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Ayr United hit back twice to earn draw as Caley Jags winless away run continues

Sean Welsh (left) celebrates making it 1-0 to ICT.
Sean Welsh (left) celebrates making it 1-0 to ICT.

Caley Thistle were twice pegged back as they were held to a 2-2 draw at mid-table Ayr United in the Championship.

However, with leaders Kilmarnock losing 1-0 at home to Partick Thistle, ICT are just one point off the top.

A header from Sean Welsh put the Caley Jags ahead, but a swift reply from ex-Inverness man Joe Chalmers restored parity after just 15 minutes.

Michael Gardyne’s cross caused confusion for the hosts and landed in the net on 26 minutes, but it was level again early in the second half thanks to a low drive from full-back Paddy Reading.

This third successive away draw extend Caley Thistle’s winless league run to four games, but it might well be a useful point.

ICT arrived in the seaside town with just two leagues wins from their last seven, with the 0-0 draw at Partick seven days ago not reflecting their dominance.

Jim Duffy, whose side went into this contest on the back of a one-goal defeats against Killie and Raith, made two changes, with Mark McKenzie and Jonathan Afolabi in for Jordan Houston and Cammy Salkeld.

Sean Welsh (right) gives Caley Thistle a 1-0 lead at Somerset Park.

Duffy, who replaced David Hopkin in the hot-seat here in early October, is striving to secure consistency from his players, who need wins to push into promotion contention.

Dodds, who described the display at Firhill last week as the best of the season, kept with the same 11.

Early action produced two goals

On a wet and blustery afternoon, both teams set out to keep the ball on the deck, with the Caley Jags having the edge in the opening 10 minutes.

Only an acrobatic save from United keeper Aidan McAdam prevented Billy Mckay’s header flying into the net when he met a Michael Gardyne cross. Aaron Doran’s follow-up had too much height.

However, on 13 minutes, a pin-point header from skipper Welsh did beat McAdams to put the visitors in front. It stemmed from a delivery on the left from Robbie Deas.

ICT had little time to enjoy this advantage though as, two minutes later, from a corner whipped in by captain Andy Murdoch, middle man Chalmers was well-placed to hook the ball home past Mark Ridgers for the leveller.

Joe Chalmers (right) equalises for Ayr United against Caley Thistle.

Ayr were lifted by this goal and pushed forward, with renewed confidence in their play.

Gardyne cross ends up in net

On 26 minutes, Inverness were ahead again, thanks to an unusual goal.

Gardyne’s flighted cross was perhaps intended for Mckay, who may or may not have touched it. The pace and spin or the ball beat McAdams nonetheless and beat him.

Most team-mates headed to congratulate Gardyne, who got the credit for his fifth goal of the season.

Inverness players celebrate with Michael Gardyne after he makes it 2-1.

Doran came close to adding a third goal with a free-kick won by Gardyne five minutes before the break, but his 25-yarder steered a touch to the right and off target.

The final chance of the first half was a header from left-back Reading for United, which was too much on it to threaten Ridgers.

Reading rifles Ayr level again

Defender Reading was not denied though after minutes after the break when he saw a gap and drilled a low shot past Ridgers into the net to make it 2-2, which was the last goal of the day.

Mckay almost restored ICT’s lead for a third time when Gardyne sent him, but he guided his shot wide.

Gardyne was then denied when he nudged the ball goalwards inside a packed penalty box, but McAdam somehow got to it…just.

Ayr United’s Nick McAllister shields the ball from ICT’s Aaron Doran.

They went even closer on 67 minutes when Tom Walsh almost scored for the second time this season against his former club, but his stinging volley was pushed away by McAdams when he met a Doran delivery.

Ayr then broke up the field with speed and Ridgers dealt well with a low swerving effort from Afolabi.

United’s Tomi Adeloye was not far off the mark with 15 minutes to go, but his shot from an angle finished wide of the left post at the end of another swift attack.

The last chance of note for ICT fell to Doran at the end of the box, but his shot ended beyond the right post then Ayr’s Mark McKenzie was unlucky at the other end with a close-range shot.

After three successive Saturday games, Caley Thistle return to the Caledonian Stadium next weekend as Dunfermline Athletic come calling, while Ayr United host Partick Thistle.

AYR UNITED (4-4-2): McAdams 6, Reading 7, Murdoch 7, Adeloye 6 (O’Connor 76), Maxwell 6, Baird 6, McAllister 6, Chalmers 6, McKenzie 6, Fjortoft 6, Afolabi 6. Subs not used: Albinson (GK), Houston, McGinty, Moffat, Salkeld, Ecrepont.

CALEY THISTLE (4-3-2-1): Ridgers 6, Duffy 6, Welsh 6 (MacGregor 76), Deas 6, Devine 6, Gardyne 7, Mckay 6, Doran 7, Walsh 6 (Duku 71), Broadfoot 6, Allardice 6. Subs not used: MacKay (GK), Harper, Jamieson, McDonald, McAlear.

Referee: Steven McLean.

Attendance: 1289.

Man of the match: Michael Gardyne.

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