THERE was nothing Scrooge like about a St Rochs defence that made a gift of three points in losing 4-3 to Kello Rovers on Saturday.

To say the Ayrshire visitors were handed out presents of the goals they scored would be putting it mildly and nobody took on the role of Santa Claus more than the normally reliable goalkeeper Chris Calder, who was possibly, probably even, at fault for three of the goals conceded.

However, the 30-year-old, whose fine shot-stopping form since joining St Rochs this season gained recognition with Dumbarton taking him out on loan recently, was still required to pull off a string of top saves as the limitations of those in front of him left his goal exposed in the most brutal fashion.

The disappointment over his side’s display was etched all over St Rochs boss Paul Kelly’s face.

“Games are won in and around penalty boxes and we were simply not good enough at either end of the pitch today," he said. “We didn’t defend well enough and had sufficient clear-cut chances to win the game, but just didn’t take them and the upshot is Kello have come out on top because we have not done our jobs, individually or as a team. All the four goals we conceded were avoidable in my book, particularly the two from longer range in the second half which reflect poorly on our midfield’s failure to close down opponents and prevent shots at our goal.”

This Conference A contest had been switched to the K-Park in East Kilbride due to the Garngad outfit’s James McGrory Stadium pitch being unplayable and the immaculate astro-grass surface lent itself to a high tempo contest.

Charged with making all the key decisions was referee Sean Murdoch, formerly a Hamilton Accies goalkeeper, and after just 12 minutes, St Rochs forward Aaron Connolly appeared to beat Kello No.1 Ryan Dunsmuir to a through-pass and stroke the ball into an empty net only for Murdoch to deem the striker had kicked the ball from the keeper’s hands.

Kello took full advantage of this fortuitous call with their next venture upfield. When three St Rochs players made a hash of clearing their lines at a corner-kick, standing static, Lawrie Johnston was allowed to control the ball dropping from high and turn before prodding home from eight yards.

A bad goal to lose, but even worse was to come as Candy Rock skipper Paul Tierney found himself chasing a bouncing ball back towards his own area, closely pursued by Ayrshire striker Mark Armour and with Calder advancing from his line to help out. The experienced keeper's lack of communication when coming to the edge of his box saw both him and Tierney hesitate and they duly collided while Armour and the ball continued their goalwards trajectory, with the Kello frontman netting arguably the easiest tap-in goal of his career for 2-0.

St Rochs heads were down and there was almost further calamity when a horribly short Brian McQueen pass-back saw Armour round Calder. However, what looked a certain goal was averted by a wonderful intervention by the back-tracking Matty Sutherland.

Buoyed by their escape, St Rochs immediately halved their deficit when Connolly’s deep cross from out left evaded Dunsmuir’s reach and rebounded off the inside of his upright into the path of Jason Elliot, who smashed the ball past the helpless keeper.

An equaliser should have followed in the home team’s next attacking sortie as a clever Connolly pass sent Connor Hughes scampering clear with only Dunsmuir to beat but the pacy forward pulled his shot wide when it looked easier to score.

The young front man came even closer to levelling the scores early in the second half when, after being picked out by a pass from experienced campaigner Barry Russell, on as a 41st minute substitute for the injured McQueen, he saw his volley on the run clip the top of the crossbar and bounce over.

St Rochs' bid to press forward led to a third-time-lucky counter from Hughes who was perfectly placed in 65 minutes to turn home a Dan Kindlan pass after the best passing exchange of the game had torn Kello’s backline asunder.

An Armour run and shot reminded everyone of the visitors’ attacking threat which in 73 minutes was duly underlined when Paul Weir picked up a pass in midfield and strode forward unchallenged before unleashing a 25-yard shot in off the underside off the crossbar that appeared to catch Calder unawares.

This frenetic see-saw affair was far from over and following a scramble at a corner-kick, Hughes touched home from close range to level the scores at 3-3.

The young hit-man then contrived to shoot over the crossbar from point-blank range,which enabled the even more dangerous Armour to have the game’s last say when he cut in from the left flank to drill a low 20-yard shot beyond the diving Calder.

Kello manager Scott “Paddy” Clelland said: “Defences were far from on top as it felt like a goal was being scored every time one of the teams was in the other’s penalty box. That said we’re delighted to come here and pick up a victory and hopefully we can take confidence from the result to kick on after the three-week shutdown and string a decent run together."

Kello's second league win of the season eased them above St Rochs in the standings due to a superior goal difference, but there was an even bigger upset in Conference A with second-bottom Maybole hammering third-top Muirkirk 7-0.

The battle to be top of the tree going into Christmas was won by Annbank United for whom Lee Sloan, Stevie Currie and Jordan Ryan with a penalty were on the mark in a stirring 3-1 comeback victory away to erstwhile front-runners Bellshill Athletic, who had led at the Matt Busby Stadium through a Dylan McGuigan goal.

The seasonal spirit of “goodwill to all men” was nowhere to be seen at the Ayrshire outpost of Dalmellington where a second-half Ged Dobbs spot-kick conversion enabled 10-man Maryhill to come away with a share of the spoils against nine man Craigmark Burntonians.

A red card also played a decisive part in a pulsating all-city clash between Glasgow University and Ashfield whose midfielder Bradley Rodden fired his side into the lead and was then given his marching orders all inside the opening 15 minutes.

Jonny Baxter equalised for the students and their noses were briefly in front thanks to a Lewis Dibble penalty, but Ashfield marksman Callum Graham levelled matters before half time.

Baxter's second goal just after the hour looked to have won the day for the home side, but the never-say-die spirit of their opponents saw full-back John Barr equalise late on for the game to end 3-3.

Still comfortably leading Conference C are Kilsyth Rangers who recovered from falling behind to a Chris Philben goal for East Kilbride Thistle, to run out 6-1 winners with goals from Gavin Mackie (two), Martyn Shields, Ryan Deas, Gary Stewart and Greg Johnston.

Neilston maintained their 100 per cent winning ways in Conference B after a brace from Adam Forde, with Dylan Fletcher and Connor Bulger also on target in a 4-2 success over Carluke Rovers.

Nearest challengers Greenock and Johnstone Burgh also picked up three points, while Port Glasgow and St Cadocs stayed in title contention with narrow victories over Vale of Leven and Wishaw respectively.


WOSFL Premier Division: Clydebank 1 Rossvale 1, Bonnyton Thistle 2 Cumbernauld Utd 1, Irvine Meadow 1 Kilwinning Rangers 2, Largs Thistle 2 Beith 2.

WOSFL Conference League A: Maybole 7 Muirkirk 0, Glasgow University 3 Ashfield 3, St Rochs 3 Kello Rovers 4, Bellshill Athletic 1 Annbank Utd 3, Craigmark 1 Maryhill 1.

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

WOSFL Conference League C: Drumchapel Utd 1 Thorniewood Utd 3, Kilsyth Rangers 6 East Kilbride Thistle 1.