Stranraer 4, Ayr United 0
Stranraer’s rich vein of form continued at Stair Park on Saturday as they put four past near neighbours and play-off rivals Ayr United. Possession in this match was almost 50:50: the difference was clinical finishing and a steely resolve in defence.
The home crowd, pleasingly boosted by many returning to back the Blues for the first time in many a year, were treated to some highly entertaining football and were delighted to goad the travelling fans with chants of “easy, easy”.
Ayr, keen to appease their fans and gain revenge for the 6-3 mauling dished out by Stranraer in November, started positively and had a real opportunity with only three minutes on the clock. Moffat controlled the ball on the right, pushed it back to Malcolm who found Kyle free in the penalty box, but the former Scottish internationalist lashed the ball straight at Mitchell. This was the first of a raft of chances for the Stranraer-born striker.
Only a minute later Ayr swept forward again and once more it was Mitchell to the rescue.
Stranraer were stirred into action. Ibrox hero Longworth combined with Winter, whose cross into the middle narrowly evaded Grehan.
On 13 minutes, the breakthrough came when Lithgow conceded a corner which Stirling took from the right. Lithgow headed it back towards the winger who rolled it into the path of Winter, whose was deflected and left Hutton in the Ayr goal helpless.
The game was end to end and it was Stranraer’s turn to come close again. Longworth passed to Stirling and made his way into the penalty box, Stirling delivered hard and low but it was agonisingly inches ahead of the 19-goal hitman.
The second goal came from a double mistake from Lithgow and one from referee Crawford Allan. Hutton kicked the ball upfield but Bell returned it into Ayr territory. Hutton’s attempted clearance was intercepted by Stirling, who ran at the defence. Grehan ran to receive the pass and was upended by the unfortunate Lithgow. Penalty kick said the referee and a yellow card for Lithgow, astonishingly for such a high tempo game the only one of the match. Grehan was fouled but it was outside the box. The Blues striker dusted himself down and dispatched the kick past Hutton.
Stranraer got the dream start to the second half with the best move of the game. Winter played a ball to Longworth who quickly found midfielder Gallagher. His crossfield pass was dinked into the path of Docherty by Stirling and his cross was flicked past Hutton by Grehan.
Worse was to follow for Ayr two minutes later as a now rampant Stranraer made it four and secured all three points. Mitchell kicked the ball far into the Ayr half, Winter brought it under control and played a one-two with Grehan. His cut back was just behind Longworth but Stirling was on hand at the back post to finish another free-flowing attack by Stranraer.
Bell should have added to Stranraer’s tally: unmarked in the box, his header from a corner was easily dealt with by Hutton. Mitchell had to be quick of foot to race to the edge of his box and block a Moffat effort and Malcolm fired in a shot that was well wide of its target.
Stranraer head to Dunfermline on Saturday in an attempt to take points from the Fifers for the first time this season, while Ayr will look to get back to winning ways against bottom of the table Airdrieonians.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby, Frank McKeown, Steven Bell, Sean Winter (Kinnaird, 84), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (McKenna, 72), Andrew Stirling (Borris, 59). Scorers: Winter (14), Grehan (33 pen, 47), Stirling (49)
Ayr United: David Hutton, Kyle McAusland, Gordon Pope, Scott McLaughlin, Alan Lithgow, Brian Gilmour, Anthony Marhenghi (Forrest 56), Craig Malcolm, Michael Moffat, Kevin Kyle, Michael Donald (Campbell 63).
Referee: Crawford Allan