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Plenty to ponder for Caley Jags as latest chance to net win is blown away in Ayr

ICT players celebrate after Michael Gardyne (right) makes it 2-1.
ICT players celebrate after Michael Gardyne (right) makes it 2-1.

Head coach Billy Dodds has had little reason to criticise Caley Thistle as they are competing in and around the top of the Championship this season.

However, he cut a frustrated figure after seeing his players depart the downpours of a stormy Somerset Park with a 2-2 draw against mid-table Ayr United in a game they should have had wrapped up.

Ayr United’s Jonathan Afolabi (right) shields the ball from ICT’s Sean Welsh.

The plus side is they moved to within one point of leaders Kilmarnock, who slipped to a 1-0 loss against Partick Thistle at Rugby Park.

The frustration is they would be back on top by one point had they got the victory they seemed on course for after a positive first half.

ICT were bright early on and, moments after Billy Mckay was denied by an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Aidan McAdams, skipper Sean Welsh buried his header into the net when he met a cross from Robbie Deas.

After draws at Raith Rovers and Partick Thistle either end of a 1-0 home defeat by Arbroath, this was just the tonic for Dodds.

Ayr United manager Jim Duffy.

However, Jim Duffy’s Ayr responded in swift fashion and former ICT midfielder Joe Chalmers slammed home a 15th minute leveller from an Andy Murdoch corner which was not dealt with.

Caley Thistle never let their heads drop and regained their advantage on 26 minutes when Michael Gardyne’s cross, intended for Mckay in the box, fooled McAdams and flew into the net, without the need for a connection from the striker.

They were confident, in control, and it seemed more than likely to go on and finish the job in the second half. And Killie were 1-0 down, so they were top of the ‘live’ league table.

Ayr flew out traps in second half

However, Ayr were lively after the break and matched ICT’s scoreline when full-back Paddy Reading steered a low shot past Mark Ridgers into the net on 53 minutes.

Both teams had opportunities to net a clinching third goal, with Gardyne a fraction away from seeing his stabbed shot crossing the line thanks to the efforts of McAdams, who also saved from Tom Walsh, who scored the winner against his old club in August.

Ayr’s Jonathan Afolabi, Tomi Adeloye and Mark McKenzie also went close, but the teams had to settle for a point apiece.

Handled the wind well in first half

Dodds, who felt referee Steven McLean missed a penalty decision when Kirk Broadfoot was barged in the box in the second half, was bemused by how his team let Ayr find a way back to earn a point.

He said: “The conditions were not easy but I thought we made it look easy with the way we played in the first half.

“We got the ball down, played little passes and dominated the midfield and looked good up front. Our defence was in control.

“I thought we gave a slack goal away when we were in possession. We said to the players, in these conditions, take no chances.

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

“However, we lost the ball, we lost the corner then we lost a goal, so we have been a bit at fault ourselves, but they worked hard enough.

“We had good chances, with one off the line from Midge (Michael Gardyne) and their goalkeeper had some decent saves.”

‘We should have taken care of game’

With the opportunity to return to first place blown by not winning here, Dodds just wanted his side to concentrate on getting the win.

He added: “I said to the players, you never know what can happen elsewhere and just make sure you win the game. I don’t care how you win it, just win it. We ended up losing two points, which is disappointing.

Ayr’s Paddy Reading (left) celebrates his equaliser against Inverness CT.

“But we are up near the top, in there battling and it will be like that, especially in the winter months, but I felt we should have taken care of the game, especially with the position we got ourselves into.

“Credit to Ayr, they came back and had chances in the second half after the equaliser, but we had a big hand in our own downfall.”

ICT get the chance to secure their first win since October 16 on Saturday when winless bottom team Dunfermline Athletic come to the Caledonian Stadium.

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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