Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ayr v Kilmarnock

"No, we're the underdogs."

Ayr v Kilmarnock. An Ayrshire derby in a league cup semi final and nobody wants to be favourites.

No surprise there. Derby games are different. Derby games in cups carry an extra weight. Make it a semi final and you've got a hell of a game on your hands.

Best then to try and reduce expectations, relieve some of the pressure on your players.

Even if it is bollocks. Yes, Ayr have seen off SPL opposition on their march to Glasgow giving Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels the inspiration to mimic the underdog. But it's an unconvincing act.

Top flight football and full time players make this Kilmarnock's to lose.

The problem for them, and the reason behind Shiels' cack-handed mind games, is that these games are actually quite easy to lose.

There's evidence of that in both Ayr's cup run and recent meetings between the two sides.

Add to that the odd inconsistency that often hampers Kilmarnock's progress - illustrated once again in a 3-0 skelping at home to Dunfermline last week - and you've got the potential for unease in the dressing room.

That must be pleasing for an Ayr side who will surely need to play with a battle hardened stubbornness and sniff out any Kilmarnock weaknesses to prosper today.

Does this derby, as some suggest, mean more to lower division Ayr than their opponents?

Not for the fans. That's something the Kilmarnock players would do to well to remember.

Local rivalry does, of course, add interest today. Hampden might not be full but the passion - some of it perhaps a touch politically incorrect - should serve as a timely reminder that Scottish football's heart still beats with old feuds, past grievances and dreams of getting one over on timeless enemies.

Kilmarnock should win. They should. But Ayr shouldn't be at Hampden. Dunfermline shouldn't have beaten Kilmarnock 3-0.

Prediction? At least one red card and Kilmarnock to win 2-1 after being somewhat rocked by a strong Ayr start. A cup tie worthy of the occasion if not chock full of exceptional football.

All of which makes it a bit of shame that the game will be played in Hampden's 1pm graveyard shift, without the exposure of live television.

Not that the winners will care. Losing a semi final derby? Been there, done that. Suffered it.

You wouldn't wish it on anyone. Except, perhaps, your worst enemy.

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