Keeping a fifth successive clean sheet, United emerged winners thanks to the only goal of the game. That came early through Tope Obadeyi and it took another solid defensive performance to secure the three points to stay on leaders Hibs’ heels.
By Peter Rundo
The only change from the starting line-up against Hibs was Tope Obadeyi coming in for Nick van der Velden. Meanwhile with Simon Murray injured, midfielder Scott Allardice replaced him on the bench.
Of the Ayr side that drew with Dunfermline last weekend, Paddy Boyle and Kevin Nisbet dropped to the bench with former Dundee full-back Darryl Meggatt and ex-Killie midfielder Paul Cairney being drafted in.
There was almost an early breakthrough for United. A Blair Spittal shot was deflected for a corner and Mark Durnan almost squeezed home Scott Fraser’s delivery.
At the other end a late challenge by Jamie Robson on Rab Crawford earned the United full-back a lecture from the ref and Gary Harkins was on the end of the resultant free-kick, but his volley from close range was blocked.
And in the aftermath, Charlie Telfer played the played the ball up to Tope Obadeyi who embarked on a run of over half the length of the pitch before rounding the keeper and steering the ball in form an acute angle for the opener.
The home side reacted very positively to this setback and with Harkins and Nicky Devlin, in particular, causing problems.
And on 14 minutes, only Lewis Toshney’s block on a Harkins shot prevented an equaliser.
And a minute later, Cairney fired inches over.
Having survived that spell of intense pressure, the game settled down, but Ayr continued to press forward with United relying on hitting on the counter attack.
A mazy Alan Forest run almost unlocked the Tannadice rearguard, but a combination of Telfer and Robson eventually crowded him on.
Eight minutes from the interval, the United goal had an amazing escape.
Right-back Nicky Devlin drove in a low cross which Crawford met almost right on the line, only for Toshney to somehow divert the ball up and over the bar.
The half came to a close with United having to defend deeply to hang on to their narrow advantage.
United made a bright start to the second period with Tony Andreu, Blair Spittal and Charlie Telfer all involved in some neat interplay culminating in Jamie Robson meeting a Willo Flood cross but unable to get enough purchase on his header.
Seven minutes into the second period, Tony Andreu fired just wide from outside the box with United now much more on the front foot.
Just after the hour mark, Manager Ray McKinnon took off goalscorer Obadeyi with Cammy Smith coming on as his direct replacement up top.
With chances few and far between at either end, both sides made changes. In United’s case, Nick van der Velden taking over from Fraser.
Underling the lack of goalmouth action a scuffed Spittal shot from the edge of the box was the first on target in the second half.
It took the combined efforts of Cammy Bell and William Edjenguélé to clear the danger as Ayr stepped up their efforts in pursuit of a leveller.
Ayr pressed hard in the closing stages but Willo Flood heading a dangerous clear was as close as the home side came to salvaging a point.
Summing Up: Another hard earned victory against an Ayr side who belied their lowly position. Having got off to a great start with Tope Obadeyi’s early strike, United had to withstand a lot of pressure to go in level at the break. However, the second half was far more even with few chances as United extended their undefeated run to 12 Games.
Man of the Match: All the contenders were in a defence in which there were no failures, but Lewis Toshney takes it for two tremendous goal-line clearances.
Ayr United: Greg Fleming, Nicky Devlin, Darryl Meggatt, Rab Crawford (Brian Gilmour 80), Alan Forest, Gary Harkins, Paul Cairney (Nisbet 74), Jamie Adams (Andy O’Connell 64) Ross Docherty, Conrad Balatoni, Scott McKenna.
Subs not used: Jordan Hart, Michael Rose, Craig McGuffie, Paddy Boyle, Kevin Nisbet.
Dundee United: Cammy Bell, Lewis Toshney, Mark Durnan, William Edjenguélé, Jamie Robson, Willo Flood, Charlie Telfer, Scott Fraser (Nick van der Velden 70), Tony Andreu, Blair Spittal, Tope Obadeyi (Cammy Smith 61).
Subs not used: Luis Zwick, Seán Dillon, Coll Donaldson, Stewart Murdoch, Scott Allardice
Attendance : 2,049
Referee: Willie Collum