Darren Henderson has refused to buy into the theory that Hurlford United are a racing certainty to feature in the Premier Division relegation dogfight this season.

An unforeseen flutter of summer departures from his Blair Park dressing room would appear to have prematurely wrecked Hendo’s hopes of mounting a WoSFL title challenge and has now left him facing up to the prospect of carrying out a major rebuild of the Ayrshire big guns.

Pundits have been quick off the mark to tip Hurlford as prime candidates to  take a fall after Adam Hodge (to Clydebank), Ross Fisher (Glenafton), Michael Wardrope (Irvine Meadow), Callum Veitch and Jamie Wilson (Cumnock), Mick Dunlop (Rossvale), Richie McKillen (St Cadocs), John Gemmell (Cambuslang Rangers) and Chris Murchie (unknown) turned down new contract offers and elected to head for greener pastures leaving Hendo to soldier on with what stalwarts  he can still muster such as Paul “Taz” Mckenzie and Chris Robertson.

It only rubbed salt in Hendo’s wounds when a further setback saw his only remaining goalkeeper Martin McDonald literally falling victim to a ladder related accident at work that looks set to sideline the highly rated 23-year-old for up to six weeks with severely torn ligaments.

Ahead of embarking on his seventh season at the Ford helm, the seasoned gaffer is determined to weather the storm and has snapped up experienced midfielder Graham Muir from Largs Thistle as well as a trio of youthful new signings in Liam Miller, formerly of Irvine Vics and Ayr United, Darren Moffat ex-Kilwinning Rangers, and one time St Mirren youth prospect Carter Frew.

A considerably patched up Hurlford side managed a rack up a  4-2 win over Craigmark in their first pre-season friendly outing last Saturday when Jack Whittaker, Chris Robertson, trialist and last season’s top marksman Lewis Morrison (pen) were on the mark but the lack of depth to their squad was all too apparent last night when a brace of penalty kick goals by Morrison could not prevent Hurlford succumbing to a 3-2 defeat away to Ardrossan Winton Rovers for whom David Mills (2) and Paddy Woods were the scorers.

Henderson insisted: “The performances like results up to now have been a mixed bag if truth be told but that’s only to be expected when our rebuild work is just getting off the ground and our focus remains as before on trying to be ready and prepared in time for our first competitive match.

“Losing so many players at one and the same time has been a kick in the teeth and then some but they have their reasons for moving on so I won’t be critical even if it’s hard to take when guys walk out the door who have become close friends.

“They leave with the best wishes of everyone at Hurlford and replacing  them with similar quality is going to be very difficult but not impossible and it  helps our cause that someone of big Robbo’s  experience has agreed to come out of retirement and lend a hand.

“I’m all in favour of giving youngsters their head but bringing out the best in them requires the balance provided by the older heads  core of Taz, Robbo, Chris McKnight and Squib (Marc McKenzie) for sure.

“And further reinforcements are to hand from my assistant manager John Dempster who has not played for fully four years but is now back training to be ready in case the eventuality arises of us needing to call on him.

“He can do us a turn and so too can the likes of Lewis Morriso and Sam Liddington by stepping  to the plate and setting  an example for the younger kids by demonstrating how they have come on in leaps and bounds from playing here.

“They have picked up good habits and now the time is right to pass them on.” 

Also in action last night were Kilwinning Rangers who ran out 3-0 winners over Troon in what was a second outing for the Buffs in 48 hours after playing out a 1-1 draw with Whitletts Vics on Monday night.

In other matches, Sam McKenzie and Jake Hughes goals helped Blantyre Vics seal a 2-1 victory over Ashfield for whom Brad Rodden netted while  striker Jay McInally bagged a hat trick but still finished on the losing side as he and his Maryhill team mates went down 6-3 away to Yoker Athletic.