Michael Wardrope came to the rescue for Irvine Meadow as they scratched out a 1-1 share of the spoils at home to Rossvale on Saturday.

The Ayrshire cracks, denied an early second half equaliser when the referee failed to spot a close range Brian Connor shot off the underside of the crossbar had rebounded down at least a yard over the line, looked to be heading towards defeat at the hands of their WoSFL Premier Division rivals as this pre-season contest match entered its closing stages.

However, summer months midfield recruit Wardrope, introduced as a half time substitute, latched onto a loose ball following a Mark McLelland free kick in the 90th minute, sold a dummy to a couple of defenders as he made to spin away right only to instead turn onto his left foot and sublimely curl a low 20 yard shot into the far corner of the net beyond the outstretched grasp of Vale goalkeeper Craig Gordon.

What few Medda fans were in attendance roared their approval and their reaction if not relief was all the more understandable following a second 45 minutes of near incessant pressure from their team which until Wardrope’s late-in-the-day intervention was shaping up as fruitless.

Scrambling a draw was hardly the stuff of fist-pumps but it was certainly better than the alternative for the Irvine club’s co-management pair Colin Spence and James Latta particularly as their side’s second half performance had shown such a marked improvement from the opening period when their players had failed to cotton on to the fact that Rossvale were not treating this head–to-head as a friendly.

The visitors had aggressively snatched the initiative from the outset and had  called Medda goalkeeper David Markey into action on a couple of occasions before taking a deserved lead approaching the half hour mark when midfield playmaker Ross Alexander moved onto a Hugh Kerr flick and skilfully lifted the ball over one would-be defensive challenger before "dinking the ball beautifully" (the description used by his manager Davie Gorman) past the advancing Markey for 1-0.

The Vale gaffer admitted afterwards: “Ross’s goal was the icing on the cake for us starting away on the front foot and controlling the tempo.

“We came down here with a definite game plan, wanting to see how our players would adapt and it was very pleasing to see what they gave us back in return even if I was totally gutted to concede such a late goal.

“My former Talbot team mates Spenny and James were unhappy at us killing time and running the clock down at every opportunity  but today’s game  was all about us finding out which players can handle the pressure of coming to places like Meadow Park and getting a result.

“It was one of the more intimidating venues in my playing days and not a lot has changed.” 

A raft of interval changes undoubtedly energised Irvine Meadow with winger Ryan McKie in particular looking in the mood with some surging runs down the right side but all too often the only takers for his seemingly procession of crosses were Rossvale defenders Aboubaka Karamoko and Robbie Torrance or the grateful grasp of Gordon.

All manner of near things did ensue even if clear cut chances remained elusive in the extreme but the breakthrough brought about by Wardrope’s dramatic finale did put a semblance of a smile on the face of Medda co-boss Spence.

He admitted: ”Going with  a lot of young players this season  has the benefits of enthusiasm and legs but the other side of the coin is a lack of composure and concentration in the type of situation we faced in having to chase the game today.

“It was disappointing to see us making the same mistakes constantly with our final ball and painfully  more so the impression given that Rossvale wanted to get on the end of things more than we did .

“It’s simply not  acceptable at a club like Irvine Meadow and the guys need to realise who they are representing when they pull on a jersey …friendly match or otherwise.

“Gormz clearly had his players fired up and their desire to win , even to the extent of  time wasting , probably caught our guys on the hop but hopefully  it’s a reality check that will now be taken on board.”

Elsewhere in Ayrshire, Paul “Taz” McKenzie scored the only goal of the game to enable Hurlford United to run out 1-0 winners over Rutherglen Glencairn  ad  the same scoreline ensued as Benburb lost out against Ardrossan Winton Rovers for whom Tommy Donovan was on the mark.

Dylan Dykes and Cieron McAndrew scores helped St Cadocs recover from 0-2 down to earn parity away to  Kilwinning Rangers whose marksmen were Kieran Wood and Magnus Ward while goals by Saltcoats Vics pair Logan Stevenson and George Thomson saw new manager Dougie McDuff’s reign at Irvine Vics get off to a 2-1 losing start.

Glenafton beat Whitletts Vics 4-0 with scores from Sam McKee, Sean McIlroy, Jordan Ryan and Leon Murphy , Largs Thistle suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Arthurlie  and Cumnock had Aaron Miller, Finlay Frye and Jamie Conn on target in a 3-1 victory over Glasgow United whose consolation counter was notched by Danny Irvine.

A 30th minute red card for Cambuslang Rangers midfielder Kieran Christie proved his side’s undoing in a 5-1 hammering inflicted byCraig Hastings, Michael Blues(2), Jordan Logan and Ally Martin scores with Alan Reid netting for the Lang.

Darren Jones with a double (against one of his former clubs) and Dylan Fletcher helped Neilston chalk up a 3-1 success away to Renfrew ,Petershill beat far travelled Fort William by a 3-1 scoreline, Kilbirnie Ladeside triumphed 2-1 at home to Yoker Athletic and Rob Roy came out on top 2-0 at Johnstone Burgh while Scott Thomson, David Cameron, Jay Blair and Trialist accounted for Cumbernauld United’s goals in a 4-0 besting of Vale of Leithen.

RESULTS: Ardrossan Winton Rovers 1Benburb 0,  Glenafton 4 Whitletts Vics 0, Hurlford Utd 1 Rutherglen Glencairn 0, Largs Thistle 1 Arthurlie 2, Petershill 3 Fort William 1, Irvine Meadow 1 Rossvale 1, Kilwinning Rangers 2 St Cadocs 2, Creetown 1 Maryhill 1. Dumbarton 1 Clydebank 0, Kilbirnie Ladeside  2 Yoker Athletic  1, Renfrew 1 Neilston 3, Cambuslang Rangers 1 Shotts Bon Accord 5,  Johnstone Burgh 0 Rob Roy 2, Irvine Vics 1 Saltcoats Vics 2, Sauchie 3 East Kilbride Thistle 1, Stoneyburn  1 Bellshill Athletic 1, Luncarty 2 St Rochs 0,  Pollok 1 Cowdenbeath 1, Tranent 3 Darvel 4,Vale of Leithen 0 Cumbernauld Utd 4, Cumnock 3 Glasgow Utd 1, Port Glasgow 3 St Anthonys 3, Vale of Leven 3 Oakley Utd 3.