After winning Ladbrokes League 1 last season, many were expecting a season of stabilising for Ayr United in the second tier.
But the Honest Men have taken the Championship by storm. They currently sit two points clear at the summit after seven games.
So, is this just a flash in the pan – or are they real title contenders? We reckon the latter. Here’s why…
Shankland firing on all cylinders
Lawrence Shankland bagged a whopping 26 goals in 30 games in League 1 last term. And the 23-year-old has shown he can be every bit as prolific at this level.
He’s registered eight times in seven league outings this term – often with incredible technique.
His stunning volley away at Alloa Athletic a fortnight ago was followed up by a clinical pair of sweeping strikes in the 5-1 win at Greenock Morton. Incidentally, that result marked the first time the Ton had shipped five goals at home since 2013.
But while Shankland’s finishing is undoubtedly his strongest asset, he’s also a key part of Ayr’s link-up play. He’s chalked up three assists this term across all competitions, and has built a brilliant understanding with veteran Michael Moffat.
They’ve made Somerset Park a fortress
Ayr have been unstoppable at Somerset Park this season, winning each of their five home games across all competitions. In the process, they’ve smashed home 17 goals and conceded just four.
Boss Ian McCall has found a system which suits his side perfectly – especially on home turf.
The side’s 4-4-2 set-up is working perfectly. The steely duo of Andy Geggan and Andy Murdoch guard the back four, while the creative Declan McDaid and Robbie Crawford offer an attacking threat out wide.
Smart summer additions
McCall got the balance right during the summer transfer window. He avoided a full upheaval of the Ayr squad, while clearing out some deadwood and making a handful of very savvy signings.
Former Aberdeen prodigy Daniel Harvie has arguably been the pick of the bunch. The 20-year-old left-back has slotted in superbly at left-back, chalking up four assists amidst a series of classy displays.
Murdoch has impressed in the centre of the park since his arrival from Morton, while Liam Smith has also made the right-back spot his own.
The mostly young additions have also offered a good counterpoint to the side’s more wily, experienced performers – guys like Kerr, Steven Bell and Jamie Adams. The future seems very bright at Ayr.
As for the big prize of the Championship title, Ayr are 7/1 to get their hands on it this season.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing