Beith manager Johnny Millar was moved to hail Sean McIlroy’s all-round display after the bustling front man netted what proved to be the matchwinner in Saturday’s hard fought 3-2 victory over Darvel.

A wonderful dinked cross from substitute Stevie Noble saw McIlroy climb highest at the back post and head his side into a 3-1 lead that Darvel cut but ultimately failed to cancel out despite a frantic closing spell of pressure.

“Sean was magnificent out there today and his goal was no more than he deserved,” said his gaffer.

“Recently he found himself out of the picture but Sean’s response was to work his socks off on the training pitch and he bagged a couple of goals when we brought him back into the team against Whitletts Vics in the Macron Junior Cup.

“We still believed there was more to come from him so again he was left out when we played Kilbirnie Ladeside last Saturday, but it was always in our mind to reinstate him for the Darvel game and he certainly didn’t let us down.”

Ardagh Group West of Scotland Cup holders Beith had made the short hop to Recreation Park rated slight underdogs against their much vaunted Championship opponents but a steely determination was apparent right from off.

Beith’s opening score came at a corner kick when McIlroy’s flick found young prospect Ross McKenzie and he cleverly sidestepped his marker before sliding a low shot into the far corner of the net and beyond the reach of Darvel keeper Chris Truesdale.

Minutes later it was 2-0 as Darren Ramsay netted from 25 yards.

Finding themselves trailing 2-0 didn’t appear to deter the home side and they persisted with playing passing football from deep in their own defence even though a lack of creativity in the final third and poor final ball ensured there was precious little in the way of a goal threat and half time was reached with no further scoring.

Shortly after the resumption, Darvel’s comeback hopes took a further nose-dive after midfielder Miller was sent off for crazily speaking out of turn as team-mate Phil Johnston was picking up a yellow card for a foul on Beith winger Christie.

But Darvel promptly pulled a goal back when Ryan Docherty deflectied the ball into his own net from a corner for 2-1.

As the hosts pushed hard for an equaliser, Beith broke upfield to score through McIlroy. Darvel continued to plug away and a Kenny Marshall volley made it 3-2 and despite an onslaught over the closing stages Darvel trooped off at the end having lost only their third competitive game.

Winning boss Johnny Millar admitted afterwards: “We were outstanding in the first half and the worst thing that happened to us was Darvel going down to 10 men.

“I felt we dropped our work rate as players often do in those circumstances but to be fair, they also posed us a few more problems by throwing big McKenzie up front so we needed the extra cushion of Sean’s goal to get over the line.

“We are the higher league team as well the Cup holders yet not a lot of people fancied us to win here due to Darvel’s high profile signings so we had something to prove.

“There’s no doubting they have good players but today’s a reminder that so have we.”

The big Ardagh Cup upsets were Cumnock yielding up a 2-1 lead and going down to a 3-2 defeat away to Girvan while another Premiership basement struggler Rutherglen Glencairn suffered a 2-1 loss at Neilston where they led 1-0 through a goal by returning from injury Jordan Leyden only for Farmers Boys star turn Mark Archdeacon to net a brace of goals .

And little St Anthonys gave big guns Hurlford United the fright of their lives at McKenna Park before succumbing to a dramatic 4-3 ddefeat.

The Ayrshiremen led 3-0 at the halfway stage through goals from Liam Caddis(2) and Paul McKenzie but a second half hat trick of Craig Patterson headed goals had the Ants back on level terms and looking set to take the tie to a shoot-out conclusion until an injury time spot kick award allowed Caddis to net his third goal of the afternoon and win the day for the Premiership outfit.