Andy Ryan replaced Myles Hippolyte in the only change to last week's starting 11.
3-5-2 formation until Devine subbed for Hippolyte after 29 minutes, with formation changing to 4-4-2.
Writing about any sport where performance levels can fluctuate should always be done cautiously - not over-praising a good display, while not being overly harsh when things do not go well. There has rarely been a better example of how a pendulum can swing so far in both directions in the space of 7 days than the way Dunfermline played today, in contrast to the excellent performance against Hearts last Saturday. After giving so much credit to the same set of players a few days ago, today was an absolute mess.
Goals were given away without the opposition having to be especially good. Ian McCall is doing a great job at Ayr and has his team (which includes a handful of Dunfermline rejects!) well organised, playing for each other and utilising the skills of his better players to full effect. Yet we gifted the home side every goal: Alan Forrest, the shortest player on the pitch, was left unmarked to head the opener. The defence was posted missing and goalkeeper Lee Robinson seemed to be reaching to save an invisible ball that was close, but not close enough, to the actual ball that sailed past him and into the net.
Before that, Danny Devine had passed the ball straight to an Ayr player, then was booked after hacking down another opponent in frustration. Soon after, with the Pars 1-0 down, he was subbed for Myles Hippolyte and proceeded to boot a water bottle and then lash out at the dugout, arguing with Allan Johnston then being given a lecture by Sandy Clark. Johnston is often criticised for not being proactive with his substitutions but that criticism could not be levelled at him today; whether he was correct to abandon his 3-5-2 formation so early, and whether he subbed the right player, is open to debate. The other central defenders - Lee Ashcroft and Mark Durnan - were culpable for goals 2 and 3, as the Moff teased the Pars backline, proving again what a good footballer he is - with a hand in Forrest's second and the inevitable Lawrence Shankland goal that made it 3-0. Lee Robinson, meanwhile, was picking a fight with Shankland which continued as the half time whistle blew. What a shambles. How could this be the team that did so well last week?
Hippolyte was switched to the right wing at the start of the second half and was the team's best creative player (not that he had much competition) until Johnston brought on sub Higgy late in the game and moved Hippolyte to the middle of the attack. So many changes, but no cohesion, the team resembling a group of strangers. There was an alarming soft centre, from goalkeeper through the spine of the team; that included an completely ineffectual Faissal El Bakhtaoui up front.
Jackson Longridge got a goal back after 55 minutes and although there were efforts at goal from Louis Longridge, Hippolyte, Faissal and another sub, Aidan Connolly, there was to be no second Dunfermline goal. Instead, the Moff got Ayr's fourth with 9 minutes remaining. There was still enough time for Robinson to do his Manuel Neuer routine, which is okay when 1-0 down but looks clownish when 4-1 behind. On one foray far from his goal, he gave away possession and looked on as the attempted lob by an Ayr player missed the goal and saved the keeper from further embarrassment.
This team appear to have Jeckyll and Hyde syndrome. I would not be surprised if I am writing a completely different report this time next week. Today, though, was a mess.
Myles Hipployte: had some good touches and was involved in the better passages of play during the second half.
Jackson Longridge: got a goal and was the only defender to escape criticism.
Aidan Connolly (sub): was his usual active self and was unlucky with a free kick that was deflected over the bar.