Alloa Athletic have gifted Raith Rovers the chance to clinch League One glory on the last day of the season, with the Wasps defeating the Fifers’ closest title challengers, Ayr United, on Sunday afternoon. However, Jim Goodwin’s men travel to Kirkcaldy next weekend, which sets up the Stark’s Park clash nicely for a final day showdown.
The Clackmannanshire club came into the match knowing a win would see them go level on points with Arbroath, in third. Jamie McCart was suspended after his sending off against Forfar the week prior, with Scott Taggart taking up his spot within the back four. Elsewhere, the part-timers brought Dylan Monaghan onto the bench to increase their match-day squad to the full compliment of 18 after being one short at Station Park 8 days earlier.
The hosts also came into the match with a suspension; top goal-scorer Lawrence Shankland was unavailable through a two match ban, which meant Michael Moffat regained his place within the starting eleven. Craig Reid missed out due to injury while Alan Forrest dropped to the bench. Andy Geggan slotted in at right-back with Declan McDaid supporting the attack out wide. The Honest Men remained without key figures Paddy Boyle and captain Ross Docherty, as well as on-loan Wolves keeper Jack Ruddy.
It was a relatively slow start to the match considering the attacking prowess of both sides. It took until the 14th minute for the opening shot to arrive, but, Jordan Kirkpatrick was off-target with his right-footed shot.
Then, Kevin Cawley had a go, with the experienced midfielder not far away from opening the scoring. However, the deadlock would be broken shortly afterwards, as a neat move found Cawley who set-up Iain Flannigan to calmly slot the ball past Jordan Hart from 15-yards.
This seemed to knock Ayr into gear slightly as Craig Moore saw a shot blocked before Geggan fired narrowly wide from 25-yards out.
Kirkpatrick looped a header in on goal but it dropped the wrong side of the post before Neil Parry saved his first shot of the afternoon, collecting Robbie Crawford’s attempt.
The game had become stretched, with Alloa seemingly benefitting from this. Ross Stewart knocked the ball wide from a good position from inside the box before Kirkpatrick got in behind again, but his curling effort from the right was not accurate enough to creep into Hart’s left-hand corner.
You just wondered if Ayr would make the hosts rue those missed chances, but, after a long diagonal ball from Garry Fleming saw Callum Crane fire home, the Somerset Park men were finally breached a second time. Geggan failed to cut out the high ball, with the Hibs loanee keeping cool to notch his second goal within consecutive matches.
Steven Hetherington fired in a left-footed strike from just outside the area before the break but Hart gathered. It had been an underwhelming performance by the visitors so far, with a big 45 minutes required if they were to keep their title hopes within their own grasp.
Ian McCall wasn’t slouching around at the interval, with two attacking substitutions made. McDaid was taken off for Forrest while Geggan was replaced by Craig McGuffie.
It was a storming start by the full-time side at the beginning of the second period, with Moore firing over the bar almost immediately before McGuffie forced Parry into a good save to keep the shot-stopper’s clean-sheet intact.
Forrest saw a shot blocked, but, just 5 minutes into the final half of the encounter, Ayr’s perseverance paid off as McGuffie played a fantastic ball through to Moore who rounded Parry and slotted home to reduce the deficit to one.
Crawford had a double effort at goal soon after, one going close but wide while the other was well held by Parry. Alloa then managed to battle back, as the game got stretched once more.
PJ Crossan was brought on for Flannigan just after the hour while Callum Smith also entered the fray, replacing Cawley. Sandwiched in-between those xhsnges was a Mark Kerr attempt at goal, but the January signing from Falkirk was unable to hit the target on this occasion.
Michael Rose and McGuffie saw free-kick efforts blocked by the wall, but, then the lifeline they’d been searching for arrived as David Ferguson was bundled over in the area by Dunfermline loanee Smith. Moore stepped up to equalise but blazed over the bar, into the terracing housing part of the large travelling support. A massive chance gone for United.
Forrest curled a shot over the bar as the game entered the final 10 minutes. Kris Renton was brought on for Ross Stewart to try provide some fresh impetus up front for the hosts, but, Ayr kept on pushing.
Forrest was foiled by Parry before captain Steven Bell appealed for a penalty after he felt he was pushed in the back following a corner, in which he headed wide.
McGuffie curled a left-footed attempt over the bar from the right as 3 minutes of injury-time were indicated.
No further chances of note were created however and despite Renton having a goal disallowed for offside late on, it wasn’t to be Ayr’s day as League One sets itself up for a last-day decider.
Raith lead Ayr by a point with a Rovers over Alloa on Saturday clinching the title for Barry Smith’s men. Ayr face Albion Rovers at Somerset Park, with any slip-up likely to cost McCall’s men glory. Alloa can finish third with a win, with the potential of facing Raith 3 times within 7 days if the Fifers finish second.
FULL-TIME: Alloa Athletic 2-1 Ayr United
1. Neil Parry
2. Jon Robertson
3. Callum Crane
4. Andy Graham
5. Scott Taggart
6. Garry Forming
7. Kevin Cawley (Callum Smith 72′)
8. Steven Hetherington
9. Ross Stewart (Kris Renton 80′)
10. Jordan Kirkpatrick
11. Iain Flannigan (PJ Crossan 63′)
21. Andrew Wilson (GK)
12. Kris Renton
14. PJ Crossan
15. Callum Smith
16. Daryll Meggatt
17. Dylan Monaghan
18. Jim Goodwin
1. Jordan Hart
6. Andy Geggan (Craig McGuffie 45′)
28. Steven Bell
5. Michael Rose
14. David Ferguson
16. Jamie Adams
27. Mark Kerr
8. Robbie Crawford
11. Declan McDaid (Alan Forrest 45′)
9. Craig Moore
7. Michael Moffat
19. Ellis Hare-Reid (GK)
10. Alan Forrest
12. Craig McGuffie
18. Stuart Faulds
24. Leon Murphy
25. Luke McCowan
Referee: Greg Aitken