THE weather may have been the biggest winner in the West of Scotland Football League on Saturday, with almost half of the day’s scheduled fixtures postponed due to strong winds and heavy rain.

But there were still plenty of headlines made…and plenty of results that will play a big part in shaping how the honours shake out at the end of the season in just over a month’s time.

The biggest crowd, and biggest headline, of the day was at Beechwood Park, where Auchinleck Talbot saw their defence of the West of Scotland Cup brought to an end in agonising fashion after Tommy Sloan’s side lost to Pollok on penalties in a nail-biting semi-final.

Talbot trailed at half-time to a Stephen Docherty strike for the visitors, but whatever Sloan said at the interval clearly had the desired effect as Kyle McAvoy levelled for the hosts within 60 seconds of the restart before the former Bonnyton Thistle front man added his second to apparently turn the tie around on 55 minutes.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Auchinleck Talbot's defence of the West of Scotland Cup was ended by a 4-2 penalty shoot-out defeat to Pollok after the sides drew 2-2 at Beechwood Park.Auchinleck Talbot's defence of the West of Scotland Cup was ended by a 4-2 penalty shoot-out defeat to Pollok after the sides drew 2-2 at Beechwood Park. (Image: Craig McGhee/Auchinleck Talbot FC)

The hosts looked hot favourites to go on and reach the final when Lok were reduced to 10 men with more than a quarter of the game still to go after Scott Forrester was shown two yellow cards in quick succession – but Luke Main levelled on 77 minutes, and though both teams had chances to snatch victory in the closing stages, neither could conjure up a winner.

That meant the tie went straight to penalties, and Talbot were left devastated after Ross Smith and Scott Schoneville saw their efforts saved by Pollok keeper Jordan Longmuir as the Glasgow club sealed their place in the final against Shotts or Darvel, with Main the man converting the deciding spot-kick.

In the Premier Division, meanwhile, Beith Juniors gave their hopes of retaining their league crown a huge boost with a 4-2 win at home to relegation-threatened Arthurlie at Bellsdale; Chris Strain’s men were always in control against the Barrhead site, with Ciaran Diver’s double and a Ewan Wilson strike putting the Bellsdale men three up at half-time.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Beith Juniors kept thier title push on course with a 4-2 win over Arthurlie at Bellsdale ParkBeith Juniors kept thier title push on course with a 4-2 win over Arthurlie at Bellsdale Park (Image: Stephen Kerr)

Diver completed his hat-trick in the opening minute of the second half to put the result beyond any doubt, and though Lee Roulston pulled one back for the visitors, Lie never looked like they had the firepower to seriously threaten the hosts, with Mark Docherty’s penalty in the dying seconds no more than another crumb of comfort for the away team.

At the other end, Troon look all but safe from the threat of relegation after an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Gartcairn in which the wind was the big winner, with Mark Shankland opening the scoring for the Seasiders before Grant Brennan struck right at the death after Scott Ferguson’s brace looked to have won it for the Airdrie side.

The point takes Jimmy Kirkwood’s men two ahead of Hurlford, whose fixture backlog remains the biggest in the top flight, with 10 games to play in the final month of the campaign, and who could still do with a point or three to prevent themselves being dragged into the relegation dogfight after losing 1-0 at home to leaders Clydebank.

The windy conditions also had a big say in proceedings at Valefield Park, where Kilbirnie Ladeside were the only First Division team from Ayrshire to beat the weather, with Daniel Kindlan’s second half strike for Thorniewood cancelling out Ryan Connelly’s opener for the Blasties.

In the Second Division, Craigmark Burntonians announced the resignation of Ian Nixon after six months in charge following Saturday’s 7-0 thumping away to promotion chasers Vale of Clyde; it was a fifth straight defeat for the Dalmellington side, and the fourth league game in a row in which they failed to find the net, leaving them just three points above the bottom three.

Bonnyton Thistle, by contrast, eased their relegation worries no end with a superb comeback win against Forth Wanderers; Gordon Pope’s men trailed 2-0 at the break in a game switched to Carluke Wanderers’ home ground, but David Blyth and Stevie Hill both scored twice after the break to earn the Kilmarnock side a second straight win and a jump to ninth place in the table.

Irvine Vics’ fading Third Division promotion hopes suffered another blow after a 2-1 defeat away to second-top Vale of Leven; Bobby Colligan’s strike had the Ayrshire men in front at the break at Millburn Park, but Chris Jackson headed the home side level before Ross Cameron’s free kick won it three minutes from time.

Ardeer Thistle remain perilously placed just ahead of the Third Division drop zone despite coming from behind to secure a share of the spoils on Saturday against another side battling against the drop, with Stewart Morgan finding the net to earn Sean Kenney’s side a 1-1 draw away to second bottom West Park United, but Kello Rovers now look to be in need of a miracle to avoid tumbling into the bottom tier after their first game in four weeks ended in a 2-0 loss away to leaders Lanark United.

The fight to make the move in the other direction, though, is getting harder and harder to predict with every passing week, with just for points separating second to fifth in the Fourth Division standings.

Lugar Boswell Thistle remain right in the mix thanks to their 4-0 win away to bottom dogs Saltcoats Victoria on Saturday, though it took the Jaggy Bunnets a while to be sure of the points against a stuffy Vics side at Campbell Park. 

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">90’FULL TIME<br>We take all 3 points! <a href=""></a></p>— Lugar Boswell Thistle FC (@LugarFC1878) <a href="">April 6, 2024</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Conan Mackin opened the scoring just five minutes in, but the game was well into its final stages before the visitors made the win secure, with Kieran Oliver, Robbie Hannah and Ewan McIver all finding the net in the final 13 minutes to move the Rosebank Park side up to fourth, just two points off the promotion places with four games to go.

The only other Fourth Division game to beat the weather on Saturday saw Eglinton share the points with Carluke after a see-saw 3-3 draw at Ian Cashmore Senior Memorial Park; the visitors thought they’d snatched the win when substitute Mark O’Reilly scored from close range three minutes from time, but the Jousters kept plugging away and Dylan McLintock found the net with a stunning 25-yard effort in the third minute of added time – his second of the afternoon to add to Kris Mitchell’s 21st-minute opener.