BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
PADDY Boyle believes stopping former team-mate Paul Cairney could be the key to Ayr United’s promotion hopes.
Cairney was Stranraer’s most influential figure in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw between the sides when only a Ross Docherty equaliser deep into injury-time prevented the Blues from taking an advantage with them to Somerset Park tomorrow.
However, Boyle knows enough about Stranraer’s qualities – and particularly those of old Partick Thistle pal and former Hibernian and Kilmarnock attacker Cairney – to realise the tie still rests on a knife-edge.
The defender said: “From January onwards, you could argue that – alongside Dunfermline – Stranraer have been the form team in the league.
“They’ve got to be respected and they showed their quality the other night, and we’re well aware of that. They’ve got a lot of big characters in their team, to go along with the ability they’ve got.
“I know a fair few of them. I played with Paul Cairney at Thistle for a while and you could see his quality on Wednesday night.
“He was probably one of the best players on the park; he was excellent.
“Basically, I think if they can get Paul playing then Stranraer play.
“He is at the centre of most of the things they do, because he can control the ball and therefore control the game.
“We’ll need to be on him because I think we let him dictate things a little bit too much down at their bit.
“But hopefully, being at home and on a bigger park and whatnot, we can use our own qualities and come out on top.”
Ayr slipped out of Scotland’s second tier four years ago but Boyle believes promotion could kick-start a real revival of the Somerset Park outfit.
And, having begun his career with Everton and spent a season in the Premiership with Dunfermline, the 29-year-old admits he is desperate for a step back up the football ladder.
He added: “Having played in League One the last three years you always want to go and play a bit higher if you can.
“The Stranraer boys will be no different.
“The thing for Ayr United is there is a fan-base there that if, hopefully, the club does go up it will start to grow again and they’ll probably have a little bit of financial muscle to try and survive in that league.
“There’s a big carrot there for Ayr United and I think with the management and the players we’ve got there’s a good foundation there already.
“But you’ve got to get there first before you start planning ahead.”