THE question being asked by many after the announcement of a Christmas weekend fixture list was not so much whether clubs were doing the right thing by staging matches when the entire Central Belt is under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions, but whether players should be asked to forego spending time with their families in order to take part.

The fact livelihoods are not at stake at this Tier Six level of the pyramid with the majority of players, though deemed to be professional, receiving a pittance at best for their efforts and with no tangible reward for the volunteering army of club officials, may explain why Christmas Day and Boxing Day came to be regarded as sacrosanct holidays in the Junior footballing calendar down through the years.

So why, nowadays, is there a need for Premier Division clubs to play while Conference clubs are afforded a two week winter break?

WOSFL match secretary Kennie Young said: “It’s all down to time restraints and we are already up against the clock on this one. I’d hazard a guess and say all our clubs would have gone into winter shutdown mode but for the fact there is a deadline by which the Premier Division has to be done and dusted in order for the title winners to take part in the scheduled Lowland League play-offs against the top teams in the East of Scotland and South of Scotland leagues. No such deadline applies in the Conference where there is no promotion or relegation, so we can extend their season to suit.

"However, it is already looking like being something of a squeeze to have the Premier finished in time, therefore we can ill-afford a couple of idle Saturdays at this stage. Our hands are tied to a large extent and accommodating requests to move fixtures away from Boxing Day was the only help we could offer.”

Any show of hands in favour of playing matches would have included those of Blantyre Vics boss John Gibson and his long standing No.2 Paul McAninch, who were pleased to have their side’s clash away to Irvine Meadow on Saturday even though they were disappointed with the 3-2 defeat.

Gibson said: “It’s just a pity that Coronavirus restrictions prevented Blantyre’s fans from coming down to take in the Medda match because I’m pretty sure they would have turned up in numbers for what was a Xmas cracker of a contest.”

Meadow striker Connor Boyd helped himself to a hat-trick, which included the injury-time winner that ended Vics hopes of earning a point after goals from Nadeem Zeb and Lewis McDonald.

Gibson said he did not deviate from Blantyre’s normal routine of training on Monday and Wednesday nights despite the temptation for his charges to over-indulge.

“My old Stirling Albion team boss Kevin Drinkell was someone who did not hesitate to bring the guys in training on Xmas Day and New Year’s Day as part of match preparations and I remember one instance when he was not best pleased when one of my team-mates (who will remain un-named to avoid embarrassment) turned up at least four sheets to the wind. Drinks had a rant as you might expect before showing a somewhat unique approach to the sobering up process by making the player in question sit in a cold water bath for the entire duration of our training session. From then on, there was never any need to worry about the condition of players whenever he called for an impromptu Xmas session.”

Gibson said he did not take a leaf out of the former Rangers striker’s book and bring the Vics squad together for an extra work-out because players nowadays looked after themselves better.

“Our guys deserve all the credit going for their professional approach and can be found attending various gyms away from our training nights so I had no fears over their physical condition," he said. “And fingers cannot be pointed at our fitness and staying power, despite losing a goal in injury time, because our defeat was more to do with injuries forcing us to play without our recognised central defensive pairing.

Waterlogged pitches put paid to the scheduled Beith v Kilwinning Rangers and Rob Roy v Largs Thistle contests, but Darvel’s meeting with Troon went ahead thanks to a switch of venue to Townhead Park’s astro-grass pitch.

And Mick Kennedy’s men made light of having to give up their home advantage with goals from Jordan Kirkpatrick, Ian McShane, Jordan Allan, Ross Caldwell and a penalty from Darren Miller helping chalk up a 5-2 triumph over the leading title challengers, whose ripostes came from Raymond Montgomerie and Josh Black.

A belated and unwelcome Christmas surprise came the way of Hurlford United after they succumbed to a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Premier Division strugglers Bonnyton Thistle. Darren Henderson’s side trailed 2-0 at the interval due to a brace of goals from Bonnyton striker Kyle Gilroy and could only muster a Jamie Wilson counter in response.

In a re-arranged fixture at New Tinto Park, Rutherglen Glencairn made a dream start with Dale Simeon scoring in the third minute his first goal since returning to the club at the start of this month, but they trailed 2-1 at the interval following a well-taken brace by Rossvale’s top scorer Lee Roulston. Glens’ hopes of salvaging even a point were all but quashed when defender Jackson Biggar was dismissed midway through the second half after receiving his second yellow card, and the home team duly sealed a welcome victory after trialist Jonathan Kavanagh got his name on the scoresheet with only minutes remaining.


WOSFL Premier Division: Hurlford Utd 1 Bonnyton Thistle 2, Irvine Meadow 3 Blantyre Vics 2, Darvel 5 Troon 2.