Apr 6 2012 by Mike WIlson, Ayrshire Post (main ed)
AYR UNITED’S wavering players have been ordered to toughen up to avoid a relegation shoot-out.
And manager Brian Reid has warned: “We need to get our act together.”
Without a win in five games, Ayr’s lead over second bottom Raith has dwindled to only one point.
And basement team Queen of the South, who beat United 2-1 last weekend, are now only three points adrift.
Reid admitted: “We need to finish the season strongly and can’t let it peter out.
“The first 45 minutes at Palmerston was the worst I have seen us. We weren’t at the races and we let down our tremendous support who got right behind the team.
“We are losing stupid goals and have to cut that out quickly.”
Eddie Malone and Michael McGowan return from suspension for Saturday’s visit of Partick who Ayr have yet to beat this season.
However, Malone is battling a hip injury and didn’t train on Monday evening. He is rated only 50:50.
Also sitting out was Jonathan Tiffoney who is nursing an ankle injury but he is expected to be OK.
Fears are growing among fans that Ayr could repeat their spectacular collapse of two seasons ago when they lost eight of their last nine games to drop into the Second Division.
But determined Reid won’t entertain that thought.
He stressed: “It is not something we are considering. Two seasons ago we finished with 31 points so we are already better off with six games to go.
“37 points was good enough to avoid the play-offs then but I think we could be looking at 40 this time.
“We can’t sit here and lack energy. We need to perform but the first-half at Dumfries was nowhere near where we had been.
“We need to be far better than that. The fortunate thing is we are still out of the relegation zone but we need to get back on track.
“All of us want to remain in the First Division so we don’t want to blow all our good work this season.”
Reid is concerned that a gruelling season is taking its toll at the crunch time.
He said: “We have played 43 cup and league games and will finish one short of 50 if we avoid the play-offs.
“That is a lot of games for a part-time club but we have got to finish strongly.”
Reid vows there will be changes for the visit of Partick who crushed Queen of the South 5-0 but then lost3-2 at home to Livingston, who Ayr have twice beaten since the turn of the year.
If Malone returns, Chris Smith will return to his normal central berth after looking uncomfortable at left-back against Queens.
McGowan would seem a certain starter but Reid hints there will be other changes as well as he bids to halt the slide.
Next Wednesday evening (April 11), Ayr are back in action when they host champions elect Ross County.
Ayr are 13/10 to beat Partick who are 6/4. McBookie.com make the draw 5/2.
Mark Roberts is 11/2 to score first with Keigan Parker (6/1) and Michael Moffat (13/2).