Covid-19's puzzling restrictions have cast lower league football in Scotland into something akin to a fragmented state.

And it's not a good state to be in if you're a club based through in the west of Scotland according to seasoned Hurlford United manager Darren Henderson who has revealed his persuasive powers were put to the test in quelling a wave of protests among his players last Saturday afternoon.

Supporters will know the Ayrshiremen hosted the visit of Lowland League outfit Civil Service Strollers in a Soccershop Challenge Cup second round tie and recovered from falling behind to a Badra Faye goal for the Edinburgh side to comfortably win 4-1 thanks to second-half braces from Paul McKenzie and Lewis Morrison.

An expected outcome, probably, but on a teeth-chattering afternoon when a biting cold wind drove the rain in horizontally, what really caught Hendo's players unawares, while they did their very best to don their strips underneath limited terracing shelter, was the sight of their opponents entering the warmth and shelter of Blair Park's pavilion to ready themselves for the game.

Hendo revealed: "Apparently, clubs through in the east are allowed to use dressing-room facilities as long as rules on social distancing and ventilation are observed.

"We only discovered this a few hours before kick-off after making a telephone call to a leading WOSFL official who also pointed out it was our responsibility as the home team to make the appropriate arrangements.

"We were caught on the hop not least because our only means of accommodating the Civil Service was to spread their players over our entire pavilion, inclusive of the committee room however glad to say we managed to do what was necessary.

"As you might expect, given the horrific overhead conditions, my players duly let me have it with both barrels and cries of 'you're having a laugh gaffer' were heard more than once.

"And the mood was probably worse at half time when our guys stood dripping wet out in the bitter cold while Civil Service went inside so it speaks volumes for our character and team spirit that we came back as we did to book a place in the next round.

"If you had to choose between getting fans back through the gates or opening up the dressing rooms is a question often put to me but I’ve no doubts after last week that it’s not acceptable for players to change outside and travel home soaking wet during the winter months.”

Spartan conditions are again on the menu for Hurlford's players today when they await the visit of Rob Roy in a WOSFL contest where added motivation (if it was ever needed) comes from knowing a third victory in five starts would close the gap on league leaders Clydebank to just three points.

Mick Dunlop and Ross Fisher are definite non-starters however Henderson will wait until nearer kick-off time to decide whether experienced pair Chris Robertson and John Gemmell will figure in his selection thoughts.

He said: "Chris is back training again after a lengthy absence and is good to go however it might be in his best interests to ease him in gently and the same goes for big John who is on the way back from a hamstring injury, almost certainly caused by the lack of proper preparations caused by the Covid restrictions.

"He's 36 now and needs a good physio rub to warm up his muscles before games but that's near impossible to do when players are forced to change on terracing slopes or car parks.

"We also have one or two bodies unavailable due to work commitments and I cannot fault any player for taking the opportunity to boost his income in these times particularly when the ban on supporters through the gates prevents us from paying them.

"But we will not be the only club affected by these issues and the hope is we can remain in a decent challenging position until things change."

Troon, on the same seven points mark as Hurlford, are likewise hoping to close the gap on Clydebank, when they come through to face Rutherglen Glencairn at the Hamish B Allan Stadium.

Both teams are set to unveil new faces in their line-ups, Troon having snapped up former Kilwinning Rangers defender Isaac Kerr in midweek while Glens boss Willie Harvey has completed the loan signing of midfielder Craig Quinn (Petershill) and is yet to blood relative newcomers Calum Shields and Lee Cochrane.

Waiting in the wings to hopefully capitalise on any Hurlford or Troon slip ups are a chasing pack of three more Ayrshire clubs, headed up by ambitious Darvel, on their travels for the first time this season but strongly fancied to come good when taking on Premier bottom markers Cumbernauld United at Guys Meadow.

Kilwinning Rangers have landed considerably tougher in looking to make home advantage tell against the always well-organised Largs Thistle, however Irvine Meadow look a good bet to take the spoils when pointless Bonnyton Thistle visit Meadow Park.

Meanwhile, Clydebank's hopes of overcoming Beith in their postponed Soccershop Challenge Cup clash at Bellfield today has received several added degrees of difficulty by the hosts' signing (for a third time) talismanic striker Kenny McLean.

Last night Mighty boss Bryan Young insisted: "The biggest regret I had over all the players who left us during the summer months to join St Cadoc's was losing Kenny as he had scored eight goals in as many games when I first took up the reins here.

"Getting him back is a massive boost and you can take it as read he'll have a part to play tomorrow."

Elsewhere, this coming Monday marks the end of an era for Scottish Junior Football with Tom Johnston bringing down the curtain on a 21-year reign as the game's leading light in his role as SJFA Secretary.

Assistant Secretary/Treasurer Ian McQueen is similarly departing at this juncture and their key positions have already been filled by the appointments of West Region pair Alex McDowell and John Fyfe.

SJFA President Felix McKenna (St Anthony's) lauded: "Tom and latterly Ian have worked tirelessly and unstintingly non behalf of the Association and I cannot speak highly enough of their efforts.

"They leave with the best wishes of everyone in Junior football."

Playing today (kick-offs 1.45pm
WOSFL Premier Division Cumbernauld Utd v Darvel, Rossvale v Blantyre Vics, Kilwinning Rangers v Largs Thistle, Rutherglen Glencairn v Troon, Irvine Meadow v Bonnyton Thistle, Hurlford Utd v Rob Roy. 
WOSFL Conference League A Kello Rovers v Ardeer Thistle, Muirkirk v Annbank Utd, Maryhill v Glasgow University, Craigmark v St Roch's, Bellshill Athletic v Maybole, Ashfield v Renfrew.
WOSFL Conference League B Wishaw v Forth Wanderers, Carluke Rovers v Port Glasgow, Johnstone Burgh v Vale of Leven, Vale of Clyde v St Cadoc's, Greenock v Lugar Boswell.
WOSFL Conference League C Lanark Utd v Drumchapel Utd, East Kilbride Thistle v Glasgow Perthshire, St Anthony's v Thorniewood Utd, Yoker Athletic v Newmains Utd. 
SOCCERSHOP CHALLENGE CUP. Second round Beith v Clydebank.