It was cold, cold and blustery in the stands of Livingston's Almondvale or Braidwood Motor Company Stadium this afternoon for Ayr's visit to their fellow first division counterparts. Whatever the name of their stadium, it seemed like Livvy expected the victory against the only part-time side in the league and not many would have bet against the Honest Men after recent results, but you should never back a wounded animal into a corner.
Not for a second would I compare Ayr United to a wounded animal, but a part-time playing staff and a small squad has taken its toll on Brian Reid's team this season, as they fight for every morsel and scrap to help stave off the threat of relegation.
So the option of a day out at a Scottish Cup match gave some light relief for all involved at the club. From chairman to supporter, every one of the Honest Men and Bonnie Lassies breathed a combined exhale knowing that a break away from the recent run of results in the league could be broken with a chance to progress in the nation's most prestigious cup competition.
With a semifinal in the other cup competition to look forward to in three weeks, the players had to get back to basics in order to win this match.
We have watched with growing admiration this season as SPL team after SPL team have fell at the alter of Somerset Park, but its been a struggle against other first division sides at times and when Livingston were drawn from the hat as Scottish Cup opponents, a sigh of resignation to familiarity shrouded the Ayr fans as another match against first division opponents weren't the desired choice.
However, when the draw is made, it's made. It can't be changed so in a professional manner the Ayr team took to the road early Saturday morning to make the way up the M77 & M8 to head towards the town of Livingston.
Despite a rogue fire alarm sounding in the stadium which resulted in a 15-minute delay in kickoff, the spirit was apparent from the start that both teams were up for the match to help break the monotony of league football.
Livvy were on the attack from the start and for the opening 20 minutes they pushed the Ayr midfield and defence hard looking for the goal to break the deadlock. At the same time, the Ayr strikers were getting short charged in terms of goalscoring chances.
The game lit up, though, with a few minutes remaining of the fist 45 after some nice play on the left by Ayr's Mark Roberts and Eddie Malone resulted in the cross being headed goal ward by Tam McManus at the back post, who must have thought he had scored as he watched his effort drift past the keeper only to see Andy Geggan steal in at the near to get a final touch on the ball to give the visitors a perhaps undeserved lead.
It's always a perfect time to score moments before the break, but Livvy to their credit fired themselves back into the match only minutes later with a McNulty header from a Fotheringham corner with moments of the first half left to play.
The second half started with Ayr pushing further up the field and although neither keeper had been seriously tested, all the watching fans expected more goals to come from the match.
It was a moment of individual brilliance that was to give Ayr the lead again when midfielder Michael McGowan picked the ball up on the right, made a bit of space for himself before unleashing a thunderbolt Greek god Zeus himself would be proud of.
The shot flew into the net that 100 goalkeepers could not have stopped which sent the traveling support into raptures and his teammates into celebration overdrive.
Over the remainder of the game, chances were available at either end with Ayr keeper Cuthbert saving a couple of goalbound efforts to keep his team in the lead.
In the end, the scoreline stayed the same and sees the Ayrshire side progress to the next round of the Scottish Cup which will be drawn live on Sky Sports this coming Monday, 9th January.
Afterwards Ayr boss Brian Reid said, "Although Livvy pushed us back for the first 20 minutes, they didn't pressure us in defence or make our keeper make a save and I though we deserved our lead."
"And when Mikey picked up the ball in the second half, I was screaming at him to make the pass into the middle but when he scored it was phenomenal," said the ex-Morton and Rangers man.
Michael McGowan said jokingly about his bosses comments about passing into the box,"I think the gaffer sees things that aren't there some times to be honest."
Talking about his goal, McGowan said:"As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in."
Not too shabby a goal Mikey, not too shabby at all!
Ayr now look forward to Monday's draw with many hoping for another SPL team at Somerset Park to add to the collection of scalps they have collected over the past year and who knows, maybe another semifinal place beckons for the Black & White army.
Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Bleacher Report, NotJustScottishFootball as well as PR for Ayr United Football Academy & Galveston Pirate Soccer Club. All quotes are obtained first-hand unless otherwise stated.
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