Few players enjoyed last Saturday’s 5-2 win for Darvel over Troon more than Kenny Marshall but there was never any chance of him leading the celebrations.

Pleased though he was at the emphatic result against one of the leading title challengers, defensive lynchpin Kenny’s ultra-competitive streak had him bemoaning the fact he and his team-mates had leaked twice as many goals against Troon as they had in five previous league outings this season.

And the 29-year-old’s pride in his side’s hitherto Scrooge-like qualities did not allow him to accept the crumb of mitigation offered by pointing out Darvel manager Mick Kennedy had been compelled to cobble together a makeshift backline down at Townhead Park due to the injury-enforced absence of Marshall's regular rearguard partners Darryl Meggatt and Cammy Eadie.

He insisted: “Of course we missed the qualities of Daryll and Cammy, any team  would, but the guys who came in as their replacements, Connor Greene and Gavin Mitchell are top-notch defenders in their own right and more than played their part in what was a terrific all-round team performance.

“Nevertheless the goals we lost grated on me mainly because I felt they were very avoidable, especially the second one which probably could be attributed to us taking our foot of the gas seeing as minutes earlier we had just scored to go 5-1 in front.

“That’s no excuse and even though the gaffer didn’t point the finger of blame at anyone in particular, I happen to take it personally when we concede in that manner and it didn’t sit well with me.”

Kenny’s words, which underpin his commitment and desire to be a winner, will come as no great surprise to veteran Ashfield supporters able to recall his initial arrival on the Junior scene, enticed to Saracen Park by then manager John Conlin, where he quickly developed as a no-frills midfielder-cum-defender before moving across the city to Shettleston and then on to Yoker Athletic for a short-lived playing stint.

His decision to then drop down into the amateur ranks at Colville Park proved momentous not least because he found himself playing under the Motherwell-based club’s successful manager Michael Kennedy, whose tutelage helped kickstart a relationship that was to bring three Scottish Amateur Cup triumphs over the next four years.

His subsequent return to the Junior ranks at the start of last season to join Darvel (along with eight other Colville players) raised precious few eyebrows considering Kennedy had just taken up the reins at Recreation Park and Kenny quickly found his Junior feet again to become ensconced in a side who secured a place in the Scottish Junior Cup quarter finals (against Broughty Athletic) and were strongly fancied to win promotion from the Championship before the onset of Covid –19 cut short the 2019/20 campaign.

Further recognition of the ambitious Ayrshire outfit’s emergence as a Junior force came when they were awarded Premier Division status in the newly formed WOSFL so it was somewhat surprising therefore to hear of the Kennedy/Marshall  partnership coming to an end during a close season, extended into late October by coronavirus restrictions.

Marshall revealed: “I won’t pretend it was anything but a huge wrench to walk away from Darvel especially when Mick made it clear he didn’t want me to leave but my first ever team Drumchapel United had also gained entry into the WOSFL set up at Conference level and the prospect of going back there and playing alongside close friends Chrissy Craig and Willie Dyer was something I wanted to give my best shot.

“But no sooner had I said all my goodbyes and made the move than word broke of there being no promotion or relegation in the Conference Leagues meaning it was more or less going to be a season spent playing what in essence amounted to nothing more than friendly matches.

“I truly wanted the challenge of trying something new but not if it was going to be non-competitive so I asked Mick if he would take me back and thankfully he agreed.”

Kenny had missed out in all of Darvel’s pre-season outings but was nevertheless reinstated to the Ayrshire defence for the opening league game of the season, an impressive 3-0 defeat of Rob Roy, and he has been an ever present since.

He added: “I think of myself as very fortunate to have been allowed back into the Darvel fold because this is an ambitious club that is going places and I didn’t realize just how much I missed it.

“A few changes have taken place personnel wise however the calibre of players being brought on board by Mick is extremely high and there’s no better indication of the strength in depth of our squad than being able to go out and beat a top title-challenging team like Troon without our team captain Daryll, Cammy, Willie Robertson and Jason Marr.

“And off the pitch, there are clear signs of the club gearing themselves up to pass the license requirements for the Lowland League were we to finish as champions so there are exciting times ahead.

“Obviously the likes of Clydebank, Troon, Kilwinning Rangers and Irvine Meadow are in the running themselves and will have something to say about that but we as a group of players are certainly not running scared at the prospect."

Darvel head for the coast on Sunday to face Largs Thistle and gaffer Kennedy’s hand is boosted by the arrival of two new midfield signings, Lee Hadden, who is ex-East Stirling and formerly a Scotland Amateurs cap, and 27-year-old one-time Hibs, Stenhousemuir and Derry City signing Harry Monaghan who has returned to these shores following a spell playing out in Australia.

The competition for jerseys is undoubtedly more acute than ever and a lack of playing time is behind former Queen's Park and Glenafton ace James McKernon submitting a transfer request which might attract more than passing interest from Conference B outfit St Cadocs, managed by his former Glens team-mate Craig McEwan.

Meanwhile, Marshall and his team-mates can ill-afford any slip ups at Barrfields tomorrow afternoon as they now find themselves trailing  Premier Division frontrunners Clydebank by seven points after Nikky Little, Matt Niven, Ross McPherson and Joe Slattery goals secured an impressive 4-1 midweek victory for  Gordon Moffat’s men over league bottom-markers Cumbernauld United.

The Bankies’ first action of the New Year will see them put their unbeaten in seven league starts record on the line when travelling down to Portland Park for a top of the table clash against second-placed Troon, however a frustrating afternoon could be on the cards for third top Kilwinning Rangers, if as expected, Guys Meadow is declared unplayable for their away game against Cumbernauld.

Beith’s meeting with Blantyre Vics will similarly be subject to an early morning pitch inspection, however it’s thought likely Meadow Park will get the thumbs up to permit fourth in the table Irvine Meadow’s head to head with Rob Roy to go ahead as planned.

PLAYING TODAY (kick offs 1.45pm
WOSFL Premier Division Bonnyton Thistle v Rossvale.

TOMORROW (kick offs 1.45pm
WOSFL Premier Division Irvine Meadow v Rob Roy, Beith v Blantyre Vics, Cumbernauld Utd v Kilwinning Rangers, Troon v Clydebank, Largs Thistle v Darvel.