HOW cruel that Ayr United chose the year’s leap day to bring Alloa crashing back down to earth by ending the part-timers’ record-breaking unbeaten run.

This will hopefully prove to be little more than one of those days for the Wasps as they failed to find the net for only the third time in ten games. The magnificent Ayr United stopper Ross Doohan was no small part of Alloa’s frustrations, with his string of fine saves either side of half-time keeping the hosts off the scoresheet. 

In the end, it was Alloa’s own defensive frailties which came to the fore for the second week running. Alan Forrest made it three goals in as many games against the Wasps when he killed off their fading chances with a stunning effort late in the second-half. 

Thankfully, news from more than 90 miles away in Dumfries softened the blow as Queen of the South’s hammering at the hands of Morton ensured Alloa will end the month outside of the relegation play-off zone. 

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Aaron Drinan opened the scoring for Ayr Aaron Drinan opened the scoring for Ayr

As is becoming customary with the Andy Graham and Neil Parry-less Alloa defence these days, the Wasps’ inability to defend set pieces continues to rear its ugly head with worrying regularity. Those who’d hoped they had learned something from Morton’s four-goal haul of last week were given the most painful of reality checks just ten-minutes in. 

Alloa had more than one chance to clear their lines from Stephen Kelly’s windswept corner, only for Scott Taggart to miss his header.

Instead, they could only hook the ball to the advancing Ayr infantry line and panic ensued when a hopeful cross arrowed towards the Wasps’ box Kieran Wright failed to get the better of Aaron Drinan as the ball bounced awkwardly and the midfielder couldn’t believe his luck as he cheekily backheeled home.

Seconds later, Jordan Houston ghosted beyond the Wasps’ static backline to prod narrowly past Wright’s post; cue a heated Alloa inquiry while those in the stands prayed this wasn’t going to be a repeat of September’s 4-1 mauling at the hands of Honest Men.

Peter Grant knew he had to act and the gaffer wasted little time in shuffling his pack. Out went the ineffectual 4-3-3 of the first 20 minutes, which Ayr had so ruthlessly exploited to suffocate the midfield, and in came 4-4-2. 

It very nearly brought instant success and Ayr had four fine saves in a minute from Doohan to thank for keeping their slender lead. First, Stevie Hetherington hungrily hunted down the ball to find Thomson, but his shot was straight at the stopper. 

Then, with the vastly improved Alloa oozing the sort of confidence we’ve come to expect, a neat flick from Kevin O’Hara to Alan Trouten got the former in behind the Ayr rearguard. Again, Doohan stood tall to block. From the resulting corner, the unlikely figure of Liam Dick went even close only for the keeper to pull off another fine stop. There was still time for Thomson to fire into the midriff of the Celtic loanee after he escaped the attention of Steven Bell. 

Unsurprisingly for a team which places so much of its attacking joy on the fortunes of O’Hara’s tireless energy, the ball into the channel beyond Ayr’s rearguard was proving increasingly fruitful for Grant’s men. Time and time again, one of the league’s form players was putting on the afterburners and escaping the clutches of his increasingly desperate markers. 

Another big chance came O’Hara’s way when he sprinted onto Dick’s clever ball but again Doohan proved more than a match with a fine save down to his left. 

No one would have begrudged Alloa an equaliser but their own defensive shortcomings nearly gifted Ayr a priceless second after the Honest Men pounced on indecision at the back. It all came from their own attack - where an Iain Flannigan free kick was blocked for a corner - as suddenly Drinan found himself rampaging towards Wright’s goal with yards of space. He seemed to be as surprised as anyone and he could only clip the outside of the post with the goal gaping. 

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: A fine display from O'Hara wasn't rewarded with a goal A fine display from O'Hara wasn't rewarded with a goal

A 2-0 deficit at the break would have been harsh on the increasingly impressive hosts and they wasted little time in trying to grasp their shot at redemption. O’Hara was at the heart of things once again as he teed up Thomson, whose header was cleared by Bell. 

Trouten was next to go close when he very nearly latched onto a Doohan parry, but, inevitably, the keeper pounced to his feet to block the veteran’s goalbound effort. Even so early in the second-half, it just felt like it was going to be one of those days at the office where fine performance didn’t get the rewards it deserved. 

And so it proved. Alloa enjoyed much of the possession but just couldn’t find that crucial goal they needed. The final nail in the coffin was emphatically hammered by Forrest’s wonderfully cool finish beyond the despairing reach of Wright. 

It could have ever so cruelly and undeservedly ended 3-0 to the visitors, only for Wright, the young Rangers loanee, to make a miraculous save on his line to deny Forrest his hat-trick. 

Star man: Robert Thomson