Brian McGinty saluted his talented troops after Cumnock eased their relegation fears with an impressive win over Kilwinning Rangers last night.
Goals from Finlay Frye, Alan Murdoch and substitute Smart Osadolor sealed an impressive West of Scotland League Premier Division victory at Buffs Park.
The visitors had to play most of the second half with 10 men after Kyle McAusland saw red for violent conduct during a brawl involving almost every player on the pitch.
However, it did not prove to be a costly sending-off with ‘Nock protecting their advantage and adding the icing on the cake through Osadolor in the closing stages.
Delighted boss McGinty told Ayrshire FootballNews: “It was a massive three points for us. In fairness, the performances we’ve produced since Christmas have been really good – even in the games we’ve lost.
“We’ve been excellent, we’ve created chances and even though we’ve lost goals in games, we’ve defended better as a unit.
The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now.
Get all the local news in your area – plus features, football news and the latest on the coronavirus crisis – at your fingertips 24/7.
The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories while you can customize your page with the sections that matter to you.
The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now on iOS and Android.
“I thought we were worthy winners and could have won by a few more. All the credit goes to the guys.
“I always say this but managers can set teams up and give them an idea of how we want them to play but the players have got to do it for you. They were excellent to a man and they all stuck together.”
Buffs had an effort cleared off the line and a free-kick well saved by Cumnock keeper Kieran Hughes before Frye slotted home the opener from Adam Caldwell’s poor backpass in the 31st minute.
‘Nock made it 2-0 from a corner in the 51st minute with Murdoch’s header bouncing uncontested into the far corner of the net.
All hell broke loose seven minutes later when Jordan Stuart challenged Greg Ferry with the ‘Nock full-back careering into the railings in front of the main stand.
Both sets of players squared up with McAusland leading the reprisals and it was the ‘Nock skipper who paid the price when he received his marching orders. Stuart escaped with a caution.
“I’ve no complaints about the red card,” reflected McGinty. “I thought the Kilwinning boy should have went as well for his challenge from him. I do n’t think it was intentional but it was dangerous.”
Kilwinning huffed and puffed but quality in the final third was sorely lacking even though they had another attempt cleared off the line as time ran out.
It was the visitors who had the final word. Osadolor turned from distance and curled a sweet strike into the bottom corner beyond keeper Jamie Barclay to wrap up a fine evening’s work.
Disappointed Buffs gaffer Chris Strain said: “It’s about a pride in your performance. I asked them to play a certain way and whether they are capable of playing that way or not, they have to find a way.
“We’re good when the big games are here and it’s a nice, sunny day and the pitch is good and everyone is getting the ball down and playing.
“But when asked to go and compete in a different manner, I thought we were found wanting big time. We’re disappointed in all manners of play, all manners of endeavour.
“The manner of the first goal we lost was shocking. The second one was a set-piece that we don’t challenge and it trickles into the net and the third; they are down to 10 men but it comes from an overload on the far side of the pitch which I found bemusing.
“We’re far short at this moment in time but we need to dust ourselves down as we have a real tough month ahead.”
Don’t miss the latest Ayrshire headlines –sign up to our free daily newsletter here
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.