Ayr United vs. Brechin City: Ayr Win Promotion to Scottish 1st Division

Marc RosebladeContributor IIIMay 24, 2011

Manager Brian Reid Celebrates with players (copyright marc roseblade)
Manager Brian Reid Celebrates with players (copyright marc roseblade)

So that's it, the Scottish Football League promotion chase is over and Ayr emerged victorious from Brechin's Glebe Park. But how they made the fans chew their nails off waiting for the winning goal!

 It was a black and white army invasion in little Brechin on Sunday, as an estimated 1,500 Ayr United supporters made their way on the three-hour journey by bus, by car, by aeroplane to watch the second leg of the Scottish Football Division One playoff final.

After an agonisingly late equalizer on Wednesday night at Somerset Park, the Ayr United faithful have the right to be on edge as they headed east. With everyone involved knowing that the season rested on this final 90 minutes, it was always going to be a tense affair.

The match on Wednesday had shown that Ayr were the better footballing side and had probably deserved the victory on the night—but it only takes one goal to alter a match and that's what happened that night as Brechin scored their only effort of the night.

Ayr United fans could only hope that current Brechin and ex-Ayr keeper Craig Nelson wouldn't be in as inspired a form as he was that night. That hope was to prove fruitless as Nelson provided three world-class saves to keep the Ayr side at bay at times.

Before the match had kicked off, the Ayr fans had packed into Brechin's ground, outnumbering the home support three to one, which was to prove an immense help to the players on the pitch.

The first half swayed back and forth with the wind swirling around the stadium playing havoc with the high balls. Not since the "Pepe Reina beach ball" goal have I seen a ball move about as much as it was intended but both teams failed to stamp their authority on the match.

Veteran Ayr defender Jim Lauchlan was to be injured in the first half and his replacement, Jonathan Tiffoney, was to have a huge impact in the match.

Close to the end of the first half, young Tiff played a back pass towards Martin in goal only for both to watch as the ball rolled into the net to give Brechin an unexpected lead. There was a stunned silence from the massive travelling support and manager Brian Reid said afterwards that he "...was speechless..." as he watched it go in.

The second half started with Ayr on the attack but as yet in the match, neither keeper had been tested.

Brechin keeper Nelson was soon to pull of three world-class saves to keep his team in it and also fired a warning to Ayr that this may not be their day.

A shot from Scott McLaughlin was to be fantastically saved with a superb diving save knocking it onto the crossbar which dumbfounded everyone in black and white and followed this up with a tremendous double save that had some quarters of the press announcing a goal had been scored. The saves were out of this world but Ayr kept pummeling the home team's penalty area in search of the equalizing goal.

In 75 minutes, a moment of controversy occurred on the far sideline as Brechin's Rory McAllister—who had won a free kick—appeared to throw a punch at Ayr's Tiffoney whilst on the ground. It looked like a direct red card would be issued but the ref only produced a yellow, much to the bemusement and anger of the Ayr United supporters.

However, this was only to spur Ayr forward and less than 90 seconds later, Ayr top scorer and club captain Mark Roberts had the ball in the back of the net after receiving a pass from on-fire strike partner Michael Moffat, much to the relief of the pitch-invading Ayr supporters who swamped Roberts as he celebrated.

The tension had been relieved and the resurgent Ayr looked like the only team capable of winning at this point.

The fans played their part by singing their hearts out for the remainder of the match and the biggest roar of the day yet emerged when Ayr won the next corner in front of the black and white army.

The icing was set just three minutes from the end when Roberts played Moffat into the box and with plenty still to do, fired under Nelson in goal, to give his side the winning goal and like the Roberts goal before this, found himself under a large pile of Ayr supporters who couldn't contain themselves as the joy and passion for their club overflowed onto the pitch.

It was a truly memorable experience for the 26-year-old Moffat, signed from local junior side Girvan in the last January transfer window and has became a local hero with his on-field play.

The match was taken to an agonising four minutes of added time but at the final whistle, the emotion of it all was released by the fans, players and backroom staff combined as a mass pitch invasion ensued, with hundreds of fans surrounding the players who were celebrating on the pitch.

Tears were spilt on this day by many a grown man, woman and child and as the mass ranks of Ayr United supporters cheered and applauded the players as they returned to the field, the relief was clear for everyone to see and feel.

This was another celebratory day to remember for Ayr United; we might not have won the league but promotion was won and for now, that will do.

Marc Roseblade is a Contributor for Bleacher Report as well as a Scottish football reporter and youth development reporter for Ayr United Football Academy. Brian Reid quotes were obtained first-hand from the manager after the match.

Ayr United 'On Fire' Strikers Win Promotion