KILWINNING RANGERS' 3-1 victory over Hurlford United on Saturday had team boss Chris Strain enthusing over the maturing mindset of his team and lauding their ability to “win ugly”.

After an often feisty Buffs Park contest, Strain hailed the heart and commitment shown by his charges and said they had displayed more character than at any other time during his managerial reign.

“Having a predominantly young group of players has led to us being regarded as soft touches in certain quarters so to go head to head with one of the most street-wise teams at this level of the game, and in the way we went about things out there, deserves all the plaudits going," he said.

“Hurlford are past masters at frustrating opponents and grinding out results, but we not only stood up to them, but dominated territorially, won first and second balls all over the pitch, and did the ugly percentage part of the game better than them, albeit picking up a few yellow cards in gaining the upper hand.

“Yes, it probably wasn’t much of a spectacle in terms of football, but any decent passages that were played came from us and in Carlo Monti, we arguably had the best player on the field. He played in a different role today, out wide on the right, but his positional sense enabling him to always find space along with his use of the ball were outstanding and Hurlford’s defenders simply could not contain him.

“In fairness though, he wasn’t alone because a lot of our guys served up great performances and I couldn’t be more pleased for them.”

A war of attrition with no quarter asked or given best sums up an opening 45 minutes where the only goalmouth action of any note were a couple of near things for the hosts. First, when Ally McComb could only clip a low-driven Monti cross wide of goal when it looked easier to score. But then the young winger came close to making amends on the half-hour mark with a 25-yard shot that visiting goalkeeper Chris Murchie touched on to his post at full stretch before getting back to his feet and superbly saving a point blank follow-up shot from Buffs striker David Ramsay.

The Hurlford No.1 was again his side’s saviour early in the second half, pulling off a wonderful diving save to parry away a Ricky Hanvey effort that looked certain to break the deadlock.

This period of Kilwinning ascendancy caused United boss Darren Henderson to turn to his bench and introduce experienced front-man John Gemmell and the switch looked inspired as Hurlford’s next attacking venture put their noses in front. A swift break upfield led to Lewis Morrison being brought down by a Tony Coutts tackle from behind and the penalty was comfortably tucked away by Morrison for 1-0.

The scores were almost immediately levelled as a ball played into the other penalty area saw Ramsay theatrically throw himself to the ground despite no obvious Hurlford challenge. Referee Ross Menzies pointed to the spot for the second time inside 60 seconds and no amount of protests from the raging Hurlford players could change his mind. Monti stepped forward to efficiently despatch the ball beyond Murchie.

Strain said: “I didn’t have a good view of our award and couldn’t say for sure if it was a fortuitous decision or not, but what I will say is that Kilwinning Rangers have been denied two stonewallers in our games up to now so if it’s true that the breaks level themselves out over a season, then we were due this one.”

With their tails up, Kilwinning went for the jugular and their pressing forward brought its reward when Coutts found Ramsay with a clever pass and his cut-back was ever so deftly clipped home by Ben Lewis to spark great celebrations, only bettered in 82 minutes when Monti’s dribbling skills flummoxed three Hurlford defenders and enabled him to wriggle into space and drive over a low cross-cum-shot that found the net via a final touch from the foot of teenage substitute Craig Ross, albeit he did not play the ball as much as it came off him. Not that it mattered as he lapped up the back slaps and congratulations of his joyous team-mates.

Henderson kept his players back for fully 30 minutes of a debrief which he believed was fully justified.

"These are difficult times when the team is constantly being changed because training and preparations are disrupted by Covid and the need for players to put in extra hours at their day jobs. That said, I expect a certain level of performance when we come together on matchdays, but there’s no escaping the fact that some of our guys never gave me and this club what they should have been giving today and I felt it important to let them know.

“Good luck to Kilwinning but I feel the result could easily have gone either way."

Asked for his take on the controversial Kilwinning penalty kick, he said: “Losing managers always blame the referee but I won’t follow suit other than to say we don’t know if the award is for handball or a foul. The ref has said he’ll look back at footage and if he’s got it wrong then he’ll apologise and that’s good enough for me.”

Chalking up their fourth win in six starts saw Kilwinning move third in the Premier standings, three points behind erstwhile front-runners Clydebank whose scheduled clash away to Darvel was postponed after heavy rain rendered Recreation Park unplayable.

Proudly atop the pile are shock troops Troon, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Rutherglen Glencairn, decided by a hotly-disputed penalty kick midway through the second half at Portland Park. Ryan Stevenson converted, but only after the vehement protests of Glens boss Willie Harvey led to his red carding.

Irvine Meadow lost ground in the title race after a 0-0 stalemate against a Beith side forced to play the closing 25 minutes at Bellsdale with only 10 men on account of Larry McMahon being sent off.

Irvine Meadow's slip was pounced upon by the Stuart Davidson-steered Largs Thistle, for whom marksman Scott Adam’s well-taken hat-trick earned a 3-1 triumph over Blantyre Vics.

Cumbernauld United remain pointless despite being twice ahead against Rossvale at New Tinto Park through a brace of early Scott Thomson scores. Kyle Prior netted the Vale’s first equaliser, Lee Roulston their second, and an 80th-minute penalty by substitute Damon Welsh secured a first league win for David Gormley’s men.

Conference B’s top of the table showdown between unbeaten pair Greenock and Neilston at Ravenscraig went the way of the visitors for whom on-loan Pollok hit-man Adam Forde bagged the only goal with a typical opportunist strike.

Johnstone Burgh, also yet to taste defeat, remain five points adrift of the Farmers Boys thanks to Stuart Fyfe and Ricky McArthur goals bringing a 2-1 victory over Port Glasgow, while St Cadocs bounced back from last weekend’s setback against Greenock to dish out a 7-0 hammering to Carluke Rovers, helped by a Chris Dallas treble.

On the same 14 points mark atop Conference A after posting hard-fought wins are Bellshill Athletic and Annbank United.

The improving Lanarkshire outfit, 2-0 behind at home to Craigmark after just 25 minutes, came storming back with goals from Dylan McGuigan, Matty Clarke, Paul McAulay and Jordan Moore for a 4-2 success, while on-loan Hurlford United striker Steven Currie’s fourth goal in two outings saw Annbank get the better of Muirkirk 1-0.

In Conference C, Kilsyth Rangers still look the team to beat with two goals each from Ryan Deas and Chris Reid, and one from Davie Stewart doing the damage in a 5-1 rout of St Anthonys.


WOSFL Premier Division: Rossvale 3 Cumbernauld Utd 2, Kilwinning Rangers 3 Hurlford Utd 1, Troon 1 Rutherglen Glencairn 0, Beith 0 Irvine Meadow 0, Blantyre Vics 1 Largs Thistle 3.

WOSFL Conference League A: Annbank Utd 1 Muirkirk 0, Bellshill Athletic 4 Craigmark 2.

WOSFL Conference League B: Vale of Leven 1 Forth Wanderers 3, Johnstone Burgh 2 Port Glasgow 1, Vale of Clyde 4 Gartcairn 4, Greenock 0 Neilston 1, Wishaw 2 Lugar Boswell 2, Carluke Rovers 0 St Cadocs 7.

WOSFL Conference League C: Yoker Athletic 1 Thorniewood Utd 0, East Kilbride Thistle 1 Newmains Utd 0, Glasgow Perthshire 2 Drumchapel Utd 3, St Anthonys 1 Kilsyth Rangers 5.