My Matchday - 394 Somerset Park

Ayr United 1v1 Dunfermline Athletic
Scottish League One
Saturday 19th April 2014 

Whereabouts and Whatsabouts
Iain Wallace Tower!
Ayr is a former Royal Burgh and the county town of Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland. Historically, the first Parliament of Scotland was held in 1315 by Robert The Bruce at St.John's Tower, a medieval parish church dedicated to St John the Baptist. During Cromwellian times the church and tower was used as a garrison, with a huge wall built around certain areas of the town, which are still visible today. The skyline in the town centre is dominated by the Wallace Tower, the 113 foot Gothic monument in the High Street, which replaced the original structure in 1834.
The town flourished as shipbuilding on the River Ayr saw the economy rise, with the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company peaking at the end of the eighteenth century and continued building and repair work until relocating to Troon in 1960. Ayr Harbour was used to export fish from the rivers Ayr and Doon, with the north side of the harbour still operating as a commercial port. Due to its long sandy beach, Ayr became a popular holiday resort after the rail link from Glasgow was built in 1840.

The town’s history is dominated by Scotland’s National Bard Robert Burns, who was born in nearby Alloway. This is also the birthplace of another poet of sorts, Stuart Murdoch, the lead singer and songwriter from Belle and Sebastian, who according to my ears, are one of the greatest independent bands to hail from north of the border.

Plantpot History
Ayr United were founded in 1910 after the merger of two existing league clubs - Ayr Parkhouse and Ayr FC. The club have won six second tier championships and two titles in the third tier of the Scottish League, but no success in domestic cup competitions, although they did win the Ayrshire Cup on 26 occasions.
The club are nicknamed 'The Honest Men' which is a line taken from the Burns poem "Tam o' Shanter" which was first published in 1791, which describes an Ayr farmer who often got lashed with his friends in the pub  - Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses, For honest men and bonnie lasses.

United’s most successful manager was Ally MacLeod, who was team gaffer on three separate occasions spanning fifteen years, recorded a record 214 wins and winning two league titles. In 1973 he was voted as Ayr's Citizen of the Year. He famously went on to manage the Scottish national side to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, had a hit record bearing his name and was Scotland’s most optimistic or maybe the most diluted manager in their history. Alistair declared Scotland  would win the World Cup and I believed him too, as the Andy Cameron’s hit ‘Allys Tartan Army’ peaked at number 6 in the Hit Parade.
Ground visit no.394 Somerset Park
Scottish League no.31/42
Scottish overall total 50

Ayr FC moved from Beresford Park to Somerset Park in 1888 taking the ground’s clubhouse and grandstand with them. Ayr United bought Somerset Park for £2,500 in 1920 and four years later switched the pitch around and built the existing Main Stand.The structure has remained intact and was extended in 1989, which took the seating capacity to over 1,500. The stand is raised above pitch level with a small standing terrace and team dugouts at the front. You can obviously spot the new section due to the roof, brickwork and more modern red seats.
Opposite is the open North Terrace which is split between home and away supporters with a hospitality block at the rear named after Ally MacLeod, with each suite bearing the name of a club legend. The terracing extends to meet the covered terracing behind both goals. The Railway End opened in September 1933, which at the time was split into male and female sections following a £230 donation from the supporters club and £120 from the ladies supporters club. In 2012 the cover was replaced with a new peaked roof which is painted in black and white stripes, and is now the designated away section. The Somerset Road end is similar in design. The roof which was installed in 1971 at a cost of £12,000, was later replaced after storm damage in 2011.

The record attendance at Somerset Park is 25,225 against Rangers in September 1969 and floodlight pylons were first installed the following year. The floodlights cost £18,000 with the supporters raising £12,201 towards the cost, officially switched on for a friendly match against Newcastle United. In 2011 the original lights were replaced with thin beanpole lights, but are still the good old fashioned corner lights which are visible as you approach the ground.The Ayr United club shop is found in the car park opposite the main reception where a free team sheet is handed out.
Somerset Park remains a classic because it still has the look of an old fashioned ground from our younger days, when a stadium was dominated by the popular terraces and seats were nothing more than a minority option.

Admission £15 (North Terrace)
Pin badge £2.50
Mince pie £1.50
Coffee £1
Team sheet - free

Programme £2
Picture cover
24 pages(10 articles 4 pictures 10 adverts)
Para-shout! -  We are at such a crucial stage now and there's four teams fighting for two places. Whether we win games by sheer hard work, excellent quality or even by being just plain lucky we'll take it. (From The Top With Mark Roberts)
The Match
Ayr were up against Dunfermline Athletic with The Pars having already booked their play-off spot, with United hoping to join them in extending the season beyond the first Saturday in May. 
The first half was a total non-event with a too much huff but not another puff, but thankfully the match sprang into life after the restart. After five minutes Dunfermline took the lead when Ryan Thomson was on hand to nod in the rebound after an initial effort was cleared off the line, but Ayr responded well and were soon level.
In the 55th minute a back header from Craig Malcolm came back off the crossbar, but fell nicely to Alan Forrest to smash in the rebound. The hosts pushed hard for a winner but never really creating a golden chance to take maximum points, but they still hold onto fourth spot in the play-off hunt. 
Something that you don’t see in modern football is a team not making a substitution during ninety minutes. Ayr kept the same eleven that started throughout, without calling on the seven options on the bench, even that big lummix Kevin Kyle didn’t have to bother getting into the shower at ten to five.

Matchday Stats
AUFC 1(Forrest 55) DAFC 1(Thomson 50)
Bloke of the Match - Alan Forrest
My Matchday
West Kirk

This trip wasn’t just a matchday but a whole weekend in Ayr. I took the Smudger family to the superb Craig Tara caravan park just south of the town, where we enjoyed an ace Easter weekend. We arrived early Friday evening and spent all of Saturday afternoon in Ayr, where we checked out some good ale houses before I toddled off to the match. After the game we met up in the West Kirk, which is one of the most unique ‘Spoons pubs I’ve visited. The pub is a conversion of a former church which retains its original features, such as the pictured windows and access to the toilets is via the pulpit. Plus as an added bonus, it was only £1.49 a pint for the selection of six available guest ales. 
We completed our weekend by taking the rattler up to Glasgow on Sunday where I did some vinyl record shopping. I was delighted to pick up some real bargains including buying a copy of a record which is shown at the top of this post and also bagging an import of The New Mendicants LP from Monorail. We travelled back home on Bank Holiday Monday having had a great time with the sun remained on constant shine during the whole weekend.

36 pictures from Somerset Park and team sheet.

Bevvy Almanac
Twa Dugs (Killoch Place) - Ayr 'Towzie Tyke' (4.6%)***
Tam o' Shanter Inn (High Street) Tetley 'Tam o' Shanter Ale' (3.7%)****
Geordies Byrne (Main Street) Fyne 'Vital Spark' (4.4%)***
The West Kirk (Sandgate) Inveralmond 'Marzenfest' (4.5%)****

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