‘Super’ – Ayr United – 11/02/2023


Growing up, Ayr sounded like a magical faraway land I had only heard about in stories. Like most primary schools in Scotland, we had looked at and studied the poems of one of our country’s most famous sons; the Ayr born Rabbie Burns. His poems described his surroundings as whimsical, beautiful and in the case of Tam O’ Shanter, incredibly dark and terrifying for an 8 year old bairn.

I’ve only had the privilege to visit the town of Ayr on a handful of occasions prior to today’s match, mostly for university duty. While I found Ayr beach to be the windiest place known to man and half the machines broken in the nearby amusements, it is clear how historic and culturally important Ayr is to Scotland. From becoming a Royal Burgh in 1205 to transforming into a strategic location for several armies, Ayr has slowly built itself into a popular tourist location for locals seeking a decent portion of fish & chips and a walk along the sandy front. I won’t be taking part in this though. I’m seeking to visit a club I’ve been excited to see at home for a long time; Ayr United.

Formed in 1910 as an amalgamation of former Scottish Football League sides Ayr FC and Ayr Parkhouse, The Honest Men have been a consistent presence in the Scottish professional game. For a club that is probably most known in the modern day for playing primarily in the second and third tiers, it is worth noting that Ayr have spent a whopping 34 seasons in the top flight, their last outing coming way back in 1978.

Despite having never won a national cup competition, they’ve certainly taken some scalps on the way to a few finals. For a period, the club were known for beating higher league opposition, particularly at Somerset Park. The closest United have come to lifting a ‘big cup’ was the 2002 Scottish League Cup final. After beating my beloved Hibs in the semi-finals (obviously), The Honest Men came up against Rangers at a sell-out Hampden Park. Despite holding out until a few minutes before half-time, The Gers ran out comfortable 4-0 winners, sending the Ayr faithful home dreaming of another cup final.

Presently, Ayr United find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings. After a few idiotic punters (including me) predicted them for relegation this season, the Honest Men sit comfortably in 2nd, only 4 points behind high-flying Queens Park. Manager Lee Bullen looks to have given the club a new lease of life, with positive results showcasing themselves on the park. At this stage, success looks to be coming to fruition.

However, today’s contest is a rest from league action. Somerset Park is hosting some Scottish Cup Fifth Round action, with Elgin City travelling the long road down from the Scottish Highlands. It presents a wonderful opportunity for the hosts to progress to the Quarter Finals, allowing fans an ounce of hope in returning to Hampden once more.


Where do I even begin with Somerset Park? Even on the walk to the ground, the view from a distance just screams ‘iconic’. The instantly recognisable black and white striped roof of the Railway End is clear as day. Its rustic look is something that feels pretty rare in football nowadays, particularly the higher you climb up the pyramid.

Now, I’ll make a confession. I made the rookie mistake of buying a ticket for the main stand. I had (wrongfully) assumed I could just roam the terraces regardless of which kind of ticket I purchased. The grandstand accommodated us well, but I’d have loved to have taken a step on the wonderfully aesthetic concrete bowl Somerset Park is so well known for. I suppose the fact I got to enjoy the view of the Somerset End for 120 minutes is only a positive; McDonalds advert and all.

Inside the grandstand felt like a bit of an ancient, narrow maze at times for a first-time visitor. It took a wee bit of an effort to find a hidden side door to take us upstairs into the lengthy concourse, where the outstanding view of the park greeted us. Worth the wait.

I really enjoy how popular the standing terraces are with supporters. Supporters bunched in their droves behind the goal, standing side by side in close proximity. I feel it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being involved in an environment like this, just as my dad and grandad have described it to me.

Overall, I can see where the hype for Somerset Park comes from. It presents a wonderful blast from the past and something I have never really experienced before. It presents an obvious 5/5 for facilities, even if I made the error of sitting in the stand…


For the most part, the numbers at Somerset were pretty good. Supporters lined their way across the terraces, with the grandstand mostly filled with spectators. In terms of noise, the drum was hit and the flags were waved from the North Terrace pre-game, with an expectant crowd wishing their team to dispatch of their visitors quickly. However, as we’ll see, this was not the case. The support remained mostly quiet, only beginning their chanting and drumming at the end of the 90 minutes and during extra time (for obvious reasons). For a team sitting comfortably in second in the Championship, maybe I was expecting a bit more positivity throughout. It was certainly bouncing as the goals flew in. Huge respect to the small batch of travelling Elgin fans who made the long way down from the Highlands.

Overall, I feel it deserves a 2/5. I’m sure they’ve been plenty of better atmospheres at Somerset this season.

Quality of the Match

Despite coming out onto the Somerset pitch to a wave of applause and rapturous expectation, Ayr United hardly started well. After an incredibly drab first twenty, it was the visitors who went close first. A Russell Dingwall corner was met well by the head of Jake Dolzanski, only for Ben Dempsey to nod it off the line. A close call.

Another big chance followed. A quick burst up the park saw a strike from Dingwall parried by Ayr stopper Aidan McAdams, with Tom Findlay’s volleyed rebound bouncing just wide of the Ayr post. The home fans were becoming slightly restless with their team providing little to nothing going forward thus far.

Ayr did muster their first real opportunity half an hour in. After a whipped free-kick was cleared only as far as Ben Dempsey, his snapshot was saved well by the feet of Elgin goalkeeper Thomas McHale.

Just as the Ayr supporters felt their team coming into the contest, Elgin took their chance. A long ball flicked towards hitman Kane Hester saw the prolific striker volley past McAdams to give Elgin the lead. Not sure there could be anyone in the stadium who could say they didn’t deserve it.

Half Time: Ayr United 0-1 Elgin City

After being booed off the park at half time, you’d have maybe expected the hosts to come out ready to prove the doubters wrong. However, it was Elgin yet again who should have scored. From a corner, another Dolazanski header towards goal was saved well from close-range, with Hester’s rebound deflected behind the goal line.

More drabness ensued. Elgin began to dig their trenches and fell deeper and deeper defensively, allowing Ayr to advance through the midfield more often. It showed after good work down the left by substitute Fraser Bryden. He burst past his man before crossing for prolific striker Dipo Akinyemi. However, the big man’s volley was comfortably seen over the bar.

Long range efforts came and went for both sides, but no final touch came for either side. However, with hope sliding away from the Ayr supporters, a vital piece of luck saw the contest extended in the 89th minute. After a corner looked to have gone to waste, good work from Bryden saw his low, driven cross deflected in off an unfortunate Elgin defender. Delight for Ayr; an absolute sickener for Elgin.

With the momentum pendulum swinging Ayr’s way, Akinyemi’s close control and turn allowed him space to strike at goal a minute later. With the ball looking to roll into the net with the bouncing fans behind the goal, he saw his strike bounce off the post, along the goal-line and out for a goal kick.

To extra-time we go.

Full Time: Ayr United 1-1 Elgin City

Ayr were clearly a rejuvenated outfit after the late equaliser, and unfortunately for Elgin, they started extra time where they left off in regular time. A cross in aimed at Akinyemi saw the striker’s movements blocked illegally (according to John Beaton), with a spot-kick awarded. Ben Dempsey made no mistake, putting the Honest Men ahead for the first time in the contest.

Elgin looked out on their feet, and Ayr were beginning to take complete control. Some excellent control and a quick burst of pace by substitute Daire O’Connor saw a cutback for Akinyemi, with the striker slotting home from 4 yards after taking his time with his touch. 3-1, and game over.

HT in Extra Time: Ayr United 3-1 Elgin City

The scoreline was extended pretty quickly after the half-time whistle. Yet another venture into the Elgin box by O’Connor resulted in a lay off to Akinyemi. The striker came up with a wonderful touch and turn, with the end strike curling into in the far corner. The big man did not have the best of games, but two goals are never something to be sniffed at.

FT in Extra Time: Ayr United 4-1 Elgin City

Manager Lee Bullen was spot on in his post-match comments. His team were minutes away from an embarrassing defeat, only to end up running away with a 4-1 victory. He and the home fans would not have been happy with the performance today. They lacked any real intensity going forward and really struggled to break down a team two divisions below. However, cup competitions are all about results, and their late rout has officially secured them a Quarter Final berth. A good draw and performance in the next round see The Honest Men heading to Hampden. What a day that would be!

For Elgin, this will be an obvious gutter. To have deservedly kept a club pushing for the Premiership at arms-length for the majority of the game is incredibly impressive. The players left everything out on the park and were mightily unlucky not to be in the hat for a historic Quarter Final appearance. They’ve done themselves, their supporters and Elgin proud.

Overall, despite the mostly drab affair, I was treated to five goals, an almost-upset and a tense atmosphere to go with it. The drama of the cup lives on! 3/5.


Student status strikes again. For a standard ticket, Ayr were charging £20 a go for this contest, but with my handy student card, I slithered in having only paid £13. Relatively, this is pretty decent value for a cup tie in a Championship setting. It is probably the cheapest I’ll get to come and see such a glorious arena in the flesh. 4.5/5

Final Score

‘Super’ Ayr United end the day in the Quarter Finals of the cup and with a 14.5/20 from me. I’m delighted to have finally seen Somerset Park in the flesh, and it certainly did not disappoint. It really is a superb arena to watch football, and if all goes well it could be hosting some of the biggest names in the country next season. I’m not sure there will be many complaints about that…

– Connor

One response to “‘Super’ – Ayr United – 11/02/2023”

  1. Janine Shapiro avatar
    Janine Shapiro

    This was really awesome, I felt I was there with you Thank you

    Yours in creating awareness,

    Janine Kathleen Shapiro

    Personal Leadership Coach

    hello@janinekathleen.com http://www.janinekathleen.com https://linktr.ee/janine_kathleen

    Liked by 1 person

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