VICTORY over Darvel at Bellsdale Park in February 2023 went a long way to propelling Beith Juniors to title glory last season - and almost exactly a year later, fans of the 'Mighty' are hoping another win over the same championship rivals will go a long way in pushing them to glory this time round.

Boss Chris Strain says that "pressure is a privilege" when it comes to matches like the one on Saturday - though he insisted that the three points secured in the 3-2 win at home to Tony McInally's men on Saturday are no more meaningful than any others.

On-fire frontman Ciaran Diver made it 33 goals in 32 games for Beith as the hosts opened up a 2-0 lead to the delight of another vociferous home support.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Ciaran Diver celebrates scoring his first.Credit: Stephen Kerr

Jordan Moore halved the deficit before half time but an Aaron Mason strike restored Beith's two-goal lead with 15 minutes to go.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Aaron Mason celebrates after making it 3-1.Credit: Stephen Kerr

And though Moore netted his second of the afternoon with five minutes left, making for a nervy final few moments, Beith held out to secure what could yet be a crucial three points.

"We played well," Strain commented. "The scoreline suggests it was a tight game, but we were always in control, barring a spell Darvel had after we scored our opening goal."

The win moved Beith five points clear of their Irvine Valley opponents, with both sides having played the same number of games.

Tony McInally's side could have leapfrogged Beith in the standings if they'd won - but instead Strain's men cemented their place as frontrunners for another league title, with the win keeping them five points behind leaders Clydebank - but with five fewer games played than the Holm Park team.

"⁠The league is very tight," Strain continued, "and there are four or five contenders for the championship.

"We don’t look at what wins do for you hypothetically, we look to win the three points on offer regardless of who they are against."

As well as hailing goalscoring hero Diver, Strain also paid tribute to experienced playmaker Carlo Monti, who laid on a pair of assists on Saturday including an outstanding piece of skill and cross for the game's opening goal.

Strain said: "Everyone in the squad is contributing to what we are trying to achieve.

"Ciaran (Diver) gets a lot of the headlines given his goal return, but his overall play was excellent on Saturday, particularly his really strong physicality.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Ciaran Diver slots his second beyond Darvel goalkeeper Andy Leishman.Credit: Stephen Kerr

"His mental and physical strength are to be admired. We’ve been working hard with him and he’s benefiting now because he wants to improve and get better.

"Carlo is now using the experience he’s gathered over the years to have a big influence on the team.

"His ability is second to none but it’s his attitude to help his teammates that really pleases me.

"The bigger the game, the bigger the influence he tends to have."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Carlo Monti drives down the wing.Credit: Stephen Kerr

Strain also said his side are in a great place ahead of another title run, in having strengthened further in recent weeks.

After the loss of experienced defender Conner McGlinchey, who moved to Johnstone Burgh earlier this month, Beith have added two loan additions in the form of Queen's Park youngster Andrew Lind and Motherwell defender Ewan Wilson, the latter arriving fresh from a loan spell in League One with Stirling Albion.

They've also added experience with the permanent signing of Martin Findlay from Premier Division rivals Irvine Meadow.

Strain commented: "Conner left because he no longer wanted to be at the club. That’s his choice, but since then we’ve brought three players in who want to be there and contribute.  

"Andy Monk is due back from a month out following an operation, and the squad is looking strong for the run-in.

"We prepare the same for all games and we’re ready for a really difficult run-in. It’s great that there’s no meaningless games.

"Pressure is on but pressure is a privilege and we’re in a good place just now."

Full match highlights are available on the Beith Juniors Media YouTube channel. All images can be found via Stephen Kerr on Flickr.