Brechin City 1, Ayr United 0
IT was Paul McCartney who first wrote about a “Long and Winding road” and Brechin City finally reached their intended first check in on Saturday.
While there may have been a few pot holes on the way, the scenery still has the potential to become all the more pleasing on the eye.
Of course, now Brechin have to overcome Jimmy Nichol’s Cowdenbeath, who have surprised many a supposed bigger club with some of their performances in the first division this season.
However, if Brechin’s players needed any inspiration, they only need look back at some of their own efforts over the last nine months or so.
Craig Nelson was back between the sticks on Saturday, having recovered from injury and, if Brechin are to go further in the play-off scenario, then they will need another rearguard action like Saturday’s.
While the big goalkeeper had just one save to make late in the game, those in front of him performed really well.
Ewan Moyes never lost a header all afternoon and was undoubtedly a candidate for man-of-the-match.
Gerry McLauchlan, while he managed to stay on the pitch, did the simple things well as he has done all season.
In the full-back positions Messrs McBain and Cook did their best to stem any threat from the wide areas.
However, it was in the middle of the park in the opening period of the game that skipper Neil Janczyk was at his sublime best.
He hit four or five 40 to 50 yard passes all of which reached their intended destination.
Brechin were unfortunate not to be ahead after nine minutes, when Ayr’s Rab Donnelly failed to cut out a cross from the right and Rory McAllister hammered the ball goalwards, but over the bar.
City continued to press, squeezing the game in the centre of the park to great effect and their hard work paid off in the 19th minute.
Janczyk’s left-peg once again picked out McAllister and the City number nine, despite facing the cemetery end, looked up before looping a header over Ayr goalkeeper Alan Martin and into the top corner of the net.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Brechin performance was that they continued to press back the visitors in the opening period.
Ewan Moyes went close, again from the left boot of Janczyk from a flag kick. Mitchel Megginson did likewise when he darted a Janczyk corner past the upright.
Jamie Redman was next to test Alan Martin, but the goalkeeper comfortably held his 20-yard drive.
It was always going to be difficult for City to continue as far on the front foot as they had done in the first 45 minutes.
However, while Ayr had much more in the way of possession in the second period, Brechin’s shape and organisation gave them little in the way of goal-scoring chances.
Nine minutes into the restart, Janczyk was unfortunate not to add to his side’s tally when his left foot drive was lashed at the bottom right hand corner and Martin was forced to push the ball for a corner.
McAllister was doing a grand job pulling the Ayr centre backs around as much of the Glebe as he could and Brechin went close again in the 72nd minute.
When player of the year Craig Molloy threaded a lovely pass to David McKenna,the striker advanced into the penalty area and his shot raced across the face of goal, but was deflected for a corner.
Another Janczyk corner saw McAllister’s low drive parried by Martin. The ball broke to David White, who had replaced the injured McLaughlan, but the big man fired the rebound just past the post from the edge of the box.
It should have been dead and buried in the 86th minute.
Once again a Janczyk corner was glanced into the path of Jamie Redman by McKenna, but the midfielder shot past the post with the goal at his mercy from six yards out.
City keeper Craig Nelson brought off his only save of the match in the 90th minute when he dived to his left to save a shot from Ayr’s youth academy substitute Mark Shankland.
Willie Easton and Chris Smith were both booked for Ayr.
Roll on Wednesday (tonight)!
Brechin City - Nelson, McBain, Cook, McLauchlan (White), Moyes, Molloy, Fusco, Janczyk, Redman, McAllister (Kirkpatrick) and Megginson (McKenna).
Ayr United - Martin, Lauchlan, Donnelly (Armstrong), Easton, Smith, Trouten, Robertson, David Crawford (Shankland), McLaughlin, Rodgers and Moffat (Roddy Paterson).
Referee, Euan Norris; crowd - 577.