A Wet Weekend in Ayrshire (Part One)
Yet another weekend that was severely affected by things out of our control.
First, I bought our match and train tickets for the Kilmarnock game against Hearts on Saturday the 8th of October. This was later changed to the 9th because of Hearts’ game against Fiorentina in Europe. No problem, I will book a hotel for Saturday and Sunday night and go back home on Monday.
Rail companies joined in on the fun, too. Saturday, the English train company workers were striking and this meant having to go up on Friday and book an extra night in a hotel. To add to the stress, Scotrail decided to strike on Monday the 10th, the day we were due to come home. This meant having to catch a bus from Kilmarnock to Glasgow, in order to catch our train to Carlisle with Avanti West.
It would also mean a change of hotel as the Station Apartment was booked up for Friday night.
The upside of this chaos was that we could now fit in a visit to Ayr United for their Championship fixture against Queen’s Park.
So, this is part one of our wet weekend in Ayrshire.
With our journey now beginning on Friday, we could at least have a lie-in and take our time for a change.
After dropping our African Grey parrot off with a friend for the weekend, we caught the bus to Newcastle around noon. Once there we grabbed some lunch at Greggs before having a slow wander off to the train station for the 14:23 train to Carlisle. From here, we caught the 16:08 to Kilmarnock and arrived just before 6 pm.
Upon arrival, we headed off to the Dean Park guest house, just up the road from the station and were checked in by the owner, Fred. A friendly, jovial host which always helps the process and after dropping off our bags we headed out for a meal at the Indian restaurant we had passed along the short walk.
The Jewel in the Crown
The Jewel in the Crown – a well-decorated Indian restaurant where you could choose to eat from the menu or pay a set price for a buffet. We chose to eat from the menu and ordered a couple of drinks to go with our meals. Tip: if you ever choose to eat here, beware of the naan bread! They are huge! We both have decent appetites and we couldn’t take down one between us.
Our meals were ok but we thought the price tag was a little hefty at £48. This was for two pints of Kingfisher, curry and rice each and a naan between us. Would I recommend this place? Probably not.
With our meal eaten and the bill paid, we headed back to the guest house. Travel always wears us out and we were both ready to hit the sack for some reading and sleep.
Ayr United – Journey
After a great breakfast at the Dean Park guest house consisting of fruit and cereal followed by a hearty Scottish fry-up, we checked out and headed to the original place we had booked for the Saturday and Sunday nights – The Station Apartment.
This place is a perfect lesson in not judging a book by its cover!
We arrived at the address to be confronted by a locked white door between a takeaway and another business. With no way of getting in (and not being sure we wanted to), we rang the number associated with the booking and were answered by a lovely, helpful lady who told us that she would be straight over to clean the apartment and get the keys to us (we had arrived much earlier than originally planned because of the travel changes).
Meanwhile, we headed to a lovely little cafe bar called The Duke down the road to get a coffee while we waited.
When we arrived back at the apartment, we got the keys from the lockbox by the door and went up the stairs to our apartment. We were still very dubious about what awaited us as we ascended the concrete steps that were like the outside of a block of council flats.
We needn’t have worried. Once inside, we found two bedrooms, a TV lounge, a kitchen and a bathroom at our disposal, all decorated tastefully in a modern style. The lady was still there finishing off the last touches of cleaning and making beds and we had quite a natter with her before dropping our bags and heading off to the bus station.
Ah! Kilmarnock bus station… with a cast similar to the regulars of The Jockey in Shameless, emptied into the streets and herded into the station. It reminded me of the old Hanley bus station in Stoke. Maybe we just went at a bad time? We didn’t have to wait long though, and our number four bus to Ayr pulled in and off we went.
The journey started with blue skies and sunshine but ten minutes into the journey, the heavens opened up and this was indicative of the rest of the weekend, heavy downpours with brief respites. Luckily, by the time we got to Ayr (the journey takes about 48 minutes), the rain had stopped and we walked to Somerset Park.
Ayr United – The Stadium Surroundings
After popping into the club shop to get a pin badge and programme before it got busier, we set off for a wander around the outside of the ground.
Across the road from the club shop and social club, is the main stand, which runs along the southern side of the stadium. At the far end is access for away supporters. Dependent on numbers, away fans are given seats at the western end of this main stand and a small standing area below. If numbers are larger, they are given access to the Railway Stand.
The Railway Stand is a covered terrace that lies at the west end of the ground and has the instantly recognisable black and white striped roof that you may have seen in photographs of Somerset Park.
The North Terrace is quite a large, open terrace that runs the length of the pitch and joins onto the terracing at either end. Perched atop the terracing is the hospitality area of the Ally McLeod Suite.
At the eastern end of the ground is the Somerset Road End, another covered terrace for home fans.
Somerset Park is an old-school ground and if you like that, then you will love the place. For me, there are a lot of similarities between this ground and the Goldstone Ground – Brighton’s old stadium.
After walking around the outside and taking a few pictures – plus a few from inside after one of the kind stewards allowed us to go in and take some extra photos at the opposite end of the ground – we headed to the social club.
This place was pretty busy by the time we got there and it was easy to see why. A bright room, decorated with murals, framed shirts and photographs from the clubs’ past. There was extra space outside with more tables and chairs. This was initially where we took our drinks until the inevitable rain started falling again. We stayed until around 2:30 and then headed back out to go into the stadium.
Ayr United – The Stadium
Our match tickets were purchased online from the Ayr United website at a cost of £20.00 each.
We entered the stadium via the North Terrace turnstiles but it quickly became apparent that nobody cared too much if you wanted to move around the ground to a more favourable vantage point. Given the rain that was falling off and on, we decided to move into the Somerset Road End due to it having a roof to shelter us.
The Queen’s Park fans were housed in the western sections of the Main Stand, which meant the Railway Terrace was completely empty (for now). The more hardy souls remained on the North Terrace throughout the game and I salute them for that.
Ayr United have revealed plans (now approved) for a refurbishment of the North Terrace that will include seats and an upgraded hospitality area. This will also see parts of the original terrace remaining which is always nice, in my view. Progress has to be made but heritage should never be allowed to just go by the wayside. Preserve as much as possible and make sure there are lots of photographic reminders of things that can’t be salvaged.
You can read more about the proposed developments here.
The Railway Stand
The North Terrace
The Somerset Road End
The Main Stand
Ayr United – Teams Enter the Field & Kick-Off
With the ground slowly starting to fill, it was almost time for the game to begin. ‘Pandamonium’ (Oh dear! Who chose that name?) the Ayr United mascot, was dancing in the middle of the pitch to the entrance music of the team ‘United With Pride’ by the Seaside Sons.
Fans who visit non-league grounds will probably already know and love the ability to switch vantage points during the game and it was nice to see that this was allowed at Somerset Park too. After the toss was made and the ends were decided, the Ayr fans made their way to the Railway Stand to watch their team attack that end of the ground.
Supporters from both the Somerset Road End and the North Terrace vacated their spots and went around the back of the Ally McLeod Suite to get into the covered terrace at the other end.
Ayr United – The Game
The game between the Honest Men (Ayr) and the Spiders (Queen’s Park) kicked off and it didn’t take long for the action to begin in earnest. Following a chance at each end, Ayr United struck gold in just the 6th minute, as man of the match Dipo Akinyemi got the first of his hat trick of goals.
Some neat build-up play on the left led to the ball being crossed to the far post, where Akinyemi rose highest and directed the ball at the ground where the bounce evaded the keeper, a defender and another attacker before going into the net at the opposite corner.
1-0 Ayr United!
At this point, there were still home fans making their way around to the Railway Stand and some may have missed the goal if they were behind the Ally McLeod Suite.
Straight after the restart, Queen’s Park went down the other end and nearly scored themselves. A shot from Simon Murray was saved by the keeper in the centre of the goal. The next moment of note was also from the visitors. In the 17th minute, a cross from the Spiders’ left was nodded on towards the far post. It looked like being a goal but the Ayr keeper quickly ran to meet the attacker and blocked the ball out for a corner.
There were attacks and ebb and flow for both teams until the second goal came but one common denominator kept popping up every time Ayr attacked… Dipo Akinyemi. He seemed to be involved in everything that was positive for the home team. In the 23rd minute, he had a shot blocked. A minute later he headed over the bar from a corner kick and he got his reward for these efforts in the 36th minute.
Before that though, it would be remiss of me to dismiss the visitors’ efforts. They were far from being dominated in this game, despite the scoreline at the end. Between the first two Ayr goals, they had a few chances of their own. Simon Murray, Scott Williamson and Grant Savoury, all had shots blocked or saved and it would have been no surprise had they equalised.
Akinyemi put that possibility to bed though with his second of the game.
From an Ayr counter-attack, the ball was played from the middle of the park, out wide. The excellent cushioned volley pass was put in front of Akinyemi, who was through on goal. His initial shot was blocked by the defender but the rebound fell to him and he made no mistake with his second attempt. The left-footed shot nestled in the net and the Honest Men had clear daylight between them and the opposition.
2-0 Ayr United!
Again, the visitors came at their hosts and Stephen Eze (two headers) and Jack Thompson had three attempts between them to score before the break came. An attempt from Brad Young of Ayr was saved in stoppage time and this action brought about the end of the first forty-five minutes.
Half-time – Ayr United 2 Queen’s Park 0
During the half-time interval, I overheard someone mention the scoreline at Stoke City (my team) and I asked if they were Stoke fans. Nope! One of them was a Sheffield United fan unhappy that they were losing 2-1. What are the chances of that happening? Two random Englishmen whose sides were playing each other, just happen to be standing next to each other on a West Scotland football terrace.
I love football and it’s crazy quirks!
The Second Half
It took eight minutes for the first action of the second half and inevitably, it was Akinyemi involved again. An aerial duel in the centre of the pitch was won by Ayr’s Alex Kirk and fell to the feet of Paul Smith who knocked it forward to Brad Young. He took the ball into the box and squared it across the goal for the awaiting Akinyemi who completed a perfect hat trick with a right-footed shot past the keeper.
Lovely flowing team goal.
3-0 Ayr United!
If this didn’t finish the match as a contest, the next few minutes certainly would. In the 59th minute, Logan Chalmers fired the ball across the box at speed and Brad Young did well to cushion the cross into the far corner of the net.
A row of ever-lowering Space Invaders popped into my head, with the slogan ***GAME OVER***.
4-0 Ayr United!
Just three minutes later, it was five. The ball was played out to the right flank, where Josh Mullin latched onto it and fired the ball low across the six-yard box. Ben Dempsey was the quickest to react and found himself unmarked at the near post to slip the ball home.
5-0 Ayr United!
Despite the game being over as a contest, credit to Queen’s Park because they still didn’t stop working and trying to score. Understandably, the game petered out a bit after that burst of goals and chances became fewer.
Goalscoring hero, Dipo Akinyemi was substituted to plaudits from the home fans in the 74th minute, his work already done. Probably the best chance for another goal was from a free kick that I managed to video in front of the Somerset Road End.
Logan Chalmers stepped up and fired his direct free-kick just wide of the post on our side of the goal and that would have been a great way to cap off the day. We had to settle for five goals though and I’m happy with that. So far on our travels this season, we are averaging just over 3.5 goals per game.
You can read a Match Report from the Daily Record, here.
Ayr United – Match Highlights
Full-time – Ayr United 5 Queen’s Park 0
Attendance – 2,052
Entrance Fee – £20.00
Programme – £2.50
Ayr United – After the Game
After the whistle signalled the end of the game, we applauded the teams off the pitch and slowly made our way along the Somerset Road End terrace to leave via the exit in that corner. I looked around for my Sheffield United groundhopper friend to let him know the good news that Stoke had scored a third but he had already disappeared… probably for the best.
Following this result, Ayr currently sits in second place in the Championship table, level with Partick Thistle and Inverness. Next up for the Honest Men is a tough away game at Dens Park, to face Dundee. Queen’s Park meanwhile, slipped down to fourth place and face a home fixture against bottom-placed side Arbroath next Friday evening.
A ten-minute walk later and we were at the bus stop where we had to wait for quite a while for a number four bus back to Kilmarnock. During this wait, I discovered that my programme had been ruined by the rain. Straight on eBay to look for a replacement when I get back home!
The bus finally arrived and we were on our way back ‘home’ to Kilmarnock, the venue for tomorrow’s big Premiership game with Hearts.
Upon arrival, with the rain still thrashing down, we headed back to our apartment clutching a bottle of milk from a local shop so that we could have a nice hot coffee. The rest of the night was spent lazily on the couches.
During this time and some of the following morning, I started and finished the Mark Hunt autobiography. For those that don’t know, Hunt was quite a legend in the world of kickboxing and MMA and his book is one I would wholeheartedly recommend if you are a fan of the sport.
So, that was part one of our wet weekend in Ayrshire, tomorrow we would be preparing for part two…
Onto the next!
4 thoughts on “Ayr United, Somerset Park – Hopper Tales #38”
Thanks for that, well put together and really enjoyed it. On the subject of Sheffield , there was a group of mixed Sheffield Wed/Utd lads up for the game. Were getting Wednesday fans up regularly ( Lee Bullen Connection ), but a lot of other from down south also.
Cheers, Barry, I appreciate the feedback!
Interesting that you have established a connection between fanbases through a player. Do any of your guys go down to Sheffield too?
Great review, certainly a good game to attend, we wish it was like that every week! Switching to the railway end is rare, the week before Inverness players chose to swap ends to have Ayr shooting to a empty stand in the 2nd half but due to the rain the stewards let us use it, meant our players got to shoot to our fans both halves and with the small travelling support from QP, allowed us to do it again! Be great to have you back!
Much appreciate the feedback Tony, thank you!
The stewards seemed pretty helpful at Somerset Park. They were happy to let me take some photos from the Railway Stand before the turnstiles even opened, which I appreciated.
Would love to come back sometime but there are many grounds I still need to visit before then. Good luck for the rest of the season!