as the striker has been denied the necessary paperwork to sign his contract and join us for next season. That's frustrating to say the least. I'm told there is nothing to lose by appealing, our last chance to get him in through the door. That will be heard this weekend.

Wednesday 18th May
One of our last training sessions before holiday's begin, and Daryl Fordyce has landed heavily on his ankle after jumping for a header, and he's going to be spending most of his holiday nursing a twisted ankle.

Northern Irish side Cliftonville are struggling to come to an agreement with their 30 year old once capped Under-21 International, and I swoop in to make him an offer. I've made it be known that I want some versatility to this squad next season, and this guy can play anywhere down the right, as well as behind the strikers or as a striker. He can find the net too, averaging a goal every three games through his league career.

Thursday 19th May
The clear out has begun, and it's started with a bang. Ryan Borris has three offers on the table after we accepted Free Transfer offers from York City, Kelty Hearts and Pollok. It's highly likely that we'll have his near £100 a week salary off our wage bill pretty soon.

I have also released nine players today as well which has freed up another £700-800 a week from our wage bill. Those released include Andy Liddell, Chris Hamilton, Daniel Powell and William Dyer. I brought Liddell in myself in January on a short term deal, while the other three were all regulars before I arrived, dropping out of the First Team picture for the most part in the seond half of the season. Also leaving the club are Sam Filler, Fraser Stewart, Craig McCready, Craig McTear and Paul Leighfield. Expect more departures as I clear the decks. Aaron Murihead has also been Transfer Listed today, something he is not particularly happy about.

Friday 20th May
With a fair bit of wage room created, I'm now looking at where we can improve, and I start with a midfielder who I wanted to bring in during the January Transfer Window. He would be an absolutely superb addition for us, but his club are flatly refusing to let arguably their best player leave on a Free Transfer, which I suppose is fair enough.

I'm also back in for the Northern Irishman who has extensive experience of the Scottish game, but has been living and playing in Australia. They have accepted our Free Transfer offer, and we are now discussing a contract with the player.

Saturday 21st May
£17,500 has been paid out by the Board to share between the First Team squad as their pro-rata cut of the prize money for finishing 4th in the Second Division. One member of that squad, Kenny Connolly, is ready to return to training following his groin injury.

Sunday 22nd May
It might be Sunday, but that doesn't mean I'm not busy. Let's start with Aaron Muirhead, who has offers from sixteen clubs to move to them on a Free Transfer. Ten of the clubs are in Northern Ireland, one in Wales, and five in Scotland. As none of the clubs are in our Division, I accept all the offers, and the ball is now in the players court.

The player from Cliftonville has signed his contract, and stating that he was looking forward to moving up a level. Shea Campbell is aggressive and brave, and scored fifteen goals in all competitions this season despite not often getting to play up front. I'm looking forward to having him as part of our squad at Somerset Park.

In less satisfying news, the Lacine Cherif deal is off, as his appeal against his failed work permit hearing has been declined. That's a blow, as I'm convinced the Ivory Coast Under-21 International would have done a great job for us.

I end the day by releasing three more players who were involved in the First Team squad, but that I have deceided didn't do enough to earn new deals to stay at United with us. Stephen Magennis, Jamie Campbell and Gavin Cadwallader leave the club with immediate effect.

Monday 23rd May
Another signed contract has been returned to us overnight from Australia, as 26 year old Northern Irishman and former Under-21 International utility player Bryan Gilfillan agrees to join us. It's another good signature for us, and Gilfillan can cover anywhere across the back four or midfield.

It's not all good news today, our attempt to bring in Ats Purje, an Estonian International winger, has come off the rails. We haven't been able to put together a financial package attractive enough to tempt the 25 year old to make the move to Scotland.

Tuesday 24th May
Another player I haven't been able to get in through the door is the central midfielder from the Division below us. He has agreed contract terms with us, but I don't have the money to be able to pay the transfer fee. Hopefully the Board will give me some cash to spend this summer, and if so, I'll be back again to try for this player.

While I haven't been able to get that player through the door into the club, I have managed to move one out of the door and to another club. I was surprised to hear that Ryan Borris had rejected the offer from York City, the winger has agreed to join Pollok in early June. I'm pleased he'll be out of my hair.

Thursday 26th May
Peggy Lokando has been called up by Congo Under-21's to take part in their Friendly against Seychelles Under-21's next week.

Friday 27th May
Aaron Murihead has agreed to leave the club on a Free Transfer. The 20 year old defender will join Third Division club Annan Athletic after three seasons at Somerset Park, during which he played 63 times, scoring two goals and adding two assists.

Saturday 28th May
Happy weekend. What did you get up to this Bank Holiday Weekend? Watch the Playoff Finals, maybe the Monaco Grand Prix? Bbq with the family in the sunshine? I sat in my small office at Somerset Park with Ian Bartholomew, the worlds most overworked Scout. Today is the day that clubs across the UK have released the players they no longer want. While I trawled through the lists, the names were given to Bartholomew, and he pulled up historical Scouting reports, any video that was available and made some calls. We checked every player that was released in Scotland and the top three tiers in England. After a long day of work, we made a list and then sent out some contract offers.

I wasn't prepared to wait. A lot of these players will attract attention from other clubs, quite likely clubs a lot better and more reputable than us. But these players may not be aware of that. They might be spending their Bank Holiday Weekend wondering if they will get an offer, if they have a future in the game. I want to bring those players to Ayr, where they will have the chance to prove that they can have good careers. It might be a little bit of a callous act, but football is a business these days, and I'm acting in the best interests of this football club.

Sunday 29th May
It's holiday time for our players. They have no training for three weeks, before they return for pre-season training. I suspect our squad will look very different the next time it sets foot on a training park.

18 year old on loan striker Steve Wood has completed his loan spell with us, and returns to his parent club Hamilton Academical. He failed to make his Senior football debut while at our club unfortunatley.

I think I have spotted a potential goalkeeper of the future playing in the Blue Square South League. He is contracted to his club for another season yet though, and they have rejected our bid for him. Once we find out if there is any transfer funds available, I may well come to revisit a deal for this youngster.

Monday 30th May
Mark Roberts wasn't going on holiday, he needed to find some work as he retires from playing in a month's time. I was able to help out with that. The 35 year old has signed a one year deal as a Coach, and has declared himself delighted to be staying at a club he has a deep affinity for.

Tuesday 31st May
The month ends with three more players being released from the club with their contracts due to expire. Fraser Donnelly, Kevin Ireland and Sean McLean are all now searching for new clubs.

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Wednesday 1st June 2011
And we're off! The great Ayr United player grab of Summer 2011 is underway, and it's hit top speed pretty quickly too. Player number one was in the door bright and early, as Welsh Under-21 International left back Paul Dummett signed on the dotted line. Two years at Newcastle United failed to produce a Senior debut for the 19 year old, who has played more International football than he has club football. He has signed a three year deal, and will compete with Aidan O'Kane for the left back spot.

He is quickly joined by another 19 year old who is in a very similar position to Dummett. Meet Patrick Otte, who has also played Under-21 International football, with one cap for the United States, but has yet to make his Senior club debut as well. He has also just been released by a club from the North East of England too, Middlesbrough in his case. He is a right back who can also play in midfield if needed, but he has been brought in primarily to compete for that spot with Ciaran Foy. He has also signed a three year deal, and he has a Dutch passport, so does not require a work permit to make the move north of the border to join us in Ayr.

Next, say hello to signing number three of a very hectic day at Somerset Park, as midfielder Adan Newbury makes the move to join us at the club after being released by relegated Premier League side, Birmingham City. The talented 19 year old is a left footer who has some ability when it comes to passing a football, and isn't too shabby from dead ball plays either. But he is more than that, he is determined, composed, creative, and doesn't shirk a challenge. He might be an interesting one to keep an eye on over the fast becoming standard three year deal.

We are not quite done yet either, as we have one more in through the door. It's another 19 year old, and another three year deal, but this lad hasn't travelled quite as far. Sean Fitzharris is a striker who has spent three years with Celtic, and just like his fellow new team mates, is still waiting for his Senior club debut. Sean isn't quite like the strikers I usually sign though, as he is diminutive at 5'9 and less than 12 stones. But he has a nose for the net according to the Scouting reports, and Ian Bartholomew says he is a player who can move us up a level on his own with the goals he should score at our level, if he can force his way into the side regularly.

Peggy Lokando's fledgling International career continues as he plays the full ninety minutes for Congo Under-21's in a 1-0 defeat against Seychelles Under-21's in Brazzaville. While that game is going on, three more players have been released on Free Transfer's, leaving no one in our Reserve squad now. Winger Elliott McDonald and goalkeepers David Mitchell and Matthew Porch are the latest to be let go.

The Board remain satisfied depite our failiure to earn promotion this season. I would imagine they are considerably happier with a profit of almost £40,000 for the month of May, which leaves the club with a current balance of just over £215,000.

Thursday 2nd June
A slightly ambitious move to bring Mickael Antoine-Curier to the club is a failiure, the 28 year old French striker has found the net 38 times in four seasons for Dundee before they released him, but we can't put together a financial package good enough to entice him to make the move across to the West Coast. We soon put that disappointment behind us though, as three more players have agreed to try and pick up the pieces of their football career at Somerset Park.

The first of those three is a Full International. It would be fair to say that Stephen Grindlay has had little in the way of competition to be the Ayr United custodian of late. He'll get a fight for the jersey now though, as once capped Cypriot stopper Zannetos Mytides has arrived at the club after being released by Nottingham Forest. He has signed the three year deal offered to him, and like a lot of foreign keepers, he may need to try and get out of the habit of punching the ball. Other than that, he looks to have only positives, the six footer commands his area well, has excellent reflexes and isn't easily flustered.

The next signing is the first to get a real reaction, which I find a little surprising, but that's more down to me thinking the other signings are good as well. You know the drill, 19 years old, just a one year deal this time, as we really had to convince attacking midfielder Abdi Ibrahim that this is the place to put his career back on track after being released by Manchester City. The creative right footer was born in Somalia, but moved to Norway with his family as a seven year old. He is getting paid a fair bit more than the other new signings. Gary Teale, who plays for Plymouth Argyle often enough these days to not quite qualify as Ayr United's unofficial spokesman to the press, tells the hacks that Ibrahim is a player that can take the club onto new heights.

As we did yesterday, we complete a day of signings with a striker who didn't make the grade in Glasgow. At 20 years old, Dunfermline born Archie Campbell is an old geezer compared to the teenagers we've been bringing in so far, but after being released by Rangers, he has accepted the challenge of finding the net in the Second Division, signing a two year deal. He might be a bit of hybrid between the two usual types of striker. At 6'0, he isn't as good as he probably should be in the air, but he is absolutely lightning quick, something our strikeforce was badly lacking down the stretch last season.

Friday 3rd June
It's a much quieter day at the club, with no new arrivals to report. In fact, the only thing to tell you about is new signing Paul Dummett making his fourth appearance for Wales Under-21's, and captaining the side to a win as he played 90 minutes in a 3-2 win over Sweden in a UEFA European Under-21 Championships Qualifier at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

Saturday 4th June
The pre-season fixture list for Ayr United has been finalised today. The club have continued their habit of getting a relatively big club to come to Somerset Park to kick off the pre-season as well. Last season it was Anderlecht of Belgium who came and played out a 0-0 draw. This year is will be heavyweight French side, Olympique Lyon who will visit on Tuesday 5th July. That will be followed up with a home match against Darlington, a return to Knockramer Park as we face Lurgan Celtic (rumoured to be agreed as a peace making exercise after my former employees accused Ayr of indirectly poaching me from them), before a home match with newly promoted Football League members Morecambe and a trip to Spartans.

Sunday 5th June
After two whole days without a new arrival at the club, we renew our recruitment efforts today with a double swoop. Highly rated 19 year old centre back Reece Brown gets the ball rolling, and continues the theme of us securing the signing of young players who have been pushed onto the football scrapheap by big clubs in the UK, with Manchester United the club in question this time. The 6'0 Manchester lad signs a 2 year deal, and is already very adept at the technical side of the game, and teams that with bravery and determination, and isn't often found wanting for pace either. Reece is the younger brother of current United and England defender Wes Brown, and forget about Gary Teale, this signing is given the personal endoresment of none other than Alex Ferguson himself.

Our final signing of a very hectic week is a young left winger who will be looking to challenge James McLean for his spot in the side. 19 year old Nathaniel Mendez-Laing isn't quite as quick as most wingers, but the lad has quite the array of tricks to find his way past a defender. Cut loose by Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend, he has also signed a two year deal.

Monday 6th June
The Summer Transfer Window is now officially open, which allows Ryan Borris and Aaron Murihead to complete their Free Transfer moves to Pollok and Annan Athletic respectively. We have also officially completed our own Free Transfer signing of Bryan Gilfillan from Sunshine Coast FC in Australia.

Tuesday 7th June
I still have quite a few irons in the fire to try and improve our playing options, especially in defence. But there is one signing completed today, and it's another striker who has joined our ranks. 19 year old Adam Vickers is more in the Sean Fitzharris mould than the Gareth Sproule type, a smaller but quicker striker, who has been released by Stoke City after two years of development with them. He arrives on a two year deal.

Paul Dummett was in action again today for Wales Under-21's, this time in a Friendly in Liberec against the Czech Republic. 1-1 at half time didn't give any clues as to what was to follow, as a wild second half saw six goals as the Czech's ran out 5-3 winners, Paul this time coming on as a 58th minute substitute in his 5th age group appearance.

Wednesday 8th June
Scotland resume their campaign of UEFA 2012 European Championship Qualifiers this evening after having the weekends International date off. The door has been left ajar a little despite their poor start, as all the Saturday games finished 1-1, which included Ireland's draw with Denmark in Copenhagen, and Spain being held in Lithuania. Typical Scotland however, as while Spain and Ireland got back to winning ways at home to Kazakhstan and Lithuania respectivley, the Tartan Army watched on grim faced in Budapest, as second half goals from Tibor Tisza and West Brom midfielder Zoltán Gera gave Hungary a 2-0 win, and left Scotland sitting fifth in Group F with just 7 points from the same number of matches.

Saturday 11th June
As a huge Welsh rugby fan, the phrase 'Super Saturday' means the last day of the Six Nations, a day in the pub, and England getting beat ideally. Today we tried to create our own version of a Super Saturday at Ayr United, finishing off a fairly quiet week with another four signing day to give our fans yet more reason to look forward to the 2011/12 season. So lets have a look at who has joined us today.

First up, and it's a 19 year old Turkish/British midfielder on a three year deal. Coskun Ekim has just been released by Tottenham Hotspur, and joins our ever growing group of young players looking to prove people wrong. You'll find this youngster to be more on the combative side, more Jamie Campbell than Aaron McElwee if you like.

Next! Another 19 year old, and a player that some believe might turn out to be the jewel in the crown for our signings this summer. We had to beat half a dozen clubs from across Europe to the signing of Dutch left footer, Arsenio Halfhuid. The Voorburg born lad had a season in his native Holland with SBV Excelsior, before being picked up by Premier League side Aston Villa. He had two years with them, failing to make the First Team. Despite being left footed Arsenio prefers to play on the right side of the park, though he can also play at centre back or centre midfield as well.

Continuing from the work I started in Lurgan, the next signing is a little bit different. 21 year old Jamie Craggs has been capped three times as a Full International by the Caribbean nation of Montserrat, where you may remember I plucked Lee Shepherd from. Craggs is a gifted attacking midfielder who was also being courted by Czech side Kyjov. He could be a very interesting one, as he's actually a pretty talented young player, and he's signed a three year deal with no work permit necessary as he is a British passport holder.

The final signing of the day was another Full International player, and a man who will be looked upon to help lead this young group through the season. It's been a tough few years for 32 year old left footed Welsh centre back, David Partridge. After starting as a youngster at West Ham United, he moved north of the border and made his name with Dundee United and Motherwell. A move back south with Bristol City didn't really work out so well as we was sent on loan to MK Dons, Leyton Orient and Brentford, eventually signing for the latter. When that didn't work out either he showed up in Ireland, having three up and down seasons with St Pat's Athletic. He spent the last half of the 2010/11 season with Dorchester Town, and has literally leaped at the chance to step back up a notch or two and try to resurrect his career. He also mentioned that he hasn't yet given up hope of adding to his seven caps for Wales, the first of which came over six years ago now.

I've also asked the Board to try and find us a parent club as well. This was a request that was turned down several times while I was at Lurgan Celtic. I'm hoping the Board at Ayr will be more receptive to the idea, with a thriving loan market in the country.

Monday 13th June
I won't go into too much detail at this stage, but I have bolstered the clubs backroom staff today, with two new Scouts and two more new Coach's brought into the club as we attempt to push forward in all areas.

Thursday 16th June
The backroom reshuffle continues, and I have today sacked Scott MacKenzie, the assistant manager I inherited when I arrived at the club. We had to pay him £3,000. A replacement will be named in due course.

Saturday 18th June
On the day that Daryl Fordyce is deemed to have recovered from his twisted ankle, a new assistant manager has been named. It's English 36 year old, Liam Cooper. It's his second job in football, his first was a six month spell in charge of Hampton & Richmond, which ended a bit over a year ago when the side were relegated from the Blue Square South, and Cooper was sacked. I think this is a good appointment for us, as we seem to be singing from the same sheet in the way we like the game to be played. He is also tactically very astute.

Sunday 19th June
In good news, our Reserve side will also be playing competitive football next season along with the Under-19 side, as we accept an invitation for our second string to also play in a league for 2011/12. That's good news all around for form and fitness purposes.

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Posted (edited)

2010/11 Ayr United Player Statistics. *All Competitions

| Name                   | Apps   | Gls  | Ast  | MoM  | Pas  | Tck  | Drb  | Sh T | Yel  | Red  | Av Rat |

| Stephen Grindlay       | 41     | -    | -    | -    | 52%  | -    | -    | -    | 6    | 1    | 6.64   |
| Sam Filler             | -      | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -      |
| Fraser Stewart         | -      | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -    | -      |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Williams Dyer          | 15     | -    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.11   |
| Justin Miller          | 20     | 1    | -    | -    | 63%  | 4.31 | 0.10 | -    | -    | -    | 6.72   |
| Craig McCready         | 1      | -    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 4.60   |
| Craig McTear           | 2      | -    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 5.60   |
| Gavin Cadwallader      | 24     | -    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.28   |
| Fraser Donnelly        | 4      | -    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 5.55   |
| Andrew Hageman         | 34 (1) | 4    | 2    | 4    | 69%  | 3.71 | -    | 36%  | 6    | 1    | 6.59   |
| Ciaran Foy             | 18 (1) | -    | 4    | 1    | 62%  | 5.45 | 0.71 | -    | 1    | -    | 6.97   |
| Adam Campbell          | 3 (4)  | -    | -    | -    | 61%  | 5.03 | 0.56 | -    | -    | -    | 6.80   |
| Aidan O'Kane           | 17 (1) | -    | 3    | 2    | 60%  | 5.30 | 1.00 | -    | 3    | -    | 6.94   |
| Aaron Muirhead         | 23     | 1    | -    | 1    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.50   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Ryan Stevenson         | 28 (6) | 3    | 4    | -    | 75%  | 0.84 | 0.73 | 34%  | 3    | -    | 6.63   |
| Chris Hamilton         | 16     | 2    | 3    | 2    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.25   |
| Jamie Campbell         | 11     | -    | 1    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.45   |
| Kenny Connolly         | 29 (1) | 3    | 4    | 1    | 74%  | 2.54 | 0.26 | 36%  | 3    | 1    | 6.69   |
| Aaron McElwee          | 20     | 1    | 3    | 1    | 73%  | 4.00 | 1.27 | 25%  | 2    | -    | 6.98   |
| Ryan Borris            | 10     | 2    | 4    | 2    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.94   |
| Peggy Lokando          | 16 (3) | 4    | 5    | 3    | 62%  | 1.34 | 5.25 | 46%  | 2    | -    | 7.07   |
| Marc McCann            | 24 (9) | 2    | 3    | 1    | 49%  | 0.63 | 2.09 | 43%  | 6    | -    | 6.38   |
| James McLean           | 16     | -    | 2    | 1    | 69%  | 2.53 | 6.08 | -    | 2    | -    | 6.94   |
| Gordon Hillis          | 7 (1)  | -    | 1    | -    | 67%  | 6.65 | 0.33 | -    | -    | -    | 6.90   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Daryl Fordyce          | 16 (1) | 8    | 2    | 1    | 75%  | 0.65 | 1.49 | 35%  | 2    | -    | 6.68   |
| Andy Liddell           | 5      | -    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.40   |
| Gareth Sproule         | 15     | 6    | 1    | -    | 68%  | 0.70 | 1.26 | 47%  | -    | -    | 6.85   |
| Daniel Powell          | 18     | 4    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.50   |
| Stephen Magennis       | 15     | 2    | 2    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 6.61   |
| Kevin Ireland          | 9      | 1    | -    | -    | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | N/A  | 5.85   |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*Players who left the club part way through the season are not included
**N/A = Not Available. Entirely my fault, as I forgot to screen grab before releasing players, meaning I lost their full stat history

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Posted (edited)

2010/11 Season Review
(*I am of course happy to accomodate requests for players, teams and leagues to be included in reviews*)

UK
Scotland

Clydesdale Bank Premier League
Champions :- Rangers (78 pts). Runner's-Up :- Celtic (70 pts)
Relegated :- Clyde (25 pts)
Top Scorers :- Kyle Laffery (Rangers - 25 goals), Christian Nadé (Falkirk - 22 goals), Carl Finnigan (Falkirk - 18 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Kyle Lafferty (Rangers - 7.53), Stephen Kelly (Celtic - 7.32), Calum Elliott (Hearts - 7.31)

A second consecutive title for Rangers, leaving Celtic even further in their wake this time as well, despite the Gers selling a few of last season's title winning squad. A superb 4th place for Falkirk, boosted by their 40 goal striker partnership. As is becoming the norm in Scotland's top tier, promoted side Clyde go straight back down after a very tough season, not helped by their failiure to spend any money whatsoever on their squad improvement.

Scottish First Division
Champions :- St. Johnstone (78 pts). Runner's-Up :- Queen of the South (63 pts)
Relegation Playoffs :- Partick Thistle lose in Semi-Finals
Relegated :- Partick Thistle (36 pts), Airdrie United (29 pts)
Top Scorers :- Allan Russell (QotS - 21 goals), Andy Jackson (St Johnstone 19 goals), Stephen McPhee (Partick Thistle - 16 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Andy Jackson (St Johnstone - 7.28), Michael Halliday (St Johnstone - 7.20), Dennis Wyness (Dundee - 7.18)

Last seasons runners-up go one better this year, breezing to the title with a 15 point advantage and denying Queen of the South an immediate return to the top tier. At the other end of the table, promoted Airdrie United weren't competitive enough and went straight back down, where they will be surprisingly joined by Partick Thistle, who lost in their Relegation Playoff Semi-Final to Stirling Albion over two legs.

Scottish Second Division
Champions :- Livingston (87 points)
Promotion Playoffs :- Alloa Athletic (53 pts - Promoted), Stirling Albion (50 pts), Ayr United (50 pts)
Relegation Playoffs :- East Fife beat Dumbarton 2-0 on aggregate in the Final
Relegated :- Berwick Rangers (35 pts)
Top Scorers :- David Winters (Livingston - 21 goals), Chris Templeman (East Fife - 19 goals), Ryan France (Livingston - 18 goals)
Top Average Ratings :- David Winters (Livingston - 7.34), Ryan France (Livingston - 7.26), Brian Saah (Livingston - 7.08)

Livingston absolutely trounced the opposition, winning the leage by 34 points and losing just three league games all season. Alloa Athletic will join them in the First Division after beating Stirling Albion 3-2 on aggregate in the Promotion Playoff Final. At the other end, East Fife preserved their third tier status in the Relegation Playoffs, leaving Berwick Rangers as the only side to be relegated from this division.

Scottish Third Division
Champions :- Brechin City (63 pts)
Promotion Playoffs :- Dumbarton (63 pts), Stenhousemuir (62 pts), Forfar Athletic (49 pts)
Bottom of the Table :- Montrose (43 pts), Stranraer (38 pts)
Top Scorers :- Sean Ekon (Dumbarton - 17 goals), David Cox (Montrose - 16 goals), Liam Murphy (Queen's Park - 16 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Sean Ekon (Dumbarton - 6.97), Aaron Johnston (Forfar - 6.96), David Cox (Montrose - 6.95)

This was where the action was as far as a title fight was concerned. Brechin lost on the last day, and Dumbarton gave it their all to overturn the goal difference, but failed. They joined Stenhousemuir and Forfar in the bid to steal East Fife's spot, but Stenhousemuir and Dumbarton failed to get the job done, and it's another season in the basement. It was a remarkable turnaround for Forfar in particular, who were in the bottom two last season.

Scottish FA Cup
Celtic beat Hibernian 1-0 at Hampden Park, Glasgow

Scottish League Cup
Celtic beat Inverness Calendonian Thistle 5-1 at Hampden Park, Glasgow

Scottish League Challenge Cup
Partick Thistle beat Hamilton Accademicals 3-1 at Fir Park, Motherwell
----------

England
Barclays Premier League
Champions :- Arsenal (89 pts), Runner's-Up :- Liverpool (82 pts)
Best of the Rest :- Chelsea (76 pts), Manchester United (68 pts), Tottenham Hotspur (61 pts)
Relegated :- Birmingham City (35 pts), Portsmouth (31 pts), Reading (31 pts)
Top Scorers :- Claudio Pizarro (Sunderland - 23 goals), Eduardo (Arsenal - 17 goals), Michael Owen (Newcastle United - 17 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Michael Owen (Newcastle United - 7.70), Eduardo (Arsenal - 7.65), Carlos Tevez (Manchester United - 7.58)

Arsene Wenger guides Arsenal to a fifteenth league title in the Gunners history, assisted by a difficult league season for Manchester United, their first season without Alex Ferguson who was replaced by Frank Rijkaard last summer. The Gunners were led by Cesc Fàbregas and Croatian International striker Eduardo. Of the three clubs promoted last season, only Playoff winners Reading went straight back down. A spend of £18m wasn't enough to keep Portsmouth in the Premier League, while a late season win at White Hart Lane for Blackburn Rovers saw them avoid relegation, sending down Birmingham City instead, who lost all of their last six league games, scoring just twice.

Coca-Cola Championship
Champions :- Bolton Wanderers (100 pts), Runner's-Up :- Leicester City (85 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Preston North End (84 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Sheffield Wednesday (74 pts), Nottingham Forest (73 pts), Sheffield United (70 pts)
Relegated :- Barnsley (48 pts), Plymouth Argyle (45 pts), Leyton Orient (40 pts)
Top Scorers :- Ched Evans (Preson NE - 27 goals), Valeri Bojinov (Ipswich Town - 26 goals), Matty Fryatt (Leicester City - 24 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Johan Elmander (Bolton Wands - 7.57), Blas Pérez (Bolton Wands - 7.44), Ched Evans (Preston NE - 7.36)

It's a quick return to the Premier League for Bolton Wanderers with a superb 100 point season under Phil Brown. They are joined by Leicester City in their second season after promoting from League One, while the Playoffs were kind to the deserving for once, as Preston North End join Bolton in a Premier League return, beating Nottingham Forest in extra time at Wembley after finishing eleven points better off than them. Leyton Orient failed to prepare properly for a higher level of football, spending nothing and going right back down to League One.

Coca-Cola League One
Champions :- Southend United (89 pts), Runner's-Up :- Blackpool (85 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Cardiff City (79 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Coventry City (85 pts), Brighton & Hove Albion (84 pts), MK Dons (76 pts)
Relegated :- Crewe Alexandra (49 pts), Stockport County (47 pts), Cheltenham Town (42 pts), Burton Albion (40 pts)
Top Scorers :- Ashley Grimes (Millwall - 28 goals), Michael Chopra (Cardiff - 24 goals), Chris Porter (Derby - 22 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Daniel Nardiello (Blackpool - 7.42), Paul Heffernan (Cardiff - 7.32), Paul Hayes (Scunthorpe - 7.31)

Ahhh the cruel game of football. With a minute left to play in the season, Coventry City were almost tasting the success of promotion to the Championship. Then already long relegated Burton Albion stole a winner the Ricoh Arena, and Blackpool took their place. The Sky Blues didn't recover from that blow, and were dispatched by the MK Dons in the Semi-Finals, who in turn lost at Wembley against a Cardiff City side who would join Blackpool in an immediate return to the second tier. There were immediate returns of a much less wanted nature when Burton and Cheltenham failed to make their League One stay any longer than a season in length.

Coca-Cola League Two
Champions :- Swindon Town (82 pts), Runner's-Up :- Chesterfield (82 pts), Also Promoted :- Yeovil Town (78 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Grimsby Town (76 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Bradford City (77 pts), Luton Town (71 pts), Exeter City (70 pts)
Relegated :- AFC Bournemouth (47 pts), Dagenham & Redbridge (37 pts)

Top Scorers :- Robbie Simpson (Bradford City - 28 goals), Simon Cox (Swindon Town - 26 goals), Alan Murphy (Chesterfield - 26 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Simon Cox (Swindon Town - 7.32), Michael Bridges (Yeovil Town - 7.28), Robbie Simpson (Bradford City - 7.21)

The top two met on the last day of the season for the title, but Chesterfield had no hope of making the goal difference swing up, and a 4-1 win only got them level on points with Swindon. A draw was enough for Yeovil to earn their spot in League One after dropping down last season. Luton looked good for the Playoff Final after a two goal first leg Semi win against Grimsby, but the northerners overturned the lead in the second tie to set up a Final with Exeter which they would win at Wembley. At the other end, Dagenham & Redbridge had a season to forget and lost their Football League status. They would be joined by AFC Bournemouth, who lost on the last day of the season in Darlington, the Quakers escaping the drop with a goal just six minutes from the end of the season.

Blue Square Premier League
Champions :- Morecambe (91 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Barnet (76 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Torquay United (82 pts), Ebbsfleet United (76 pts), Weymouth (75 pts)
Relegated :- York City (45 pts), Northwich Victoria (45 pts), Harrogate Town (33 pts), Tamworth (31 pts)
Top Scorers :- Stephen Thompson (Morecambe - 29 goals), John O'Flynn (Barnet - 27 goals), Tims Sills (Torquay - 27 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Stephen Thompson (Morecambe - 7.26), Matthew Delicâte (Ebbsfleet - 7.25), Elliot Benyon (Torquay - 7.22)

Morecambe return to the Football League at the first attempt following relegation last season, joined through the Playoff by Barnet who return after two seasons in the Blue Square Premier. York City had a pretty appalling season at the other end of the table, and only really started picking up form after relegation had been confirmed. They'll play in the sixth tier next season.

Blue Square North
Champions :- Farsley Celtic (68 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Gainsborough Trinity (66 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Stafford Rangers (68 pts), Worcester City (68 pts), Barrow (66 pts)
Relegated :- Fleetwood Town (43 pts), Blyth Spartans (42 pts), Guiseley (39 pts)
Top Scorers :- Danny Carey-Bertram (Telford - 20 goals), Luke Daley (King's Lynn - 20 goals), Darren Bracken (Barrow - 18 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Graeme Armstrong (Gainsborough - 7.31), Tim Hopkinson (Workington - 7.03), Chris Senior (Altrincham - 7.02)

Blue Square South
Champions :- Newport County (83 pts)
Playoff Winners :- Grays Athletic (72 pts)
Also In Playoffs :- Eastleigh (76 pts), Havant & Waterlooville (72 pts), Dover Athletic (71 pts)
Relegated :- Carshalton Athletic (41 pts), Thurrock (38 pts), Tiverton Town (36 pts)
Top Scorers :- Michael Mullen (Newport - 21 goals), Thomas McNeil (Basingstoke - 19 goals), Danny Holland (Newport - 18 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Michael Mullen (Newport - 7.28), Danny Holland (Newport - 7.09), Jon Main (AFC Wimbledon - 7.06)

FA Cup
Arsenal beat Everton 3-2 after extra time at Wembley Stadium, London

League Cup
Manchester United beat West Ham United 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, London

Community Shield
Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, London

Johnstone's Paint Trophy
Huddersfield Town beat Cardiff City 1-0 after extra time at Wembley Stadium, London

Football Conference League Cup
Torquay United beat Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, London

FA Trophy
Ebbsfleet United beat Wrexham 3-3 (4-2 on penalties AET) at Wembley Stadium, London
----------

Northern Ireland
Premier Division
Champions :- Glentoran (65 pts), Runner's-Up :- Linfield (62 pts)
Relegation Playoff :- Coleraine lose 1-4 on aggregate to Glebe Rangers
Relegated :- Coleraine (40 pts), Donegal Celtic (32 pts)
Top Scorers :- Gary Hamilton (Glentoran - 21 goals), David Brown (Newry - 18 goals), Trevor Molloy (Glenavon - 15 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Gary Hamilton (Glentoran - 7.16), Andy McNeil (Glentoran - 7.09), Richard Clarke (Newry - 7.04)

The Belfast dominance continues with a second title in a row for Glentoran, and either they or Linfield have won every title since Portadown's title win in 2002. This was one of the best fought seasons in years, with just seven points covering the top five. At the other end, promoted Donegal Celtic's good start soon fizzled out, and they would return to the First Division, where they would surprisingly be joined by Coleraine, who were nothing short of awful in their Relegation Playoff tie.

First Division
Champions :- Lurgan Celtic (49 pts), Runner's-Up :- Glebe Rangers (49 pts)
Promotion Playoff :- Glebe Rangers beat Coleraine 4-1 on aggregate
Relegated :- Wakehurst (25 pts), Ballyclare (16 pts)
Top Scorers :- Seámus Brown (Limavady - 14 goals), Craig Singleton (Glebe - 14 goals), Adam Stansfield (Institue - 12 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Seámus Brown (Limavady - 7.35), Adam Stansfield - 7.27), Craig Singleton (Glebe - 7.18)

Despite a management change near the halfway point of the season, Lurgan Celtic made it back to back promotions to reach the top tier for the first time in their history. They tried to throw it away at the end, a really poor run in March saw their lead cut, but they got it back together in April. Maybe the tide of power is starting to turn in Ulster, as Glebe make it two clubs going up back to back by easily beating Coleraine over two legs in the Promotion Playoff. Meanwhile Ballyclare went down with a bit of a whimper, while Wakehurst went down on the last day after a defeat to Ballyclare.

Second Division
Champions :- Dundela (49 pts), Runner's-Up :- Larne (48 pts)
Relegated :- Oxford United Stars (24 pts), Newington YC (19 pts)
Top Scorers :- Ronan Murray (Dundela - 14 goals), Bryan Tosh (Coagh United - 13 goals), Darren McKay (Dundela - 12 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Eddie Hill (Coagh United - 7.09), Scott Bibby (PSNI - 7.09), Darren McKay (Dundela - 7.03)

On the last day of the season Dundela beat Oxford United Stars at home, winning the title after Larne could only draw, and relegating Stars at the same time as Portstewart got a last day win. The Champions were helped along by their 26 goal strike duo of Ronan Murray and Darren McKay.

Northern Irish FA Cup
Newry beat Linfield 2-1 after extra time at The Oval, Belfast

Northern Irish League Cup
Glentoran beat Linfield 2-1 at The Oval, Belfast

Northern Irish Intermediate League Cup
Chimney Corner beat Newington 1-0 after extra time at Windsor Park, Belfast

Northern Irish Intermediate Cup
Glentoran 2nd's beat Ballinamallard United 2-1 at Seaview, Belfast
----------

Wales
Premier League
Champions :- Llanelli AFC (62 pts), Runner's-Up :- Newtown AFC (61 pts)
Relegated :- Caernarfon Town (34 pts), Welshpool Town (31 pts)
Top Scorers :- Steven Bainbridge (Ton Pentre - 17 goals), Louis Castles (Cefn Druids - 16 goals), Andrew Mangan (Newtown - 15 goals)
Top Average Ratings :- Louis Castles (Cefn Druids - 7.15), Andrew Mangan (Newtown - 7.10), Rhys Henry (Aberystwyth - 7.09)

Llanelli take their first title since 2007/08 as TNS implode and finish a distant fourth place, a struggle of a season that began when Andy Cale left in November to take the job at Derby County. New manager Peter Nicholas failed to keep things going, despite signing players from Football League sides. The Champions are already struggling to keep their squad together however.

Welsh FA Cup
Newtown AFC beat Caernarfon Town 3-0 at Maesdu Park, Llandudno

Welsh Premier League Cup
Llanelli AFC beat Aberystwyth Town 1-0 at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Edited by neilhoskins77

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2010/11 Season Review (continued)

Best of Europe
UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid (SPA) beat Manchester United (ENG) 3-1 at Wembley Stadium, London, England

UEFA Europa League
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) beat Manchester City (ENG) 3-1 at Landsdowne Road, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

UEFA European Super Cup
Barcelona (SPA) beat AC Milan (ITA) 2-1 after extra time at Stade Louis II, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Belgium
Champions :- Club Brugge (59 pts), Runner's-Up :- Standard de Liège (62 pts)
Top Scorer :- Dieter van Tornhout (KSV Roselare - 25 goals). Top Average Rating :- Nicolás Frutos (Anderlecht - 7.43)

France
Champions :- Olympique Lyon (79 pts), Runner's-Up :- Olympique de Marseille (79 pts)
Top Scorer :- Mamadou Niang (Marseille - 21 goals). Top Average Rating :- Karim Benzema (Olympique Lyon - 7.77)

Germany
Champions :- Bayer 04 Leverkusen (72 pts), Runner's-Up :- Werder Bremen (64 pts)
Top Scorer :- Chinedu Obasi (Werder Bremen - 19 goals). Top Average Rating :- Chinedu Obasi (Werder Bremen - 7.60)

Holland
Champions :- Ajax Amsterdam (70 pts), Runner's-Up :- sc Heerenveen (67 pts)
Top Scorer :- Marcus Berg (FC Groningen - 18 goals). Top Average Rating :- Ismael Bangoura (Ajax - 7.49)

Italy
Champions :- AS Roma (83 pts), Runner's-Up :- Sampdoria (70 pts)
Top Scorer :- Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria - 18 goals). Top Average Rating :- Juan Manuel Vargas (Fiorentina - 7.78)

Portugal
Champions :- Sporting Lisbon (69 pts), Runner's-Up :- FC Porto (68 pts)
Top Scorer :- Oscar Cardozo (Benfica - 16 goals). Top Average Rating :- Oscar Cardozo (Benfica - 7.75)

Russia
Champions :- CSKA Moscow (62 pts), Runner's Up :- Spartak Moscow (61 pts)

Spain
Champions :- Villarreal (83 pts), Runner's-Up :- Valencia (78 pts)
Top Scorer :- Olexandr Gladkyi (Real Zaragoza - 20 goals). Top Average Rating :- Olexandr Gladkyi (Real Zaragoza - 7.69)
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Rest of the World
FIFA Club World Championship
Barcelona (SPA) beat Cruzeiro (BRA) 2-0 at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Copa Libertadores
River Plate (ARG) beat São Paulo (BRA) 3-1 on aggregate

Copa Sudamericana
Grêmio (BRA) beat Vitória (BRA) 4-1 on aggregate

Asian Champions League
Pohang Steelers (KOR) beat Al-Hilal (KSA) 6-1 on aggregate

North American Champions League
Club de América (MEX) beat Deportivo Santos Laguna (MEX) 6-4 on aggregate

OFC Champions League
Kossa FC (SOL) beat Auckland City (NZL) 1-0 at Teufavia Stadium, Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Argentina
Champions :- River Plate, Runner's-Up :- Racing Club

Australia
Hyundai A-League Regular Season Champions :- Central Coast Mariners. Runner's-Up :- Sydney FC
Hyundai A-League Grand Final Series :- Sydney FC beat Wellington Phoenix 2-1 at Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney

Brazil
Champions :- São Paulo, Runner's-Up :- SC Corinthians

United States of America
Major League Soccer Regular Season Champions :- Los Angeles Galaxy, Runner's-Up :- Chicago Fire
Major League Soccer Final :- Los Angeles Galaxy beat New York Red Bulls 2-0 at Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
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International

2011 North American Gold Cup :- Hosts :- United States of America Holders :- Mexico
Final :- Canada beat United States of America 11-10 on penalties (0-0 after extra time) at Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Top Scorers :- Álvaro Saborío (Costa Rica - 5 goals), Bryan Ruiz (Costa Rica - 3 goals), Michael Bradley (USA - 3 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Maynor Figueroa (Honduras - 7.90), Carlos Bocanegra (USA - 7.73), Ricardo Clark (USA - 7.73)

2010 Asian Under-19 Championships :- Hosts :- China Holders :- Australia
Final :- South Korea beat Iran 2-1
Top Scorers :- Robert Stambolziev (Australia - 5 goals), Joo Sung-Hwan (South Korea - 5 goals), Alireza Rezaei (Iran - 4 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Shaharuddin Razali (Malaysia - 7.70), Bae Chun-Suk (South Korea - 7.67), Joo Sung-Hwan (South Korea - 7.52)

2011 South American Under-20 Championships :- Hosts :- Bolivia Holders :- Brazil
Winners :- Brazil (12 pts), Runner's-Up :- Chile (10 pts), 3rd Place :- Colombia (8 pts)
Top Scorers :- Alex Teixeira (Brazil - 10 goals), Maicon (Brazil - 8 goals), Christian Mejía (Colombia - 7 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Alex Teixeria (Brazil - 8.18), Maicon (Brazil - 8.09), Marco Perez (Colombia - 7.54)

2011 European Under-21 Championships :- Hosts :- France Holders :- Sweden
Final :- Holland beat France 3-1 at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Top Scorers :- Assaf Cohen (Croatia - 3 goals), Slavko Perovic (Croatia - 3 goals), Thibaut Bourgeois (France - 3 goals)
Top Average Rating :- Assaf Cohen (Croatia - 7.70), Mathias Jørgensen (Denmark - 7.65), Thibaut Bourgeois (France - 7.60)

2010 European Under-19 Championships :- Hosts :- Norway Holders :- Croatia
Final :- Ukraine beat Spain 3-1
----------

Awards
FIFA World Footballer of the Year
1st :- Kaká (AC Milan & Brazil), 2nd :- Cesc Fàbregas (Arsenal & Spain), 3rd :- Karim Benzema (Olympique Lyon & France)

UEFA European Footballer of the Year
1st :- Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina), 2nd :- Vagner Love (Real Madrid & Brazil), 3rd :- Mathieu Flamini (AC Milan & France)

UEFA European Golden Boot
1st :- Claudio Pizarro (Sunderland), 2nd :- Olexandr Gladkyi (Real Zaragoza), 3rd :- Chinedu Obasi (Werder Bremen)

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Posted (edited)

Sunday 19th June 2011
It's a big night for Rangers at the Scottish Football Association Awards evening, as they come close to a clean sweep, leaving behind only one of the major awards that are given out.

Scottish Footballer of the Year :- Kyle Lafferty (Rangers)
Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year :- Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic)
Scottish League Golden Boot :- Kyle Lafferty (Rangers)
Scottish League Young Player of the Year :- John Fleck (Rangers)
Scottish League Manager of the Year :- Walter Smith (Rangers)

Monday 20th June
There are no awards for us at Ayr United, not that we were expecting any. There is one dubious honour for the club though, as the Free Transfer move for Justin Miller from Lurgan Celtic to Ayr United is named as the worst Second Division signing of the season. To be part of the worst signing is bad enough for me as a manager, but to have got the player on a Free, and it still be classed as the worst, well, that's a real sign of ridicule.

Our own awards night had already taken place, with Kenny Connolly named Ayr United Player of the Year for 2010/11 by the clubs fans. He would also be included in our Best XI for the 2010/11 season, which didn't look very far from the eleven I often chose....

Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Justin Miller, Aidan O'Kane; Kenny Connolly, Ryan Stevenson; Aaron McElwee, James McLean; Gareth Sproule, Daryl Fordyce.
Substitues :- Aaron Muirhead, Gavin Cadwallader, Stevie McStay, Marc McCann, Ryan Borris, Peggy Lokando, Stephen Magennis.

Of those, Andrew Hageman and Aaron McElwee have both also been added to Ayr United's All-Time Best XI, though Grindlay, Stevenson and Connolly are also already included. Another group have been added to the subs bench for that side, Foy, Miller, O'Kane, Lokando and Sproule also included. Clearly Justin Miller is much more highly thought of at our club than he is throughout the rest of the league. He will be hoping to prove some people wrong in 2011/12, though he will need to keep his place first, as he is sure to be pushed all the way by the new young players arriving at the club.

The fixtures for that new season have been announced today, and we will get a tough start, as we're away to Partick Thistle on the opening day of the season, which will then be followed by a trip to East Fife before an opening home match against East Stirlingshire.

The Board want us to look at a top half finish, for which they will provide a £20,000 transfer budget, and a weekly wage budget of £4,700. I tell them that I think we can do a bit better than that, and should be looking at promotion as a target. They agree it's possible, and have pushed the wage budget on offer up to £5,000 a week, giving me about £850 a week in room, though it's possible I may look to move some of the transfer budget into the wage pot at a later date.

We also have seven new players that have joined our age group side on Youth contracts. It's not a bunch of superstars, but then neither was I expecting them to be. The group includes centre back Jamie Johnston, defensive midfielder John Robertson, centre midfielder Peter Woodman, left wingers Callum MacKinnon and pick of the bunch Jimmy Ferguson, plus strikers Patrick Barron and Chris McKay. I agree with new assistant manager Liam Cooper's assessment that Ferguson is the best of the group, he's very raw, but he's so quick and has plenty of flair, which you just can't teach. The fans will love him I think. Jamie Johnston is also worth keeping an eye on, as he has the basic make up of a decent centre back.

Neil Hoskins.
33 years old. Welsh. Uncapped.

Reputation :- Unproven. Contract :- Full Time, 2 years, £120 per week.
Previous Experience :- Sunday League Footballer.

Managerial Statistics.
Club/Player Loyalty :- 10. Domestic Players Bias :- 14. Financial Control :- 7.

Hands On Approach :- 6. Squad Discipline :- 14. Tactical Consistency :- 14.

Season Expectations :-
Achieve promotion to Scottish League Division One.

Transfer Budget :- £20,500. Wage Budget :- £5,000 per week. Currently Spending :- £4,150 per week.

Managers Overall Record :-
GP: 114. W: 64. D: 26. L: 24. GF: 204. GA: 116. GD: +88. Win Percentage : 56%.
League Titles: 1. Promotions : 1. Relegations : 0. Cup Wins: 2.
Days In Charge: 187. Total Career Earnings: £21,000.

Honours :-
Lurgan Celtic:- 2008/09 Northern Ireland Intermediate League Cup Winners
Lurgan Celtic:- 2008/09 Northern Ireland Second Division Runner's-Up
Lurgan Celtic:- 2009/10 Northern Ireland Intermediate League Cup Winners
Lurgan Celtic:- 2009/10 Northern Ireland Second Division Champions
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Ayr United FC.
Founded :- 1910. Nickname :- The Honest Men. Status :- Semi-Professional. Reputation :- Regional. Value :- £525,000.
Chairman Status :- Loves the club. Finances :- Okay (£217,183).
Club Colours :- Home - White with Black Trim. Away - Red with White and Black Trim.
Club Legends :- Ally MacLeod, Ian McAllister, Henry Templeton, John Murphy, Peter Price.
Club Icons :- Gary Teale, Glynn Hurst. Favoured Personnel :- Mark Roberts.
Fierce Rivals :- Kilmarnock. Other Rivals :- Stranraer.
Honours :-  Scottish First Division Winners - 1912, 1913, 1928, 1937, 1959, 1966
                    Scottish Second Division Winners - 1988, 1997.

Last Season :- 4th in Scottish League Second Division.

Somerset Park, Ayr, Scotland.
Capacity :- 8,000 (1,500 seats). Condition :- Average. Surface :- Grass. Surface Condition :- Very Good.
Average Corporate Facilities, Average Training Facilities, Adequate Youth Facilities.

Tuesday 21st June
With some transfer budget to spend, I go right to work. I start back at my old stamping ground of Knockramer Park and try to jump the queue, offering Lurgan Celtic a fee of £10,000 for Neil Brown. That didn't work out very well, as within hours they had received two bids from Eastern Europe of £90,000. That was us out of the running.

I call on Third Division club Dumbarton next, as I make them a new offer for the midfielder I tried several times to take in January and earlier in the pre-season. I also go back for the goalkeeper I believe will be a top end talent in a few years. My loan offers are not going so well however, I think we're going to struggle convincing players to drop down to this level.

The bid for the keeper hits the rocks, as his club are not interested in selling. I ask them to name their price, but they tell me they want to keep the lad there. It's better news on the midfielder though, as our £2,000 offer is accepted, and we discuss terms with the player.

Wednesday 22nd June
Gordon Hillis was the only player in the squad who was unable to return to training on the opening day of pre-season, but he won't be too far behind, as he is back as of today.

Thursday 23rd June
Hillis just got more competition for his place, as 25 year old Ryan McStay has signed for us for £2,000 from Dumbarton on a two year contract. I'd say he was keen to join the club, as he has signed a £210 per week deal, he was getting £375 a week at the Third Division club. McStay is a product of Falkirk's youth team, making 30 appearances for them before a seaon at Partick Thistle. He has played the last three seasons in the basement with Dumbarton, racking up 106 appearances, scoring 15 goals and adding 21 assists.

Friday 24th June
After a meeting with the Board of Directors, the club Chairman has told me that they see no point in creating a link with another club at this point. If he could see how hard I was working just to get a 'no' every time I tried to bring in a player on loan, then I'm sure they'd see the point! Frustrating.

Sunday 26th June
As of today, the club have sold 171 season tickets for the 2011/12 season. The ticket office say they hope to sell another 500 before the season starts, taking the final number up to around 700. The tickets are going for £141 each this season, with single game tickets selling at £12.

Monday 27th June
Youth Team winger Jimmy Ferguson has signed a pre contract agreement. It will come into effect on 27th August, his 16th birthday, and will be a three year deal that will see him paid £5 a week. The youngster is already valued at £7,000, making him one of our most valuable players, and he hasn't even kicked a ball for us yet.

Tuesday 28th June
I have offered Workington a transfer fee of £10,000 for their Northern Irish 26 year old right winger, Ciaran McMullan. That bid is immediately trumped by Dorchester, who double it to £20,000. We're asked to match it to be able to speak to the player, but I strike a compromise deal at £18,000 and we'll play a Friendly against them. They accept, only for us to be told that McMullan wants £700 a week, making it game over for us.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Friday 1st July 2011
It doesn't look like a particularly important day in the football season, but any manager in the UK worth his place in the game will have today ringed in the calendar. Players who are not having their contracts renewed will now either have been released or will be remaining with their clubs on month to month deals. Five players quickly receive contract offers to consider from us, four of them now unemployed, and another remaining at his club on a month to month deal.

Two more of our new signings have arrived at the club today as well, with Northern Irish 30 year old utility player Shea Campbell and 32 year old Welsh International centre back David Partridge joining our crusade to get the club back on track and try to secure promotion up to the First Division.

Sunday 3rd July
The SFA do their first big job of the season, and that's hosting two Cup draws at Hampden Park on a Sunday lunchtime. The opener is the Scottish League Cup First Round, a draw which has a seeding system in place, and see's us placed in with the seeded clubs, which in theory gives you an easier draw. That may well be the case, though of course you never count your chickens. We're drawn away to Third Division side Elgin City, who will host the match at Borough Briggs on Tuesday 2nd August, just a few days after we start our domestic league campaign. We were Runner's-Up in this very Cup almost ten years ago now, losing in the Final against Rangers in 2001/02.

The second draw is for the considerably less prestigious Scottish League Challenge Cup First Round. This is an open draw, and we are again drawn away from home to Third Division opposition. It will give new signing Ryan McStay an immediate return to his former club, as we'll play Dumbarton at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium. And with the game scheduled for Saturday 23rd July, it now becomes our opening fixture of the season, so if selected, McStay could actually made his Ayr debut against his former club. The timing of that match means that our final Pre-Season Friendly against Spartans has now been cancelled.

Tuesday 5th July
Celtic's former lightning quick Northern Irish winger, Pat McCourt, has rejected our contract offer. It wasn't even so much the money, as he wasn't on a huge amount at Celtic Park. It was more the thought of dropping down that far. It seems McCourt is going to play the waiting game, as he is hoping to get an offer from Coventry City or Inverness Calendonian Thistle, both of whom are rumoured to be interested in signing him.

Pre-Season Friendly
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United v Olympique Lyon
Attendance :-
7,957. Weather :- Strong Wind, Drizzle, 21c.

What a glamour friendly to get the preparations for the new season underway, as the French Champions arrive on the west coast to play the first game of a four match tour of Scotland in front of an almost full house at Somerset Park, a real money spinner for the club. I'm ignoring the quality of the opposition, and I have little in the way of expectations for our team in this one. This will be used as a first step towards fitness, and two entirely seperate teams of eleven will get a half each. Five of our new signings will play in the first half, with another nine then playing in the second half.

Lyon had some of their stars on show, and one of them nearly opened the scoring in the 6th minute, Rafael Carioca letting fly from 25 yards, Stephen Grindlay getting nowhere near it, but the ball crashed back off the underside of the cross bar. We did manage to get into their half once inside the opening ten minutes, Aidan O'Kane's long ball over the top nearly sent Archie Campbell away, but Brazilian centre back Cris defended well. That was a rare moment of us having the ball, as we were being pinned into our own half. Lodovic Obraniak nearly got the opener, a last ditch tackle took the ball off his toe. But he would quickly contribute to the opener, sending in a corner that centre back Anthony Réveillère headed home at the near post. Just over a minute later and Obraniak burst into space down the left, and then picked out Sofiane Feghouli, his shot took a huge deflection off O'Kane, and our full back was credited with an own goal. We were staring right in the face of being on the wrong end of a cricket score, but surprisingly we started to hold our own a bit more, with the only other chance Lyon created before the half hour mark an Alex Geijo header that hit the side netting. Not that there was any danger of us getting back into this one of course, and the next time Geijo got on the end of a header in the 35th minute, the score would click to 3-0, the highlight of the build up being an epic battle between O'Kane and Réveillère down our left, both players seemed to be enjoying themselves. That brought about a period of sustained pressure from our visitors, but they couldn't add to their lead, and we nearly got one back just before the break, James McLean did well down the left, and he picked out Ryan McStay, who would've hit the top corner had Hugo Lloris not turned it over the bar.

As promised, I change all eleven players at the break, while our visitors made just one change to their very strong lineup. But do you know what, we played superbly in the opening twenty minutes or so of the second half, the combination of Arsenio Halfhuid and Shea Campbell down our right were effective enough to push Florent Malouda back into his own half to help his full back. We had the best chance of the second half in the 65th minute too, Cris was forced into a hurried clearance, and it hit Adam Vickers. The striker chased the ball into the box, Lloris came off his line, and Vickers tried to place it past him, but the keeper made a superb save to keep the youngster off the scoresheet. Carioca was desperate to get his name on the scoresheet at the other end evidently, but he was denied again, this time by our new young keeper Zannetos Mytides, who tipped his shot over the bar. He would eventually be beaten with just over ten minutes to go though, Lloris' long clearance up the park was brought down by Frédéric Piquionne, and he played it square to Feghouli, who's low curling shot from 30 yards out was perfect, beating Mytides dive and creeping inside the post. With five minutes to go, you wouldn't find too many people who thought we didn't deserve something for our efforts. Shea Campbell wriggled his way into the box, and then squared it unselfishly for Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who's side footed effort was on target and past Lloris, and then a defender slid in to knock it wide. So no reward, just the satisfaction of knowing we played really well for a club of our calibre against the Champions of one of Europe's major leagues. The future looks bright, or as bright as it can after a four goal defeat.

Ayr United (0) 0
Olympique Lyon (3) 4
-
Anthony Réveillère (11), Aidan O'Kane (12 og), Alex Geijo (35), Sofiane Feghouli (79)
Stephen Grindlay (Zannetos Mytides 45); Ciaran Foy (Arsenio Halfhuid 45), Reece Brown (Andrew Hageman 45), David Partridge (capt - Laurence Gaughan 45), Aidan O'Kane (Paul Dummett 45); Ryan McStay (Adan Newbury 45), Aaron McElwee (Abdi Ibrahim 45); Peggy Lokando (Shea Campbell 45), James McLean (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 45); Sean Fitzharris (Adam Vickers 45), Archie Campbell (Daryl Fordyce 45).

Unused Substitute :- Justin Miller.
Bookings :- David Partridge 6, Arsenio Halfhuid 71, Laurence Gaughan 85
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Sofiane Feghouli (Olympique Lyon).

Lets just look at some of the players Lyon fielded in that match. Hugo Lloris has 17 caps for France, while Cris has the same number for Brazil. His centre back partner is John Mensah, who has 66 caps for Ghana, and Anthony Réveillère has five caps for Les Bleus. Into the midfield, where Florent Malouda has over 40 caps for France, while Sofiane Feghouli is still turning out for their Under-21's, for whom he has six goals in thirteen caps. Rafael Carioca and Ludovic Obraniak are both Youth Internationals for Brazil and France respectively, Kader Keita has over 40 caps for the Ivory Coast, and Alex Geijo has eleven caps for Switzerland.

I told my players after the game that no matter what happens this season, we will not play against a better side in 2011/12, so it was all downhill from here. To have that calibre of player performing at Somerset Park in a meaningless Friendly is amazing, and it might well have made an impact on two gentlemen sat in the stands watching. Both had completed their medicals for us successfully, and later that evening, both signed contracts to become part of the ever expanding, but also improving, Ayr United squad.

This town on the west coast might be in danger of being labelled 'Little Belfast', as yet another Northern Irishman joins our squad. I chased the signing of Noel Anderson unsuccessfully in January, but now the 29 year old midfielder has signed a two year deal to join us after being let go by a Dagenham & Redbridge side that are cost cutting after losing their Football League status. He played 63 times for the Daggers in two seasons, producing a goal and nine assists for his first club outside of Ulster.

Joining him in the squad will be a Full International player of our own, though this man is now in the twilight years of his career, I don't think anyone really wants to be the one to tell him. 36 year old Icelandic centre back Olafur Örn Bjarnason has 28 caps for his country, and has just been released after a very successful season with Accrington Stanley as the two parties failed to agree terms. His first season in the UK had been just one season earlier with Crewe Alexandra, as before that, Bjarnason had carved out a very career in Scandanavia with Grindavík in his homeland, Malmö in Sweden, and SK Brann in Norway. This guy isn't just a 6'2 strong and determined centre back though, he is also an oppositions nightmare when it comes to set pieces. In 357 career games, he has scored 29 goals, and assisted on a further 22. He will bring a whole new dimension to our corners and free kicks. Despite his age, I have zero concerns regarding his fitness, and he signs a two year deal. The fans love him already, and the club shop reports a run on jersey's with the name of our new 'Viking Veteran'.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

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You'll have to wait a little while for the rest of pre-season and the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign ladies and gents, as I'm heading away on a much needed but short holiday tomorrow. I hope you all enjoy your bank holiday weekends, and this story will resume next week.

Regards

Neil

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Thursday 7th July
I'm still not quite done yet. I'm now chasing the signing of an attacking midfielder/winger. I tried to sign him last summer for Lurgan Celtic, but couldn't get a deal done. Now he's a free agent once again, but this time there doesn't appear to be too much competition for his signature. He has rejected our first offer, but has said he is still keen to continue with negotiations.

Youth Team newcomer Callum MacKinnon has suffered a thigh strain in training today. The 15 year old left winger will miss three or four weeks.

Friday 8th July
There is better news for 16 year old Youth Team defensive midfielder, John Roberton. The local lad has signed a three year Part Time contract that will pay him £5 a week.

Saturday 9th July
We have missed out on two players we were interested in today. The first is Michael Keane, a 28 year old Irish left back who has been released by AFC Bournemouth following their relegation from the Football League. The Dublin born man has rejected offers from not only ourselves, but also Wycombe Wanderers, Sligo Rovers and Stirling Albion, to sign for another club who suffered relegation last season, as he joins Clyde, who have dropped from the Scottish Premier League into the First Division. It's interesting to note that the Clyde fans are not exactly overjoyed with their new signing, in fact, they're pretty annoyed that manager John Brown has gambled on unbalancing the harmony at Broadwood Stadium by bringing in a player with a reputation for being disruptive.

The other player we missed out on was lethal striker, Rory McAllister. The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Brechin City player had two great seasons with the latter before trying his luck south of the border with Wycombe Wanderers. It wasn't a great season for either him or the club though, and now he's back in Scotland. It was bad enough news that he rejected our offer, and even worse that he has instead signed for one of our new division rivals, Partick Thistle.

Sunday 10th July
There is a bit of news to cheer up injured Youth Team player Callum MacKinnon. He has signed a pre contract agreement which will come into force next month on his 16th birthday. The youngster is being held in very high regard already by our backroom team.

Up to today, the club have sold 563 season tickets for the upcoming 2011/12 season. They still expect to shift another 200 or so more before the season begins, which would make it look good for us pushing our average attendance up over the 1,000 mark after last seasons average finished at 997.

Monday 11th July
It's been nearly a year since League of Ireland Premier Division club Drogheda United were taken over by South Korean business tycoon Park Jong-Sung. It didn't improve their fortunes too much in the 2010 season, as they only managed to improve from 4th up to 3rd. But they have spent nearly £4m on players this year, including £1.5m for former Leicester City and Derby County left sided player Jordan Stewart, another £900,000 for Simon Mensing from Leicester City after The Foxes got him on a Free from Hamilton Academical five months earlier, and £750,000 for teenage midfielder Ricky Buchanan from Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Now they have offered £1.6m to Middlesbrough for their teenage striker Leigh Cotterill, who had a very good loan spell at Darlington last season as they saved their Football League status by the skin of their teeth.

And The Quakers would be our next Pre-Season opponents, with the Coca-Cola League Two side travelling north tonight to play us at Somerset Park.......

Pre-Season Friendly
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United v Darlington
Attendance :-
335. Weather :- Dry, 27c.

Apparently, the side who escaped relegation from the Football League by the skin of their teeth last season are not quite as big a draw for the fans as the current French Champions! Who knew?! Somerset Park is occupied by only around a third of the usual attendance we get for a League match at home. Those who have shown up will see the same starting eleven, but two changes to the substitutes named, as Justin Miller and Adan Newbury are dropped from the matchday squad, and replaced by our two new signings, Olafur Örn Bjarnason and Noel Anderson.

Our visitors from North East England attempted to get themselves in front in the 8th minute, as Ryan Dow drove through our defence, but then failed to keep his shot down. It would be the 16th minute before we would produce an attack, Aidan O'Kane and James McLean linking up down the left, the ball squared across the edge of the box to Ryan McStay, who attempted to pick out the top corner, but Przemyslaw Kazimierczak managed to pluck that one out of the air. Both sides continued to find ways to create openings, Dow and Nathan Porritt missed the target for Darlington, while Peggy Lokando's low shot at the other end was also just wide of the goal frame. Finally the deadlock would be broken in the 36th minute, Reece Brown and Ciaran Foy combining to dispossess David Graham on the edge of their own box, and when they sent it up the park, Sean Heath didn't control it well on halfway. Archie Campbell took it from him and set off on a mazy run down the left, which took him past three players before he cut it back towards the edge of the box, where Aaron McElwee walked onto it and sent a low shot into the net. That lead would last almost exactly two minutes, Porritt's first cross was headed right back to him, his second attempt was glanced home by David Graham from eight yards out. We almost snatched that lead back before the break, Archie Campbell once again causing problems for the Quakers defence with his direct running, before sending the ball across goal that Lokando just failed to get on the end of with a slide.

At half time I made a full team switch as we did here against Olympique Lyon just under a week ago, with Laurence Gaughan the only one on the bench not brought on. Just over two minutes after the restart, new centre back Olafur Örn Bjarnason showed his class, covering Andrew Hageman with a perfectly timed sliding tackled, then winning the race for the loose ball. That would see it sent right to Shea Campbell who set off at speed down the wing, before twisting inside and out to find a way past Ryan Valentine. His cross into the centre saw the ball pinball around the box, before Daryl Fordyce managed to get enough on the ball to direct it into the bottom corner. Once again there was an immediate response at the other end, a Scott Muirhead corner picked out Portuguese centre back Filipe, who drove his volley into the ground, then watched as it bounced up just over the angle of the goal. We had kept our lead, and set about increasing it, keeper Kazimierczak had to punch away Shea Campbell's inswinging corner with a queue of players behind him waiting to apply the finishing touch. Instead, Darlington would find a leveller for a second time, Rob Purdie linked up with sub Luke Goodwin, and he in turn picked out Graham in the box, who used Noel Anderson as cover, before curling his shot around the midfielder and high into the net to make it 2-2. Anderson would try and have an impact at the other end, beating a defender and squaring for Abdi Ibrahim, who only just cleared the bar with his shot. He would shoot himself in the 70th minute after Paul Dummett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing worked the ball inside, but Anderson's shot was too high. We continued to turn the screw, Mendez-Laing curled a corner into the near post, Shea Campbell glanced a header into the side netting. Another corner in the 79th minute would prove much more successful, Fordyce sending in the cross, and Bjarnason showed what he can do from a set piece, ignoring the marking attempts of two defenders and sending a bullet of a header into the top corner to put us in front for a third time. Darlington looked loathe to be on the short end in this entertaining Friendly, and pushed forward for another equaliser. They left too much room at the other end for us though, and Anderson picked out Fordyce, who turned and picked out the bottom corner for his second of the afternoon, and a very nice victory indeed, spoilt only by Bjarnason picking up a knock late on.

Ayr United (1) 4 - Aaron McElwee (36), Daryl Fordyce (48,90), Olafur Örn Bjarnason (79)
Darlington (1) 2 - David Graham (38,56)
Stephen Grindlay (Zannetos Mytides 45); Ciaran Foy (Arsenio Halfhuid 45), David Partridge (capt - Olafur Örn Bjarnason 45), Reece Brown (Andrew Hageman 45), Aidan O'Kane (Paul Dummett 45); Ryan McStay (Noel Anderson 45), Aaron McElwee (Abdi Ibrahim 45); Peggy Lokando (Shea Campbell 45), James McLean (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 45); Sean Fitzharris (Daryl Fordyce 45), Archie Campbell (Adam Vickers 45).

Unused Substitute :- Laurence Gaughan.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 57% - 43%. Man of the Match :- Daryl Fordyce (Ayr United).

That's the kind of performance that can build confidence in a club during pre-season, which is exactly what we want of course. There is a but though, and that is the unfortunate injury picked up by new signing Olafur Örn Bjarnason right at the end of the match. He suffered a twisted knee in a tangle of legs during injury time, and the Icelandic centre back will miss the remainder of the pre-season and the opening couple of fixtures of the new campaign, with it estimated to be three weeks to a month before he's back.

There was a further disappointment after the match, though this one was a bit more predictable. Our bold attempt to sign Ryan France from promoted side Livingston has failed, as the attacking midfielder also rejects Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Irish club Bohemians to sign for First Division club Dundee. The 30 year old has got the pay rise that his superb season deserved.

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Tuesday 12th July 2011
I've always believed that if an opportunity to make your squad better presents itself, then you should absolutely go for it. I would take my own advice today, as I signed another player who I had targeted last summer at Lurgan Celtic. 23 year old former Northern Irish Under-21 cap, Robin Shroot has signed a two year contract to play at Somerset Park today. The forward who predominantly plays as a right winger impressed enough during a non-League career with Staines Town, AFC Wimbledon and Harrow Borough to convince then Premier League side Birmingham City to take him to St Andrews. While with them he played loan spells at Salisbury City and Alfreton Town, before being released by The Blues last summer, and moving into Scotland's First Division with Ross County. He made eight appearances for them last season, producing two goals and an assist. Our fans are delighted with the signing of Shroot, with a fan club spokesman commenting that yet another really good signing has the Ayr fans believing that a huge campaign may be ahead of the club.

Thursday 14th July
An attempt to bring in Manchester United attacking midfielder Sam Hewson on loan has been rejected by Frank Rijkaard and his staff. They are happy for the 22 year old to move out on loan, but they expect that the club he moves to are going to cover his wages, which are way out of our price range. We ask them if they would consider allowing us to take Federico Macheda on loan instead, which they have accepted.

United are not the only ones we're hassling for loan deals. Celtic have accepted our offers to loan 21 year old Montenegro age group International striker Petar Skuletic and Romanian left back Richard Filaret. On the other side of Glasgow however, Rangers have rejected our offer for centre back Ryan O'Leary.

Friday 15th July
Another day, and another club being hassled for loans. It's Arsenal we are pestering this time, and they have accepted our loan offers for midfielders, Francisco Mérida, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Henri Lansbury.

Saturday 16th July

Pre-Season Friendly
Knockramer Park, Lurgan, Northern Ireland
Lurgan Celtic v Ayr United
Attendance :-
188. Weather :- Gusty, 7c.

My old stomping ground, but it wasn't the warmest of welcomes. I was booed by a small section of home fans as we emerged from the changing rooms at Knockramer. That didn't feel good. I don't consider that I sold out, I took a pay drop to move as I saw an opportunity to progress my career when I didn't believe the Celtic Board's ambition met mine for the club. Their side still shows the hallmarks of the side I built, and the squad that earned them successive promotions into the Premier Division club that they now are. There is a change in our lineup from the win over Darlington, forced on us by the injury to Olafur Örn Bjarnason. I bring Bryan Gilfillan into the starting lineup at centre back, with Reece Brown dropping down to the bench. New signing Robin Shroot is named on the bench in place of Abdi Ibrahim. We would wear our red change strip for the first time since I arrived at the club.

Callum O'Connor just missed the target with an early header for Celtic, but he had to concentrate on his defensive duties when James McLean brought the ball down and skinned the tall right back, O'Connor managing to get back goal side and prevent the winger from getting his cross in. Celtic were getting in the better chances though, and Lee Shepherd thumped a header against the post at the far stick from a Lukasz Adamczyk corner, with Grant Hutchinson forcing a save from point blank range by Stephen Grindlay from the rebound. Jordan Baker was injured in that passage of play and would need to go off, but it didn't blunt Celtic too much, as his replacement Brendan Lowe found the net in the 39th minute, catching Michael Downey's cross on the half volley, and it deflected off David Partridge and flew into the net, leaving Grindlay helpless. Lowe would be involved again in the 43rd minute, switching roles as he picked out Downey, and the winger found a team mate once more, this time the quickly arriving full back John Paul Gallagher, who took advantage of Ciaran Foy already being on a yellow to run at our full back in the box before picking out the bottom corner of the net.

I read the riot act to my squad at half time, telling them that Friendly or not, I wanted to see some effort from them, if only to stop the Celtic fans busting my balls on the sideline. I made a full squad switch once again, Reece Brown the player left on the bench this time, Robin Shroot playing in the middle of the park with Noel Anderson, allowing us to keep Shea Campbell in the right wing spot. A considerably improved second half would follow for us, starting with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing only just missing the target with a direct free kick. In the 58th minute some lovely passing football saw us get Adam Vickers into the right channel of the box, and he clipped it into the centre, where Daryl Fordyce showed good predatory instincts, as he ran off the shoulder of Lee Shepherd and buried the ball with a side footed finish. We were playing nicely now, but that's not to say the threat had gone, Celtic still had plenty of the set piece tricks I had put together for them during my time at the club, and Adamczyk's corner was met by Marc Fegan, and needed a superb save from Zannetos Mytides who turned it over the bar. As we attempted to turn the screw, Celtic started to defend deeper. Vickers got into that right channel of the box again, and Dean Kiely had to be off his line quickly to punch the ball clear before Mendez-Laing could turn it in. The replacement left winger was having a great game, and he ran O'Connor into the ground with just over ten minutes to go, sending in a cross that Vickers connected with, his downward header stopped superbly by Kiely to keep the home side in front. Try as we might, we couldn't find that equalising goal though, Fordyce sending one over the top, Vickers effort blocked, and Mendez- Laing's shot from the edge of the box gathered easily by Kiely.

Lurgan Celtic (2) 2 - Brendan Lowe (39), John Paul Gallagher (43)
Ayr United (0) 1 - Daryl Fordyce (58)
Stephen Grindlay (Zannetos Mytides 45); Ciaran Foy (Arsenio Halfhuid 45), David Partridge (capt - Laurence Gaughan 45), Bryan Gilfillan (Andrew Hageman 45), Aidan O'Kane (Paul Dummett 45); Ryan McStay (Noel Anderson 45), Aaron McElwee (Robin Shroot 45); Peggy Lokando (Shea Campbell 45), James McLean (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 45); Sean Fitzharris (Daryl Fordyce 45), Archie Campbell (Adam Vickers 45).

Unused Substitute :- Reece Brown.
Bookings :- Ciaran Foy 36, Laurence Gaughan 79
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- John Paul Gallagher (Lurgan Celtic).

I'm not going to pretend that didn't hurt a bit. The loss was certainly a kick in the guts, I wanted to go back to Knockramer and show them all the team I had built, to show them that I was climbing the ladder. Especially the ungratefuls who booed me, which hurt even more than the loss. I did a lot for that club.

It would take me a few hours of quietly seething before I saw the bigger picture and realised it was a Friendly that meant nothing. But my evening wouldn't improve much when I checked my emails on the way to catch the ferry back to the West of Scotland. I had replies from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Richard Filaret and Federico Macheda, and they were all negative responses. I didn't ever imagine it would be this hard to get loan players into the club, even good players like the ones we're aiming for. There is no point bringing in guys who are just going to sit on the bench or in the Reserves.

Sunday 17th July
Sunday morning would bring better news, as the ticket office sent all club staff an email to advise that season ticket sales were now sitting at 776, with another 100 potentially expected to be sold. Meanwhile, the First Team staff were sat around a table looking at the reports on some of the near fifty players who were going to be taking part in this weeks Scottish Player's Association Trial Day. There were a couple of players to keep an eye on, in particular a pair of young lads who had just been let go by Dundee, who had been gaining a bit of a reputation for developing some good young players in recent years. One of the young lads had been capped by Scotland Under-19's.

That was about it for the good news though, as the afternoon brought word that Francisco Mérida, Petar Skuletic and Henri Lansbury had all also decided that they didn't want to spend the season at Somerset Park.

Monday 18th July
We're now just five days away from the start of the new domestic season, and our final Pre-Season Friendly takes place tomorrow night. I'm due to inform the club of my picks for Captain and Vice Captain for this season. With all the new arrivals, neither Ryan Stevenson or Kenny Connolly has been involved in Pre-Season, and I select Olafur Örn Bjarnason and David Partridge as the new leaders. The selection of the Icelandic centre back as the new skipper is a pretty popular choice in the dressing room.

I miss out on a striker I was chasing to try and improve our goalscoring options, as much coveted young Swedish striker John Guidetti has decided to leave the UK after being released by Manchester City, and will return to his native Sweden, signing a deal for the remainder of the season with Bodens BK of the First Division Elite League.

Tuesday 19th July

Pre-Season Friendly
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United v Morecambe
Attendance :-
352. Weather :- Dry, 27c.

Summer has very much arrived in Ayrshire on a baking Tuesday evening, as we close out our Pre-Season schedule with a match against the current Blue Square Premier League Champions, who bounced right back into the Football League at the first time of asking, as Morecambe make the long journey to play us in the second leg of their mini Scottish tour, after losing to Queen of the South on Friday evening. Zannetos Mytides, Shea Campbell and Daryl Fordyce replace Stephen Grindlay, Peggy Lokando and Sean Fitzharris in the starting lineup for us today.

We've already beaten a side from this level here this Pre-Season, but the chances of that happening again took an early hit when Marvin Williams went down under a tackle from Aaron McElwee with just 70 seconds on the clock, and the ref pointed to the spot. Williams took the penalty himself, driving it right down the middle as Zannetos Mytides picked his side. McElwee would try to make immediate ammends, sending a beautiful reverse pass through the visiting back four, and Archie Campbell strode through the defence, but David Wilkinson pushed his shot away. But things were not improving for us overall, and after a quarter of an hour, David MacGregor curled in a corner from the right, and Williams was afforded the freedom of Ayr, or at least the penalty box, as he had time to chest the ball down before slotting it inside the near post to make it 2-0. The sides continued to swap chances for the remainder of the first half, but there were no further additions to the scoreboard, and no real prospect of us looking like getting back into this one.

I hadn't planned on making another full team switch at half time in this one, but we were so awful for the most part in that first half that I was sorely tempted. I settled for just three changes in the end. Not that it made the slightest bit of difference, as MacGregor sent the ball down the right channel and David Wilson moved past Aidan O'Kane and smashed his shot across goal and into the net off the inside of the far post. We looked like we might settle down a little bit when Archie Campbell got the ball to James McLean inside the box, but he couldn't hit the target. It just wasn't happening for us this evening though, Williams and Seán Cleary both came close to adding to Morecambe's lead. With just a little under twenty minutes to go, I made another eight changes, and this time we did get a reward. Peggy Lokando worked hard to secure possession on the edge of the box after a Paul Dummett cross, and then sent it into the danger zone where Sean Fitzharris unleashed a snap shot. Wilkinson was able to get hands to it and keep it out, but Robin Shroot arrived to bury the rebound and at least make the scoreline look a little more respectable. Wayward crossing and poor finishing meant it wouldn't be anymore than that, a very disappointing evening.

Ayr United (0) 1 - Robin Shroot (76)
Morecambe (2) 3 - Marvin Williams (3 pen, 15), David Wilson (48)
Zannetos Mytides (Stephen Grindlay 72); Ciaran Foy (Arsenio Halfhuid 72), David Partridge (capt - Reece Brown 72), Bryan Gilfillan (Laurence Gaughan 45), Aidan O'Kane (Paul Dummett 72); Ryan McStay (Noel Anderson 72), Aaron McElwee (Robin Shroot 72); Shea Campbell (Peggy Lokando 45), James McLean (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 72); Daryl Fordyce (Adam Vickers 45), Archie Campbell (Sean Fitzharris 72).

Unused Substitute :- Andrew Hageman.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 53% - 47%. Man of the Match :- Marvin Williams (Morecambe).

It hadn't been the best of Pre-Season's by any stretch of the imagination, in fact it had only got worse as it went along. The season starts on Saturday with a Cup match away to Third Division side Dumbarton, and I'm a little worried about how poorly prepared we are. We've done a lot of work over the summer to improve the playing and backroom staff, and it looks like we still need more time to become a cohesive unit.

Thursday 21st July
The first of the Scottish clubs begin their European adventure, with Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle joining the UEFA Europa League at the Third Qualifying Round stage. Neither has been given particularly easy draws, and both play at home in the First Leg with mixed results. Falkirk are beaten 2-1 by Romanian side Unirea Urziceni. They fell two behind inside the opening half hour at The Falkirk Stadium, but Leigh Griffiths pulled a goal back in the 54th minute. Any hopes of further progress were dashed when Christian Nadé was shown a straight red card in the 71st minute.

It was a different story further north at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, where Inverness were hosting Austria Vienna. They started very well, and took the lead through a Jordan Robertson goal in the 29th minute. They too were reduced to ten though, new Slovenian signing Jure Slomsek sent off five minutes before the break. That caused the home side no issues though, as Gary McSheffrey doubled their lead shortly after the break. Calley were looking in good shape, until eight minutes from the end, when the Austrians were awarded a penalty that Haris Bukva netted, leaving a tense Second Leg on the horizon.

Still not quite satisfied that we have a striker who can be relied upon to find the net with enough regularity to push us into the promotion race, I send a contract offer to a Northern Irish striker who is now a Free Agent, and has been capped once by his country and who I unsuccessfully tried to sign last summer. There is also a transfer offer for a striker who I have already signed once. That offer is quickly accepted, and we proceed with discussing personal terms.

Friday 22nd July
The new season begins tomorrow afternoon for us, and we start our campaign with a trip to the Strathclyde Homes Stadium for a Scottish League Challenge Cup First Round match against Third Division club Dumbarton. It's being billed as a close game, with us the slight favourites at Evens.

Maybe it's better value money to put some cash on us winning Promotion from the Scottish Second Division instead, where we are priced as 6/1 shot fifth favourites, indicating that the bookies predict a mid table spot is more likely. Relegated sides Partick Thistle and Airdrie United are the favourites at 4/5 and Evens respectivley, with Stirling Albion also priced at Evens, and Peterhead at 5/1. Cowdenbeath are seen as the last of the hopefuls, priced at 12/1 to go up.

We do have a new addition our squad today, and he joins the increasing pool of young talent we have started to collect at the club, as 18 year old Guinea age group International and British passport holder, Alex Owen, is signed by me for a second time. I have paid Lurgan Celtic £2,000 for his signature on a three year deal. After a disappointing start to his career in the UK with my former club, I still believe that the youngster has what it takes to carve out a good career, though he is still waiting for his first Senior goal.

There are also contract offers out on the two former Dundee players who feautured in Wednesday's Scottish Trial match. Both are interested, but both also have multiple other clubs chasing their signature, from both North and South of the border.

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Posted (edited)

Ayr United 2011/12 Senior Squad

| Name                   | Position         | Nat     | Height  | Weight   | Age | Value | Career Games | Career Goals |

| Stephen Grindlay       | GK               | SCO     | 6'2"    |13st 12lbs| 29  | £5K   |     275      |      0       |
| Zannetos Mytides       | GK               | CYP     | 6'0"    |12st 6lbs | 19  | £1K   |      1       |      0       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Reece Brown            | D RC             | ENG     | 6'0"    |12st 6lbs | 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
| Arsenio Halfhuid       |D RC,WB R,DM,M RC | NED     | 5'11"   |12st 6lbs | 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
| Bryan Gilfillan        | D RC, M C        | NIR     | 6'0"    |11st 2lbs | 26  | £1K   |     232      |     24       |
| David Partridge        | D LC             | WAL     | 6'1"    |13st 7lbs | 32  | -     |     234      |      2       |
| Paul Dummett           | D L              | WAL     | 5'10"   |11st 13lbs| 19  | £1K   |      0       |      0       |
| Laurence Gaughan       | D C              | IRL     | 6'2"    |12st 1lbs | 21  | £3K   |     12       |      1       |
| Olafur Örn Bjarnason   | D C              | ISL     | 6'2"    |12st 12lbs| 36  | -     |     357      |     29       |
| Andrew Hageman         | D C, DM, M C     | IRL     | 6'3"    |11st 9lbs | 25  | £2K   |     78       |      4       |
| Ciaran Foy             | D/WB R           | IRL     | 5'8"    |11st 4lbs | 23  | £1K   |     23       |      0       |
| Aidan O'Kane           | D/WB/AM L        | NIR     | 5'9"    |11st 0lbs | 31  | £1K   |     220      |     23       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Shea Campbell          | D/WB/AM RC, F C  | NIR     | 6'0"    |11st 0lbs | 30  | -     |     279      |     94       |
| Noel Anderson          | DM, M C          | NIR     | 6'0"    |11st 0lbs | 29  | £1K   |     284      |     24       |
| Ryan Stevenson         | M RLC            | SCO     | 5'11"   |11st 13lbs| 26  | £16K  |     226      |     36       |
| Nathaniel Mendez-Laing | M L              | ENG     | 6'0"    |13st 3lbs | 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
| Kenny Connolly         | M C              | SCO     | 5'10"   |10st 5lbs | 24  | £10K  |     91       |     10       |
| Ryan McStay            | M C              | SCO     | 6'1"    |10st 1lbs | 25  | £2K   |     170      |     15       |
| Aaron McElwee          | AM RC            | NIR     | 6'0"    |13st 3lbs | 19  | £2K   |     42       |      2       |
| Peggy Lokando          | AM RC            | CGO     | 5'10"   |12st 6lbs | 21  | £1K   |     20       |      4       |
| Robin Shroot           | AM RC            | NIR     | 5'9"    |11st 0lbs | 23  | £2K   |     69       |     17       |
| James McLean           | AM L             | NIR     | 5'11"   |12st 3lbs | 21  | £2K   |     37       |      3       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Daryl Fordyce          | AM RC, F C       | NIR     | 5'11"   |10st 5lbs | 23  | £3K   |     90       |     29       |
| Archie Campbell        | AM R, ST         | SCO     | 6'0"    |12st 6lbs | 20  | £3K   |      0       |      0       |
| Adam Vickers           | ST               | ENG     | 5'9"    |11st 6lbs | 19  | £3K   |      0       |      0       |
| Sean Fitzharris        | ST               | SCO     | 5'9"    |11st 9lbs | 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Reserve Squad

| Name                   | Position         | Nat     | Height  | Weight   | Age | Value | Career Games | Career Goals |

| Justin Miller          | D RC, WB R       | RSA     | 6'1"    |11st 9lbs | 30  | -     |     205      |      6       |
| Patrick Otte           | D RC, M C        | USA     | 5'10"   |11st 11lbs| 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
| Adam Campbell          | D/WB/AM L        | NIR     | 5'8"    |11st 9lbs | 23  | £1K   |     75       |      5       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Adan Newbury           | M C              | ENG     | 5'8"    |11st 11lbs| 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
| Coskun Ekim            | M C              | TUR     | 5'10"   |11st 11lbs| 19  | £2K   |      0       |      0       |
| Abdi Ibrahim           | AM RC            | NOR     | 5'10"   |11st 13lbs| 19  | £2K   |      2       |      0       |
| Marc McCann            | AM RL, F C       | NIR     | 5'11"   |11st 0lbs | 30  | £1K   |     341      |     63       |
| Gordon Hillis          | AM C             | NIR     | 6'0"    |11st 13lbs| 29  | £1K   |     51       |      7       |
| Jamie Craggs           | AM C             | MSR     | 5'10"   |12st 1lbs | 21  | -     |     56       |      5       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| Gareth Sproule         | F C              | NIR     | 6'0"    |12st 10lbs| 32  | -     |     135      |     46       |
| Alex Owen              | ST               | GUI     | 6'0"    |12st 12lbs| 18  | £2K   |      9       |      0       |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Now that's quite a... cosmopolitan team for the Scottish lower leagues. Interesting to see more Northern Irish there than Scottish, even bearing in mind your last job at Lurgan. I bet your defeat to them still stings a bit. :lol:

Fat chance that Alex Owen is from Guinea, though. Forged passport, perhaps? :D

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56 minutes ago, CFuller said:

Now that's quite a... cosmopolitan team for the Scottish lower leagues. Interesting to see more Northern Irish there than Scottish, even bearing in mind your last job at Lurgan. I bet your defeat to them still stings a bit. :lol:

Fat chance that Alex Owen is from Guinea, though. Forged passport, perhaps? :D

Chris, as you know, and have mentioned many times before, the Scots are in fact utter s**** at football. Just because I'm managing in their League, doesn't mean I should be forced to employ them. ;) In all seriousness, it seems to be becoming a little bit of a theme, as quite a few of the lower sides in the Scottish League have cast their transfer net a little further afield than would be expected.

I was still holding a candle for my former employers, and I was pretty happy that they got promoted, mostly because I deserve most of the credit the way I see it haha. But after doing that to my side in the Friendly, they can forget all that now. I have little voodoo dolls of all their players that I've yet to buy.

Alex Owen was born in Conakry, Guinea on the 8/9/1992, so I assume at least one of his parents is British, and he holds a full British passport. He's been capped at Under-19 level by the nation of his birth, but currently is refusing to commit himself to a nation. As a Brit, I believe that means he could feasibly be called up by any of the home nations. He appeared in the game in season 2009, so I have to assume he is a regen, as I can find no trace of him online. I can assure you that all his documents were thoroughly checked once we had retrieved him from the boot of the slightly rusty Volvo, owned by his equally dubious agent.

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Saturday 23rd July 2011

Scottish League Challenge Cup, First Round
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton
Dumbarton v Ayr United
Attendance :-
457. Weather :- Dry, 27c.

If ever there was an indication that I wasn't quite sure about all the pieces to the big jigsaw I have brought in, it was the selection on the bench for this match of Ryan Stevenson, who didn't play a single minute of our Pre-Season schedule. Stephen Grindlay is suspended today, which means a debut for the club for goalkeeper Zannetos Mytides. The injury to Olafur Örn Bjarnason means that David Partridge and Andrew Hageman are teamed together at centre back. I do really like my midfield duo of Aaron McElwee and new signing Ryan McStay, who debuts against his former club today, though I do worry that there may be a lack of steel there. Despite some severe new competition for his place, Peggy Lokando keeps his spot on the right wing. I still consider the strikers berths to be my problem area, and today we're going with Daryl Fordyce paired with one of our new signings, Archie Campbell.

We got a bit of a lucky break very early on, as Dumbarton were forced into a change inside two minutes, with influential midfielder Matt Somner injured. From there on in, there was an air of it being our day. Ryan McStay only missed out on a debut goal by inches when he drove a shot across goal, but they couldn't keep us out for long, Aidan O'Kane drifting in a corner, and Andrew Hageman powered home a header for our opening goal of the day and the season. When we continued to attack, and both Archie Campbell and Aaron McElwee only narrowly missed the target, it was starting to look like a question of how many. Daryl Fordyce would waste a prime chance to extend that lead, getting one on one with his marker in the box, and making room for a shot, but firing right at Gavin Harty. And we would suffer our own injury issue just after the half hour mark, with Peggy Lokando going off, replaced by Noel Anderson, who would play in the middle with McElwee moving out to the right wing. But after Dumbarton wasted a glorious chance to equalise when Anthony O'Shea failed to capitalise on a long ball over our defence, we would punish them in injury time. It would come from a corner again, O'Kane sending this one to the far post, Will Grocott and James McLean both went for the ball, it spun away from them, and Fordyce lashed it into the top corner with a superb finish.

As starts to the season go, I was particularly happy with how we were dealing with this potential banana skin, especially considering our sketchy form in Pre-Season. Things continued to go very much our way in the second half, starting with what would have been the most spectacular of own goals, as Harty had to tip the ball over his own cross bar after Darren Kelly hugely overhit a backpass from the halfway line. The home keeper would have to earn his money again midway through the half when Archie Campbell chased down a long ball and then twisted and turned to knot up a defender, before hitting his shot that Harty turned over the bar. Right after Noel Anderson just missed the target in the 73rd minute, I used my second change, McLean replaced by Ryan Stevenson, last seasons skipper asked to play out on the left wing. I then used my final change in the 84th minute, with McElwee replaced by a debutant in Dutch utility player Arsenio Halfhuid, with both wingers withdrawn into wide midfielder roles. That wouldn't stop us getting another goal though, as with a minute left on the scoreboard, Fordyce intercepted the ball and picked out Stevenson. The sub worked hard to keep the ball with a pair of defenders around him, and then moved it onto his right foot on the edge of the box, before picking out the corner with a curling shot, his first goal for us since I arrived at the club.

Dumbarton (0) 0
Ayr United (2) 3
-
Andrew Hageman (7), Daryl Fordyce (45+2), Ryan Stevenson (89)
Zannetos Mytides; Ciaran Foy, David Partridge (capt), Andrew Hageman, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Aaron McElwee (Arsenio Halfhuid 84); Peggy Lokando (inj - Noel Anderson 31), James McLean (Ryan Stevenson (73); Daryl Fordyce, Archie Campbell.

Unused Substitutes :- Laurence Gaughan, Adam Vickers.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 47% - 53%. Man of the Match :- Andrew Hageman (Ayr United).

That really could not have gone much better for us, and the news that Peggy Lokando took nothing more than a stinger was the cherry on the cake, an ice bag on the bus home would be all that the Congo International winger would require this time. The Board don't consider this competition as particularly important, but the fans have a different point of view when it comes to the Cups. They have seen their club win just four cup ties in the last three seasons, which isn't a lot when you consider they have entered three Cup competitions in each of those seasons. The fans would love a Cup run, and I've got some pedigree for Cup runs from my time in Northern Ireland.

Sunday 24th July
It's expected that things will be considerably tougher for us next Saturday, when we begin our Second Division campaign with a trip to the favourites for promotion, Partick Thistle, who were relegated from last seasons First Division after a poor performance in their Relegation Playoff.

And when the draw was made for the Second Round of the Scottish League Challenge Cup later in the day, we were pitted against another relegated side. Clyde had really struggled in the Premier Division, and their spell in the top tier would last just the one season. They are still dealing with the fall out from that relegation, and they will travel to play us on Tuesday 9th August, which will become our first home game of the campaign now, and it will be the start of a welcome run of four home matches after four successive away matches. After overcoming an attempt to put us on the end of a giant killing, we now have the chance to try and perform one of our own.

Monday 25th July
We miss out on a chance to improve our centre back options, as Portuguese defender Filipe has rejected our offer after he failed to agree new terms with Darlington. He has instead opted to join Coca-Cola League One side Leyton Orient, who are rebuilding after they were relegated from the Championship last season. Their offer to the 26 year old left footer was nearly three times what we could put together.

We were however more successful in managing to increase the Scottish contingent on our playing staff. 19 year old centre midfielder Shaun Smith was one of the two former Dundee players who we were keeping an eye on at the Scottish Trial match, and now he has agreed to join us. He played eleven times over three seasons with the Dens Park club, and might be able to help us with adding a bit of steel and aggression to the middle of our side as well, without compromising our skill levels too much. He is assigned to our Reserves to start with at least, he needs to build up his fitness after missing Pre-Season. Once again, Gary Teale and the fans express their delight at our success in bringing another quality young player on board.

Wednesday 27th July
With the club doing quite well from a financial standpoint, I have no qualms about offering the players an improved bonus scheme to win the League this season when sitting around the table with the squad representatives. The Cup bonus remains at a normal level.

Celtic begin Scotland's assault on the UEFA Champions League this evening as they enter the competition in the Second Qualifying Round. They don't get the easiest of draws, as they are paired with the surprise Runner's-Up from the Dutch Eredivisie, in the form of sc Heerenveen. It didn't seem to go too badly in the Abe Lenstra Stadion though, as Celtic raced into a 3-0 lead inside 52 minutes, Dutch striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink netting the third. Matthew Amoah pulled one back late on for the home side, but it would be a shock to see The Hoops chuck this one away now.

Thursday 28th July
The second of the former Dundee players we were interested in has also now signed for us. This one will provide increased competition for Peggy Lokando's place, as it's right winger Chris Maxwell who arrives at the club. Also 19 years old, he rejected a move to Sligo Rovers of the Irish Premier Division to join us. Unlike Smith, the winger failed to make a Senior debut during his time with Dundee, he did however make an International bow for Scotland's Under-19 side. The only thing missing from Maxwell's game is a lack of some top notch pace, however, with our wingers playing further up the park, that may not be too much of an issue. He is tricky, an excellent crosser and dribbler, and he can score when the chance presents itself too.

Against the odds, both of Scotland's current representatives have progressed into the next stage of the UEFA Europa League. After winning the First Leg 2-1 in the Highlands, there was a real danger of Inverness going out on away goals after László Bodnár levelled the tie a few minutes before half time. But the 40 times capped Hungarian defenders goal wouldn't be enough for Austria Vienna, as Jordan Robertson netted in the 76th minute in front of nearly 8,000 to move Calley Thistle into the next round.

That was nothing compared to the performance Falkirk put in on their trip to Romania after losing the First Leg by the odd goal in three. Daniel Gordon levelled the tie on the half hour, and then six minutes later Dutch defender Gerard Aafjes put the Scottish side in front overall. They weren't done there though, as Leigh Griffiths and Carl Finnigan notched two minutes apart early in the second half to see 'The Bairns' through to the next round in impressive fashion.

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Friday 29th July 2011
The bread and butter of the League season begins tomorrow afternoon, but we are huge underdogs for an opening day win as we prepare to travel to relegated side, Partick Thistle, the Title favourites for 2011/12. It was interesting to read in the build up that I was described as Ayr United's 'under pressure' manager. It was certainly news to me, and there was nothing to support that wording at all at this point. I would be surprised if tomorrow had a big bearing on it either, as we were 4/1 to take the points from Firhill. During the summer, Thistle had peformed quite a major squad overhaul, but they had certainly managed to bring in some quality players. In my press conference, I lied through my teeth, and told the media that I was very content with the way our summer and build up had gone.

Saturday 30th July

Scottish League Second Division
Firhill, Glasgow
Partick Thistle v Ayr United
Attendance :-
1,592. Weather :- Dry, 29c.

Stephen Grindlay returns to our net after his suspension, replacing Zannetos Mytides who did nothing wrong in his debut for the club last weekend. That change is the only one I have made from the Challenge Cup victory in Dumbarton a week ago. Thistle have three debutants today, and another two sitting on the bench, while we also have three players making their League debuts for the club, with four more sitting in the dugout.

Thistle get the kind of crowds that our Board would love to see us achieve, though we'll see if they continue at this level when winter bites in a few months time. The hosts play three at the back, and then five across midfield, and it was causing us some early problems, as two debutants linked up. Jonathan Hayes curled the ball down the left channel, and Nicky Ajose showed a clean pair of heels to Ciaran Foy, but the angle was too sharp for him, and Stephen Grindlay easily kicked it away from his near post. Another debutant would also test out keeper in the opening ten minutes, Rory McAllister letting go of a snap shot from just outside the box, Grindlay turned that one over the top. But we then started to get to grips with their five man midfield, and Archie Campbell missed the best chance of the game so far in the 25th minute, heading over from five yards out when Peggy Lokando picked him out with a cross. A few minutes later though, we had the lead. Aidan O'Kane sent over a corner to the near post, and midfielder Gary Harkins lost his bearings completley, trying to head the ball back behind the goal, and instead watching as it flew into the top corner of his own net. That was a bit of a surprise, and we looked to capitalise on it by getting a second, Aaron McElwee letting a long range effort go, his shot beating David Forde but just missing the target. We continued to turn the screw, Daryl Fordyce stinging Forde's hand with a shot from the edge of the box, before failing to test the keeper at all with a better chance from closer range. We would pay for our wastefulness too, as in first half injury time, McElwee and Steven McKeown clashed in our box as a corner was being delivered, and the ref awarded a penalty, David Partridge booked for his protest, while I just shook my head on the touchline. It was a very soft decision. McKeown ignored the goings on around him, and with the clock showing the fifth minute of injury time, he dispatched the penalty low into the bottom corner to level this match up.

'You had them on the ropes, and you let them out of the corner. Put them back there, and we can make a real statement today!' It didn't look like it was quite going to go that way early in the second half though, Danny Mills sending in a through ball, and McAllister lashed the ball into the bottom corner, but the assistant raised his flag, McAllister hadn't quite held his run long enough. Thankfully, our boys tightened up the defence considerably after that let off, and they showed they weren't afraid to put in some tackles as they closed down Thistle at every opportunity, both McElwee and Fordyce getting a little over zealous, and seeing their names added to the ref's naughty list. We had to make a change to our back four with just over twenty minutes left, David Partridge taking a knock, and replaced by debutant Laurence Gaughan. Ten minutes later I would have to summon more replacements, Ryan McStay took a knock, and McElwee was walking a fine line with the ref, they were replaced by Noel Anderson and Ryan Stevenson. It was clear that Thistle weren't prepared to risk much to go for the three points, and when Archie Campbell and James McLean both passed up late chances to cross the ball into the box, it was clear we had settled for a point as well.

Partick Thistle (1) 1 - Steven McKeown (45+5 pen)
Ayr United (1) 1 - Gary Harkins (29 og)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, David Partridge (capt - inj - Laurence Gaughan 69), Andrew Hageman, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay (inj - Noel Anderson 79), Aaron McElwee (Ryan Stevenson 79); Peggy Lokando, James McLean; Daryl Fordyce, Archie Campbell.

Unused Substitutes :- Arsenio Halfhuid, Adam Vickers.
Bookings :- David Partridge 45+4, Daryl Fordyce 62, Aaron McElwee 73
Possession :- 45% - 55%. Man of the Match :- Nick Phinn (Partick Thistle).

I'll happily take a point from a very tricky opening to our League fixture list. On another day, we could have left Glasgow with all three points, or maybe just with a different striker. Daryl Fordyce has netted nine in nineteen in all competitions since he arrived at the club. It's not a shabby return by any means, but with the chances he has missed, it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that his return should be even greater.

Then there was the penalty award. When questioned about it, I told the press that while I knew I shouldn't be answering the question, I have to say that I thought the ref got the decision wrong. Predictably, it landed me a warning from the Scottish FA, and I was told that they don't expect to have to tell me again that they don't take kindly to managers critisicing referee's decisions in the public domain.

Sunday 31st July
A day of rest, and of good news. The ticket office have confirmed that the club have sold 797 season tickets for the season at a cost of £142 each. The number is a decent increase on the 750 we sold last season considering that there has been no real increase in our reputation or status. The other piece of news is that new Club Captain and Icelandic International centre back Olafur Örn Bjarnason, will return to training tomorrow following his knee injury.

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Monday 1st August 2011
August will be a very busy month, with five League matches scheduled and at least two Cup games in the fixture list as well. It's only my opinion of course, but that schedule is too hectic for this early in the season. The Board give no hint in the slightest that I'm under any pressure at the club, confirming that they are satisfied with how things are going at the club. Interestingly, they still consider Peggy Lokando to be our stand out signing, but they also warn that there are concerns over his recent performances. The club made a profit of almost £100,000 in July, leaving the club sitting on a current bank balance of around £305,000.

It's right back into Cup action tomorrow evening, as we travel to face another Third Division club. Elgin City will be our opponents this time in the Scottish League Cup First Round, a competition that the Board expect us to progress in, with the Second Round the target. We're odds on favourites to pick up the win at Borough Briggs.

Tuesday 2nd August

Scottish League Cup, First Round
Borough Briggs, Elgin
Elgin City v Ayr United
Attendance :-
332. Weather :- Dry, 27c.

I make a couple of small changes for this League Cup tie, giving Zannetos Mytides another shot in goal, and bringing in Shea Campbell on the right wing in place of Peggy Lokando. There is also a change up front, Archie Campbell dropped from the matchday squad and sent to the Reserves to sharpen up, with Adam Vickers getting his debut for the club, and Sean Fitzharris coming into the squad to sit on the bench.

After dealing with Rory McAllister on the weekend, we would need to deal with namesake Craig today. He would have the first shot at goal after a quarter of an hour, twisting and turning before getting in a strike that Zannetos Mytides pushed away. He would have had a better chance moments later after Ryan McStay was booked for a foul and the resulting free kick found McAllister, but he was flagged offside. But midway through the half, David Partridge was judged to have wrestled Matty Tymon to the ground after he controlled the ball in the box. It was another pretty soft one from my point of view, but I could only watch on grim faced as McAllister placed his shot high into the roof of the net to put us a goal behind. By that point, Elgin had already had to make a change when Carl Preston had sustained an injury, and after falling behind, we started to assert ourselves, a series of corners failed to produce a way through, while at the other end, Tymon only just missed the target with a free kick that curled around our wall but cleared the bar. Then in first half injury time, Aidan O'Kane sent in an inswinging corner that evaded everyone, and found the net just inside the far post. O'Kane continues to be a superb asset from corner kicks, and he has pulled us level in this one.

O'Kane's first goal for the club had changed the nature of my team talk, as I now tried to coax a winning goal from my team. The right wing seemed our best bet, with both Shea Campbell and Ciaran Foy finding plenty of space on numerous occassions, though neither was able to produce a cross dangerous enough to create a clear cut chance. An O'Kane corner did find Daryl Fordyce about 15 yards out, but his low driven effort was bravely blocked by an Elgin defender. With only a little more than quarter of an hour to play, and Partridge having a bit of a nightmare in our back four, I decided to ring the changes. Olafur Örn Bjarnason and Sean Fitzharris both came on for club debuts, while Ryan Stevenson was also brought into the action, Partridge, Adam Vickers and James McLean were the replaced players. The fresh legs were a good idea, particularly as Elgin had a couple of players carrying knocks. Stevenson in particular was relishing running at a tired team. But then, with just two minutes left to play, it all fell apart for us. Bjarnason's backpass to Mytides was fairly routine, but the keepers first touch was appalling, the ball going way too far in front of the youngster, and Tymon raced in, taking the ball from him, and sliding it into an unguarded net. With little time to retaliate, I had to get instructions on quickly to push players up the park and make the team understand that we were now going route one. We would have the ball in the opposite net within a minute, O'Kane's cross was expertly volleyed home by Stevenson, but the sub was flagged for offside. We only had the three minutes given for injury time to get this fixed now, Fitharris' low drive parried away by Craig Holloway around midway through that alloted time. But we hadn't quite given up yet, Stevenson played the ball short to O'Kane, and with everyone expecting a cross, he picked out a short pass to Fitzharris, who used a defender as a wall, and curled his shot expertly into the far corner, his first ever goal on his Senior debut, and right in the nick of time.

As is often the case, a late goal to force extra time sees a huge momentum shift, and Fitzharris sent a shot just over the bar only moments into the extra half hour spell. Stevenson would have the best chance of the second half of extra time, as he went for power with a free kick that beat the wall, but then rattled the top of the bar on it's way over. With neither side able to find a way through, Fitzharris again shooting over after collecting Fordyce's knock down, it would go down to penalty kicks to decide who would progress into the Second Round. That matter would be settled early, unbeknown to everyone at the time however, as Paul Arnison sent Mytides the wrong way with City's first kick, but could only watch as it thumped back off the upright, in contrast to Stevenson, who had already blasted his spot kick home, before the sides settled into a procession of matching each other. Bjarnason, McAllister, O'Kane, Jack Metcalf, Ryan McStay, and then crucially, Ben Morris. That would leave Ciaran Foy to step up and take our fifth kick, knowing that scoring would put us through. Fearless Foy did just that, picking out the bottom corner, with a very relieved Zannetos Mytides the first to congratulate the full back.

Elgin City (1) 2 - Craig McAllister (24 pen), Matty Tymon (88)
Ayr United (1) 2 - Aidan O'Kane (45+4), Sean Fitzharris (90+2)
(after extra time, Ayr United win 5-3 on penalties)
Zannetos Mytides; Ciaran Foy, David Partridge (capt - Olafur Örn Bjarnason 73), Andrew Hageman, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Aaron McElwee; Shea Campbell, James McLean (Ryan Stevenson 73); Daryl Fordyce, Adam Vickers (Sean Fitzharris 73).
Unused Substitutes :- Arsenio Halfhuid, Noel Anderson.
Bookings :- Ryan McStay 21, David Partridge 44
Possession :- 40% - 60%. Man of the Match :- Aidan O'Kane (Ayr United).

That was a close call wasn't it? A goal late in each half saved us from an embarassing result, and meant Zannetos Mytides huge mistake didn't prove fatal to our League Cup progress. Once more a penalty decision against us was a bit dubious, though this time I did keep my mouth shut speaking to the press. At least when it came to our turn from the penalty spot, we were absolutely clinical, and booked our spot in Round Two, meaning we have achieved our first Board target of the season. We would now be waiting for Friday, when the draw would take place and we would find out who our next opponents would be.

It's been widely reported that Bury manager Alan Knill was sat in the stands at Borough Briggs. He is said to be interested in signing Daryl Fordyce, and was running the rule over the striker. Apparently, Notts County, Stockport County and Morton are also interested in our former Northern Irish Under-21 striker.

Wednesday 3rd August
We have a new arrival as I continue to try and make improvements to our squad. 32 year old Welsh midfielder Danny Williams has signed a one year deal on a cheap as chips deal. A former Liverpool youngster and Wales Under-21 International, he has gone on to play for Wrexham (twice), Kidderminster Harriers, Bristol Rovers, Shrewsbury Town and AFC Wimbledon during his career that has seen him play over 300 Senior matches. Williams has a real bit of the bulldog midfielder about him, capable of shutting down an oppositions engine room, and then letting the more talented players get the play moving the other way.

Celtic play the Second Leg of their UEFA Champions League tie with sc Heerenveen tonight, taking a 3-1 lead into Celtic Park. A crowd getting up towards the 60,000 mark would feel the tension when Ghana International forward Matthew Amoah gave the Dutch side the lead midway through the first half. It would be a Dutchman who would settle the tie seven minutes into the second half, but he didn't play for the Dutch club, as Hoops striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink netted to send Celtic into the next round.

Thursday 4th August
Today brings two more arrivals into the club. The first is another midfielder, one who can pass the ball well, but also do a job when it comes to trying to win it back as well. As well as those qualities, 22 year old David Meyler has proven to be quite profficient when it comes to taking set pieces. The Cork born man was plucked from his hometown club by Sunderland in the summer of 2009, but only played some First Team football when he went out on loan to Blyth Spartans. He rejected an offer from Coca-Cola League Two side Wrexham to move to the West of Scotland.

Also brought in today on a cheap one year deal is 32 year old English striker, Lee Matthews. Born and raised in Middlesbrough, he was on the books of Leeds United as a youngster, and made a handful of Premier League appearances for them before loan spells with Notts County and Gillingham. His career never really picked up until a move to Bristol City though, but after a promising start, he ended up taking loan spells across the city with Rovers, as well as Darlington and Yeovil. Spells at Port Vale, Crewe and Bury didn't go as well as he would have liked, but he found a career reprieve with Blue Square North club, Hednesford Town. He has found the net 27 times in 46 matches over two seasons with them, before they took action to reduce their wage bill. At 6'1, and adept both in the air and with the ball at his feet, he could thrive with a club playing with advanced wingers.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Thursday 4th August 2011 (cont)
The day ended with good news all round for the club, as two of our younger players have been selected to represent their nation at Under-21 level. Paul Dummett and Laurence Gaughan are in the Wales and Republic of Ireland squads respectively for August 9th away Friendlies against Bulgaria and Kazakhstan.

Friday 5th August
The Second Round draw for the Scottish League Cup takes place at lunchtime today, and we are unseeded for this round which features the Scottish Premier League clubs who are not taking part in European competition. We come out midway through, and it will be a derby match that the fans will be looking forward to, as we'll take a trip to face fierce rivals Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Tuesday 23rd August.

There was still time to bring in a fourth new player this week before our next match as well. He might now be a veteran at 35 years of age, but former age group England International player Marcus Hall is still quite a catch for a club such as ours. With 400 Senior appearances to his name, the former Coventry City (twice), Nottingham Forest, Southampton and Stoke City player has returned north of the border after leaving Partick Thistle to sign for Dorchester Town in January. A left footer who can play at left back or cover in the centre of defence, he has signed a two year deal to play at Somerset Park, and will bring some more experience to our squad, plus allow Aidan O'Kane a bit of a rest.

Saturday 6th August
15 year old left winger Jimmy Ferguson is starting to thrive in our setup according to the backroom staff, and this morning he got his first chance to prove it. He didn't waste any time either, as he found the net just four minutes into the match against Arbroath at Gayfield Park. 18 year old striker Simon McAllister added a second later in the first half, and a late goal from Colin Caldwell would prove to be merely a consolation, as our Youth Team open with a 2-1 win.

Scottish League Second Division
New Bayview, Methil
East Fife v Ayr United
Attendance :-
844. Weather :- Dry, 24c.

After his near game costing error on Tuesday night, Zannetos Mytides has been sent to the Reserves, leaving Stephen Grindlay to patrol our goalmouth once more. Mytides wasn't the only one to have a poor night, David Partridge also turned in a poor showing, but he does remain in the side with Olafur Örn Bjarnason not yet fit enough to start the match. New signing David Meyler comes straight into the side to allow Aaron McElwee a rest, while Peggy Lokando reclaims his spot on the right wing in place of Shea Campbell. Up front, late goal scorer Sean Fitzharris starts with Daryl Fordyce, with new signing Lee Matthews taking a spot amongst the substitutes.

I'd have loved to be able to tell you all that this was a sparkling example of the kind of superb match that Scottish fans feast on week in and week out. Alas, it was instead absolute dross, with only Chris Templeman's shot on the run ten minutes in providing any early noteworthy action, and even that was some way off the target. Aidan O'Kane and Nathan Taggart were holding their own private battle down our left, Taggart getting the better of their mid half encounter and setting up David Muir, who's curling effort was only just wide of the target. Templeman's late first half header wide of the goal frame again showed the poor quality finishing that was on show. But at least East Fife were creating chances, which we took almost an hour to achieve. New signing David Meyler lifted a superb diagonal lofted pass into the left channel, Sean Fitzharris squared it for Daryl Fordyce, and the striker returned it to Meyler who buried it into the net, regretably from an offside position. At the other end, Ciaran Foy was in the right place at the right time to prevent Templeman's cross from reaching either Darren Smith or Adam Pepper, our right back managing to get in front of both and knock the ball behind. A Ryan McStay ball over the top sent Fordyce away from the home defence with twenty minutes to play, but his lack of pace forced him wide, and when the ball was recycled for Peggy Lokando to cross, McStay just missed the target with a driven shot. That would signal a trio of changes, including a debut for Lee Matthews, and the subs at least livened the game up late on. Richard Overment forced Stephen Grindlay into an outstanding reaction save, and Matthews held up the ball on halfway before sending Ryan Stevenson down the left wing. He was brought down when he cut infield, and the ref had a decision to make, deciding to show Muir only a yellow card, believing that there was sufficient cover for it to not be classed as a legitimate goalscoring opportunity. Stevenson would make another great run with five minutes to play, this time successfully getting into the box, but Glyn Garner denied him a moment of glory by pushing his shot over the bar. It wasn't likely to be top of the show on Scotland's Match of the Day, but points away from home in each of our opening League matches wasn't to be sniffed at.

East Fife (0) 0
Ayr United (0) 0

Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, David Partridge (capt), Andrew Hageman, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, David Meyler (Aaron McElwee 72); Peggy Lokando, James McLean (Ryan Stevenson 72); Daryl Fordyce, Sean Fitzharris (Lee Matthews 72).
Unused Substitutes :- Olafur Örn Bjarnason, Arsenio Halfhuid.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 46% - 54%. Man of the Match :- Chris Templeman (East Fife).

A clean sheet away from home is never a bad thing, and in what could be a League where everyone is capable of taking points from each other, two points from two away games will hopefully stand us in good stead when we finally get a chance to start playing home League matches from next weekend. We showed a bit of grit too, and we'll need that during this season, particularly if we're going to pick off some larger sides in the Cups. We will get our first chance to do just that in midweek as well.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Sunday 7th August 2011
Our Reserve side are due to play for the first time in several seasons, as they get their Group 3 campaign underway this afternoon. As well as the players already in the Reserve side, I have also made available a selection of players on the fringe of the First Team who I don't intend using for the midweek match with Clyde.

The Reserve match takes place at Station Park, where we play the second string side of Forfar Athletic. Our strong side asserted themselves more and more as the game progressed, and Alex Owen finally found a way through with ten minutes remaining. His goal was then added to in injury time by Adam Vickers. A good performance, and some very useful match time for a host of players.

Monday 8th August
Aidan O'Kane is the only Ayr United player named in the Second Division Team of the Week, which saw no club manage more than two players named.

Tomorrow night sees us continue our campaign in the Scottish League Challenge Cup, as we welcome Clyde to Somerset Park for a Second Round tie. They were a Premier Division side last season, but they are struggling to adjust in the early days of their return to the First Division, drawing away at Dundee before losing at home to Morton. They did manage a home win against Stenhousemuir though, which put them through to this tie with ourselves. Despite their very average form, they are odds on favourites to win this one and progress into the Quarter-Finals. Neither side has achieved a better finish than Runner's-Up in their history in this Cup.

Tuesday 9th August

Scottish League Challenge Cup, Second Round
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United v Clyde
Attendance :-
876. Weather :- Breezy, 26c.

I was looking forward to seeing my side test themselves against a club from a higher level, and didn't make too many changes from the weekends draw at East Fife. The first swap is a good one, with Olafur Örn Bjarnason starting in place of a disappointed David Partridge, who had just been a little too inconsistent in the early weeks of the season. There is also a debut for Marcus Hall tonight, with Aidan O'Kane rested, though available on the bench should we need him. Aaron McElwee is back in the midfield, with David Meyler also dropped to the bench, while Lee Matthews gets a first start up front in place of Sean Fitzharris. Maybe Ryan Stevenson deserved to start this one, but frankly, I think he's more effective coming off the bench.

Clyde have some really good players, not least new striker Luke Rodgers and midfielders Stephen Clemence and Ruari MacLennan. So it was a bit of a surprise just how dominant we were in the early stages of the match, Daryl Fordyce curling his 4th minute shot just over the bar. With plenty of the ball, we were passing it around effortlessly, but not quite managing to get into the danger zones enough to cause major alarm bells for Clyde, though new skipper Olafur Örn Bjarnason showed off his skill with a sweeping cross field pass right into the path of Peggy Lokando. Our visitors did manage to create a chance in the 20th minute, but John Bostock snatched at it a little, and Stephen Grindlay easily turned that one away. We were continuing to pass our way through the black shirted Clyde team rather easily, some superb one touch passing allowed Lokando to let a shot go, David Hutton turning that one aside, before he had a more straightforward save to make, Fordyce not really getting enough power on his effort. We always had our old faithful to fall back on, and with five minutes to play in the first half we won a series of corners, before Fordyce sent one into the near post, and Bjarnason powered home a header from the edge of the six yard box, notching his first goal for the club. That worked really well, so there was no reason not to try it again just moments later, Fordyce sending this one to the far post as Bjarnason dragged several defenders with him as he made a near post run, Marcus Hall was able to arrive late at the far post and head home a debut goal to give us a 2-0 halftime advantage.

There was very little about that first half that our fans wouldn't have enjoyed, and at half time I asked my players who were the side who were in the Second Division, and who had just dropped out of the Premier League, cos I certainly wouldn't have got the right answer if I had walked in to watch the match and not known any better. There was every reason to expect a Clyde backlash early in the second half, but a Daniel Jones free kick eight minutes after the restart was poorly hit enough for Grindlay to not even bother raising an arm to wave it wide. Jones did decidedly better with a cross moments later, picking out an unmarked Ruari MacLennan six yards out, but he headed it against the foot of the post, and we breathed a sigh of relief at not getting caught out. With twenty minutes remaining, we would have to grit our teeth in defence once more, firstly sub Paul Boertien managed to step past Andrew Hageman, and sting Grindlay's hands with a shot that he stopped, then Luke Rodgers tried to sweep the loose ball home, Grindlay stopping that one with his legs while still on the floor. I had no intention of watching Clyde claw their way back into the game, so I turned to my bench to bring on some fresh legs, Hall, Ryan McStay and James McLean replaced by Aidan O'Kane, David Meyler and Ryan Stevenson. That was enough to even the flow, and Stevenson spun away from a tackle with ten minutes to go, passing to Fordyce, who in turned laid it off for McElwee, who struck a shot that took a huge deflection off a defender, leaving Hutton stranded, and relieved, as it spun just wide of his post. Things were going our way, and that was shown clearly when Daniel O'Donnell hoofed the ball up the park from a corner, and allowed Stewart McAllister to go one on one in a foot race with Ciaran Foy. Despite the winger having a headstart of several yards, Foy not only got back level, but read the bouncing ball expertly, throwing himself into a slide to catch it as it dropped, and knock it well clear of danger, much to the delight of those in the stand behind the dugouts. Impressive stuff from my players.

Ayr United (2) 2 - Olafur Örn Bjarnason (40), Marcus Hall (44)
Clyde (0) 0
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, Andrew Hageman, Olafur Örn Bjarnason (capt), Marcus Hall (Aidan O'Kane 71); Ryan McStay (David Meyler 71), Aaron McElwee; Peggy Lokando, James McLean (Ryan Stevenson 71); Daryl Fordyce, Lee Matthews.
Unused Substitutes :- David Partridge, Sean Fitzharris.
Bookings :- None
Possession :- 50% - 50%. Man of the Match :- Marcus Hall (Ayr United).

There was nothing not to like about that performance, not a thing. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that was our best performance in my time at Somerset Park so far. We had, frankly, made a side from a higher level look very ordinary, and at times, made them chase us around the park like headless chickens. The press labelled it as a 'triumph for tactics over talent'. Maybe a little unfair, I wouldn't swap too many of my players for theirs.

In the press conference, many of the questions were about veteran debutant Marcus Hall, who had an impressive first game for the club, capping it with a goal. I told the press how pleased I was with Hall's outing, and when he spoke to the press later, he reciprocated, stating that he was already enjoying himself at the club, and was looking forward to seeing what the season might bring. For Aidan O'Kane, it now means a battle for the left back spot, one which the Ulsterman says he is also happy about.

The last news of the day is from our two players away on International duty. It was a night to forget for Paul Dummett, the left back was booked and had a pretty poor game for Wales Under-21's as they lost to a pair of first half goals in Sofia to Bulgaria. It was slightly better news for Laurence Gaughan though. While the centre back didn't start for the Republic of Ireland's Under-21's, he did come on as a substitute with a little over quarter of an hour to play, and did a good job as the Irish secured a 0-0 draw in Almaty with Kazakhstan.

Wednesday 10th August
There was no doubt about the main event of today from an Ayr United viewpoint. The draw was made for the Quarter-Finals of the Scottish League Challenge Cup, and we came out of the hat first, meaning a home tie. Our opponents would be Division rivals East Stirlingshire, who we hold a win and defeat against since I arrived at the club. It's a draw that certainly gives us a decent shot at a Semi-Final berth, with the match scheduled for Saturday 3rd September at Somerset Park. We'll have a chance to get a good look at our last eight opponents, as we face them this coming weekend too.

Edited by neilhoskins77

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Wednesday 10th August 2011 (cont)
Tonight see's an poorly arranged schedule, with both UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Phase First Leg matches and 2012 UEFA European Championship Qualifiers scheduled. It clearly affected Turkish side Fenerbaçhe more than it impacted on Celtic, as the Hoops won the First Leg 3-0 in Istanbul. First half goals from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Scott McDonald already had the home fans in a bad mood, but a second from McDonald in the 90th minute sent them over the edge, and the scenes that followed in the Sükrü Saraçoglu Stadium were not pleasant to watch.

Scotland were unfortunate that the Spain side was barely weakened at all, and they would go down to a 1-0 defeat at Hampden Park. They were not helped by Ross Wallace being shown a straight red card in the 18th minute. By the time he was joined by Stoke City defender Darren McCormack for two yellow cards in the 42nd minute, Liverpool striker Fernando Torres had already netted what would prove to be the winning goal. That leaves the Scots sat 5th in Group F, with just seven points from their eight matches, and twelve points from a Playoff place with only twelve points to play for. Game over.

Thursday 11th August
We're into the Fourth Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League, and Scotland has a third entrant at this stage, with Aberdeen joining Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. They were rewarded with easily the best draw of the three Scottish sides too. They started at home with a 2-0 victory over Croatian club Slaven Belupo in the First Leg, getting off to a flyer thanks to Venezuelan International striker Miku's 8th minute goal. They would be aided with visiting skipper Bojan Vrucina collecting two quick yellow cards before the break, and new signing Lewis Alessandra scored in the second half to give The Dons a two goal advantage for the away tie.

The news was not as good for the two clubs who had needed to fight their way through to this stage. Falkirk took the lead in Rome's famous Olimpico against Lazio thanks to a Christian Nadé first half goal. But two goals in as many minutes early in the second half from Fernando Cavenaghi from the spot and Julien Quercia meant that Falkirk would need to win the Second Leg. The draw was no kinder to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, as they also travelled in the First Leg to face Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen. A goal in each half from South American pair Diogo Rincon and Jefferson Farfán gave Thistle a tough job for the return in the Highlands.

Friday 12th August
Tomorrow will present us with an opportunity to get a first League win of the season on the board, as we play host to East Stirlingshire. The scouting report on them suggests that they will pack the midfield and look to stifle us before playing on the counter attack. That actually might suit us to a certain degree. We are a side that likes to have possession of the ball, and are comfortable passing the ball around and looking for the gap and the weak spot. Could be an interesting one. The bookies have us as heavy favourites at 4/6.

Our Under-19's got off to a winning start in their opening game last weekend, and they open their home fixtures with a goalless draw at Somerset Park against Montrose, where Jimmy Ferguson had another superb outing down our left flank, though he was beaten to man of the match by the Montrose centre backs, Craig McLennan given the award ahead of team mate Scott Graham.

Saturday 13th August

Scottish League Second Division
Somerset Park, Ayr
Ayr United v East Stirlingshire
Attendance :-
968. Weather :- Downpours, 18c.

Of the new signings that played in the midweek win here against Clyde, none are currently at peak fitness and capable of playing from the start again today, so Olafur Örn Bjarnason and Lee Matthews drop down to the bench to be replaced by David Partridge and Sean Fitzharris, while Marcus Hall is left out of the squad altogether, with the intention being to give him a run out with the Reserve side tomorrow. Aidan O'Kane returns to start at left back, with Arsenio Halfhuid back on the bench and hoping to make his Senior debut.

This game wasn't quite going how I expetced, with East Stirlingshire the side pressing and creating the early chances, Luke Duffy and Brian Graham both missing the target with shots from range. It took them fifteen minutes to get a shot on target, and we gave them a helping hand with that, Ciaran Foy's pass to David Partridge was awful, though the centre back didn't help himself much either. Anthony Mason strode in on goal, and picked his spot, Stephen Grindlay saving the day with a superb reaction stop low near his feet. That would prove to be the catalyst for an absorbing period of play where the action would flow from end to end, though without either side managing to create a quality chance, thanks in the main to some great tackling. We had been playing more than half an hour when we finally created something, Ryan McStay showing his amazing range of passing by picking out Peggy Lokando on the right wing with a pass from the centre circle with the outside of his boot, but the winger's cross wasn't up to scratch. He did a much better job moments later, electing this time to cut inside his marker, and then pick out Daryl Fordyce in the box, the striker finishing with a low shot into the corner, but he hadn't even come close to holding his run long enough to stay onside. We were now starting to come forward a bit more, leaving our visitors to play on the counter just like we were told they would. It was clear they preferred that as well, Jamie McCallum sent over a free kick from the right, Barry McGrory sent it back across goal from the far post, and full back Rossi Jarvis applied the finishing touch, and just like that we were a goal behind.

A goal down at the break, and there were some harsh words in our changing room as I told the players that they hadn't come even close to hitting the standards I expect in that first half, especially from a home game we were expected to win. I told them to sort themselves out, and gave Partridge the hook, replacing him with Olafur Örn Bjarnason. The talk and change clearly had a huge impact, as we looked like an entirely different side in the second half. Aidan O'Kane sent the ball down the left, and James McLean headed it infield to Sean Fitzharris, who quickly squared it to Fordyce. The striker spotted Lokando's run, and the winger angled his run across the path of a defender to prevent him from making a tackle, and then took his shot as Duffy slid in, the ball taking a slight deflection off the defender that looped it over Tom Woodhead's dive, our winger credited with the equalising goal. McStay almost made it a turnaround within two minutes, he placed a shot past the keeper's dive, but saw it come back off the upright. He'd been denied his first goal for the club, but we wouldn't be denied the lead for long, Lokando returning the favour to Fordyce by sending the ball into the strikers path, and he turned it in to put us ahead. We were saving our best for last though. Midway through the half O'Kane sent over a corner, and Andrew Hageman found enough space and time to be able to chest the ball down in the middle of the box, and then slot it home. It wasn't the kind of goal you expect from a big centre back, and everyone celebrated with the Irishman. Convinced that our visitors wouldn't be able to come back from that quarter of an hour spell, I brought on Ryan Stevenson for James McLean down the left. We could have had another when Woodhead left his goalmouth to deal with a long ball, beating Sean Fitzharris to the ball, but then giving it right to Fordyce who tried a first time shot from 35 yards out, but missed the target. With a bit under ten minutes left, I brought on Arsenio Halfhuid for his Senior debut in place of Aaron McElwee, and asked him to sit in front of the defence as we protected our lead, Stevenson joining McStay in midfield, Fordyce and Lokando playing just behind lone striker Fitzharris as we shut up shop and earned our opening three pointer of the League campaign.

Ayr United (0) 3 - Peggy Lokando (50), Daryl Fordyce (53), Andrew Hageman (67)
East Stirlingshire (1) 1 - Rossi Jarvis (37)
Stephen Grindlay; Ciaran Foy, David Partridge (capt - Olafur Örn Bjarnason 45), Andrew Hageman, Aidan O'Kane; Ryan McStay, Aaron McElwee (Arsenio Halfhuid 82); Peggy Lokando, James McLean (Ryan Stevenson 72); Daryl Fordyce, Sean Fitzharris.

Unused Substitutes :- David Meyler, Lee Matthews.
Bookings :- David Partridge 45
Possession :- 52% - 48%. Man of the Match :- Andrew Hageman (Ayr United).

A cracking second half for us after a fairly mediocre first half. We have remained unbeaten for the opening three matches of the League season now, and are sat in fourth spot in a Division where everyone has at least a point, and no club has managed to keep a 100% record. I was given a lot of credit for the half time team talk, surprisingly by David Partridge, who went as far as admitting he'd had a poor game himself. Andrew Hageman's second goal of the season was a particular highlight as well, though his goal was rather unkindly labelled as a freak goal by some of the media.

We'll be hoping to continue our good start to the season next weekend when we play host to the other side relegated from last seasons First Division, as Airdrie United visit Somerset Park. They haven't had a great start to their season in a lower level, winning one and losing two so far.

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