CHAMPAGNE corks were popping at Bellsdale Park on Saturday as Beith wrapped up a second successive West of Scotland Premier Division title in convincing fashion.

Having spent a large part of the campaign with games in hand on most of the teams around them, Chris Strain’s men only climbed to the top of the pile a couple of weeks ago – but once there, they wasted no time showing why they’re the cream of the crop.

Strain’s side knew a win at home to Troon on Saturday would be enough for them to retain their crown – and though a few nerves were jangling at the end of a goalless first half, Ciaran Diver soon put the home supporters at their ease when he converted Robbie Scullion’s assist for his 43rd goal of the season.

The club’s leading scorer then turned provider for Aaron Mason to double the advantage, ensuring a relatively comfortable finish against a Troon side who never stopped trying but were unable to break through a well-organised Beith defence, who were determined nothing would stop them securing back-to-back championships.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Beith Juniors celebrate winning the Premier Division title after Saturday's 2-0 win at home to TroonBeith Juniors celebrate winning the Premier Division title after Saturday's 2-0 win at home to Troon (Image: Stephen Kerr)

Auchinleck Talbot’s championship challenge had fallen away thanks to a draw at Arthurlie and a 3-2 defeat at Hurlford, but Tommy Sloan’s men served notice that they have no intention of seeing out the season with a whimper after seeing off Pollok in a nine-goal thriller in their final home match of the season on Saturday.

Mick Wardrope led the way with a hat-trick, two of them penalties, in Talbot’s 6-3 win, as the hosts came from behind to stun Lok with a blitz of four goals inside 25 second-half minutes.

There were plenty of goals, too, at Recreation Park, though the real drama there came after the final whistle, with news that Darvel had parted company with manager Tony McInally following their 4-3 win at home to already-relegated Irvine Meadow – less than a week after the former Cumnock and Pollok boss led the Vale to West of Scotland Cup glory, and with a Junior Cup final against Arthurlie to come at the start of June.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Glenafton took a huge step towards top flight safety with a 2-1 win over Rob Roy at Loch Park that leaves the Kirkintilloch men on the brink of relegation and Glens one win away from securing their Premier place for another year.



Pundits and supporters alike wondered pre-match what effect Glens’ 9-0 humiliation at Beith seven days earlier might have on Ryan Caddis’s side and their bid for safety, but goals from Hugh Kerr and Liam Caddis either side of half-time put daylight between Glens and their visitors, and though the visitors pulled one back to set up a tense final 15, Glens held out for a massive three points.

Largs Thistle, having had their five-match winning streak ended with a midweek loss at home to Beith on Wednesday, turned on the style with a 5-0 victory over Cumnock at Barrfields, with Will Sewell, Darryl Duffy and Blair Devine putting the hosts three up inside the first half hour.

Even though Largs played the last hour with 10 men after Cory Hughes was sent off for a last-man tackle, they still had too much in the tank for their visitors, with Sewell adding his second and David McGrath making it five with barely an hour on the clock.

Inconsistency has been the name of Hurlford’s campaign throughout 2023-24, and just days after watching their favourites beat title challengers Talbot, the home support at Blair Park were left frustrated once again following a 2-1 loss at home to relegation-threatened Arthurlie, with Darren Henderson’s men allowing the advantage of Ross Love’s strike just after the break slip through their fingers as the Barrhead side scored twice in the last 20 minutes to keep their survival hopes alive.

It wasn’t a great day for the Ayrshire sides in First Division action, either, with already-relegated Whitletts Vics the only second-tier side to pick up full points courtesy of a 2-1 victory at home to Blantyre Victoria.

Maybole Juniors’ battle to avoid the drop into the third tier will go down to the final week of the season after a damaging 4-1 defeat at Ladywell against fellow strugglers Cambuslang; the Bole will survive with one more win, or if Cambuslang don’t win their only remaining game, though Carlo Walker’s team have a tough run-in, with games against three of the division’s top five sides.



Kilwinning Rangers’ promotion challenge has fizzled out in hugely disappointing fashion over recent weeks, though not even the most pessimistic Buffs fan would have predicted that their final home match of the campaign would end in a 5-1 home thumping by the division’s bottom side, Neilston, with Mark Lamont the only scorer for the hosts, who also finished with 10 men after Jordan Stuart’s red card.

And Kilbirnie Ladeside’s outside hopes of finishing as the best-placed Ayrshire side in the second tier suffered a damaging blow after their short trip to Keanie Park ended in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of promotion-chasing Johnstone Burgh, with the hosts roaring back in the second half after Scott Lewis gave the Blasties the advantage at the break.

Ardrossan Winton Rovers crowned a memorable Second Division campaign by clinching the championship in thrilling fashion in their final home game of the campaign; in front of a bumper crowd at Winton Park, it looked like visitors Caledonian Locomotive were on course to spoil the party after the Springburn side opened up a 3-1 lead early in the second half, and with just six minutes remaining Winton were still a goal behind.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Winton Rovers clinched the Second Division title after a dramatic 5-4 win at home to Caledonian Locomotive.Winton Rovers clinched the Second Division title after a dramatic 5-4 win at home to Caledonian Locomotive. (Image: Charlie Gilmour)

But Gavin Friels’ men didn’t climb to the top of the table by rolling over and accepting defeat, and in a stunning final five minutes Aidan Ferris levelled and David Gray’s penalty made it 4-3 before the division’s top scorer, Ryan Wilson, sealed the win with a stunning overhead kick, Connor Hughes’ last-gasp strike for the visitors coming too late to alter the final outcome.

Even if Winton had lost, the title would have been theirs anyway after their only remaining championship challengers, Cumbernauld United, fell to a surprise 3-2 loss at home to Craigmark Burntonians – though more importantly for the Station Park side, the result put them on the brink of safety.

Goals from Reece Wilson, Ross Armer and Jordan Ryan secured a hugely significant win at Guy’s Meadow, and victory in their final match at home to Ayrshire rivals Bonnyton Thistle – who lost 4-0 at home to Larkhall on Saturday – will now guarantee Second Division football for the Mark next season, though their safety will also be ensured if second-bottom Wishaw fail to win any of their last four games.

Muirkirk’s third tier safety has already been secured, which meant the Burnside Park men had little more than pride to play for away to Kilsyth Rangers, though there wasn’t too much for the East Ayrshire side to be pleased about after they slumped to a 3-0 defeat.

In the Third Division, Ardeer Thistle edged closer to safety after Greg Kean’s last-minute penalty secured a 1-1 draw at home to second-top Bellshill; Thistle remain in the drop zone, but with four games to go, three of them at home, Sean Kenney’s men still have their fate in their own hands.

Girvan, meanwhile, gave their hopes of fourth-tier survival a massive boost with a stunning 5-1 win away to Glasgow United, with Euan Smith netting a double and Paul Cameron, Connor Yair and veteran Danny Cunningham also finding the net.

Kello Rovers, though, will be playing their football in the Fourth Division in 2024-25 after a 2-0 defeat to Dalry Thistle at Nithside Park confirmed their relegation, with Tinashe Mugwanda’s second half strike securing the points for the visitors after Jamie Catlow’s early opener.

And while Irvine Vics weren’t in action on Saturday, they still made headlines off the pitch after announcing that manager Dougie MacDuff will step down at the end of the current campaign after three seasons in the hotseat.



In the bottom tier, Lugar Boswell Thistle, despite not playing on Saturday, now know they need just two points from their last two games to secure promotion after a surprise defeat for Rossvale away to BSC Glasgow.

John McFarland’s equaliser in the fifth minute of added time completed a fine comeback for Eglinton, who came from two down to snatch a point away to East Kilbride Thistle in their final match of the season.

And Saltcoats Vics, who already knew they’d finish the campaign at the bottom of the heap, nonetheless showed plenty of fighting spirit to come home with a point from their longest road trip of the season after their last game of the campaign, away to Campbeltown Pupils, ended in a 3-3 draw, with all six goals coming in the first 32 minutes.