Brechin 1 Ayr United 2
BRECHIN City fell at the final hurdle on Sunday, as they chased a place in the Scottish first division (writes Charles Wallace).
Battling City took the lead against Ayr United in the play-off final second leg, but two goals from the visitors in the final 13 minutes, the second just two minutes from time, ended their promotion dream.
In midweek, the reds did well to survive a second half onslaught at Somerset Park to snatch a share of the spoils in the final minutes.
Michael Moffat had given the Honest Men the lead on the half hour, beating two City defenders and giving goalkeeper Craig Nelson no chance with a clinical finish for his tenth goal of the season.
The visitors’ custodian was then to make a string of fine saves to keep his side in the game, and there was further reward for a sterling rearguard action when, in 86 minutes, substitute Neil Janczyk sent over a free-kick which eluded everyone and ended up in the back of the net for the leveller.
That set the scene for Sunday afternoon’s winner-takes-all 90 minutes at Glebe Park.
The Brechin players took the field wearing black armbands in memory of Brechiner reporter and avid Brechin fan Steve Mitchell and there was a minute of applause before kick-off.
On a further poignant note, there was one vacant seat in a busy press area in the main stand, occupied only by a pint mug and a red and white City scarf!
A big crowd of 2,404 watched the match. The majority were supporting Ayr, but the home fans also turned out in decent numbers to give their favourites vocal backing.
Brechin made three changes from the side which drew one-each in the first leg the previous Wednesday.
Roy McBain returned after illness to replace Paul McLean at left-back and the experience of Neil Janczyk and Gary Fusco was preferred in midfield to youngsters Mitch Megginson and Jordan Kirkpatrick.
Brechin lined up 4-5-1, with David McKenna and Jamie Redman the midfielders detailed to give quickest support to front man Rory McAllister.
Brechin were against a strong wind in the first half as they defended the Cemetery End, but they had a chance in five minutes.
An Andrew Cook cross held up in the wind and Craig Molloy almost managed to burst into the penalty area.
In ten minutes, Molloy was caught offside from a David McKenna pass after some fine passing football.
Trouten shot wide for Ayr in 15 minutes, then a minute later, McCann made a hash of a free-kick after he had been fouled 23 yards out.
Ayr had most of the pressure with the wind in their favour, but in 20 minutes Jamie Redman had a shot charged down, then McKenna shot wide from a McAllister lay-off.
Brechin almost gifted Ayr a goal in 24 minutes. Instead of clearing his lines, Redman elected to pass back to Craig Nelson.
Nelson sent his kick straight to Roberts, who lobbed the ball wide with the goal gaping.
Two minutes later, a shot from Brannigan took a deflection and looped into the air and Nelson did well to back-pedal and tip the ball over the bar.
Back came Brechin and in 27 minutes a Janczky free-kick came off an Ayr head and McKenna headed over on the back post.
The game was end to end as was demonstrated in the 31st minute.
A McBain cross was cleared by Ayr who broke immediately to the other end and Ewan Moyes saved the day with a brave clearance, almost taking a boot in the face in the process.
In 37 minutes Redman set up Molloy on the edge of the box and his shot was deflected for a corner.
If Brechin had made it to half-time on level terms they would have been very satisfied, but two minutes from the break they snatched the lead.
A high ball from Fusco came off the head of a defender and Ayr’s Jonathan Tiffoney, just on as a substitute, knocked the ball wide of his goalkeeper.
The Ayr side could only watch in agony as the ball trickled into the net.
Four minutes into the second half a Cook pass found McAllister and his shot on the turn was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Alan.
A minute later a Janczky corner curled on the wind and seemed to clip the bar before being scrambled clear.
In 53 minutes a Trouten corner was headed on by Roberts and the ball flew across the face of the Brechin goal. Play switched to the other end and Alan was fortunate to save at the feet of McKenna.
In 56 minutes, Molloy linked with McKenna and his shot was saved by Alan.
Urged on by their support, Ayr attacked and in 61 minutes, McLaughlin crossed from the bye-line and Brannigan sliced his shot horribly wide.
McAllister had a chance for Brechin when he broke on the left but he seemed to delay his shot and his effort from a tight angle was blocked.
A looping header from Redman was saved by Alan, then in 65 minutes, Janczky played a corner in low and a shot on the turn from Redman cleared the bar.
Another corner from Janczky found Fusco on the back post and his header went wide.
Ayr hit on the break in 70 minutes and Nelson made a fine save from a McLaughlin shot. A minute later an even better strike from McLaughlin forced a superb full length save from Nelson.
McAllister was the victim of a double body-check by two Ayr defenders but the referee took no action.
The Brechin striker was clearly fuming and he picked up a booking for a clash with Trouten in 75 minutes.
Ayr grabbed an equaliser with 77 minutes played. The Brechin defence seemed in control on the edge of their box, but the ball was somehow poked forward leaving Mark Roberts in on Nelson. Roberts walked round the keeper and tucked the ball into the net.
Brechin immediately sent on Megginson for McKenna.
At this stage it looked as if there would only be one winner and in 85 minutes, the heroic Nelson saved a Rodgers drive, then somehow blocked a follow-up from McLaughlin.
Two minutes from time, Ayr grabbed the winner to deny Brechin an extra half hour. Michael Moffat collected the ball on the left of the box and his low drive had too much power for Nelson as it flew past him.
Moffat was booked for removing his shirt in an over the top celebration which sparked a pitch invasion by the Ayr fans behind the goal.
Brechin sent on Kirkpatrick for Janczyk, then two minutes into four minutes of stoppage-time, McLean replaced Fusco.
McLean picked up an instant booking for a foul on Trouten and the final whistle signalled another pitch invasion by the Ayr hordes.
Brechin City - Nelson, Cook, McBain, McLauchlan, Moyes, Janczky (Kirkpatrick), Fusco (McLean), Molloy, McAllister, McKenna (Megginson) and Redman. Subs: White and Scott.