Burly striker John Cunningham again underlined his enormous worth to Blantyre Vics last night by coming off the bench to score the leveller to earn a dramatic 2-2 draw against Hurlford United.

The former Cumbernauld United and Clydebank ace might have considered himself unlucky not to nail down a starting jersey in the Castle Park contest after finding the net in his side’s 5-1 weekend drubbing by Pollok .

But nobody can deny gaffer John Gibson knows his players best and his decision to keep Cunningham as a super-sub proved fortuitous in the extreme as the Vics came storming back from 2-0 down to earn a share of the spoils.

Gibby admitted at the final whistle: “John has been putting in extra stints to try and catch up with the other guys in terms of fitness and his goals are a fitting reward for all his hard work but this is a team game and right at this moment he is making a real telling  contribution as an impact player off the bench.

“He knows his chance will come and I certainly won’t ignore his claims if he continues to  do the business in front of goal.”

The home side‘s  David Cherrie was undoubtedly the busier of the two goalkeepers as Hurlford came roaring out of the blocks in the early stages and perhaps unsurprisingly he was soon picking the ball out of his net after the visitors got their noses in front with a well-worked effort.

A long ball forward saw Marc McKenzie demonstrate a sublime touch in playing the ball into the path of teammate Lewis Morrison whose rifled low shot fairly zipped into the net beyond the diving Cherrie.

The visitors continued on top and a lot of the attacking play was centred in and around Blantyre’s goalmouth. However, Cherrie’s handling and the defiant defensive work of stopper Jordan Marshall ensured they reached the interval only 1-0 down when their deficit could and should have been doubled at the very least.

The second period started in similar fashion and Hurlford were the recipients of a fortunate break when Referee Robert Thomson awarded a penalty for a handball by Vics full-back Dale Jones. That allowed Morrison to step up to the mark and duly fire home his second goal of the game.

Even the most ardent Vics fans must have thought their team was dead and buried but their disadvantage was to be halved in their very next attacking phase thanks to a stunning Sam McKenzie effort.

Hurlford’s entire backline raised their hands for offside when Vics' winger took possession wide right and he skilfully cut inside one attempted challenge and had a glance at the goal before hammering a powerful drive high into the net.

The hosts’ tails were now up and Ronan O’ Kearney passed up a glorious opportunity to level matters with only visiting keeper  Martin McDonald to beat. Then, shortly afterwards Grant Brennan turned home a Jones cross only to be adjudged offside.

The pressure kept building with the introduction of Cunningham and he came up trumps on 84 minutes after a searing 50-yard run forward by Brennan saw him atone for his earlier miss by setting up his pal to slot home a low shot for 2-2 parity.

Boss Gibson added: “We’ll gladly take the point but playing to our capabilities for just 30 of the 90  minutes is not good enough in this League so improvements have to be made and quickly.

“First half we never really settled and Hurlford were the better team by far and deservedly went ahead before somewhat fortunately getting a second goal from the spot.

“Some Referees give that type of handball offence and some don’t but on this occasion he did and it left us with an uphill task but thankfully Sam comes up with a wonder strike to get us back into things.

“We then proceeded to more than hold our own and it’s just pleasing to see the reaction of the players to getting our first point on the board .”

Arguably the shock result of the night was posted down in Ayrshire where big guns Pollok came a cropper in losing 3-1 at Bonnyton Thistle. Dean McColm’s first half strike was cancelled out on 70 minutes by Lok front man Stuart McCann to set up a finale which went the way of the hosts after they scored twice in the closing stages through Eddie Arbola and Kyle Gilroy.

Beith were resounding winners with Kenny McLean, Jordan Duffy, Callum Imrie, Calum Watt and Josh Fowler on target in a 5-0 hammering of Largs Thistle, while Kilwinning Rangers triumphed 4-1 through Jordan Stuart, Calvin Kemp, Thomas Collins and Ben Lewis. Josh Winton nabbed a consolation for Kilburnie Ladeside.

Elsewhere, Darvel overcame Glenafton 2-1 at Loch Park with a most dramatic conclusion…the Glens missed a 90th minute penalty kick with the scores tied at 1-1. Meanwhile, Benburb came away from Troon with a goalless draw and Clydebank had to settle for a 2-2 draw at home to a Cumbernauld United side that twice led at Holm Park.

Mark Shankland and Keir Samson goals helped Auchinleck Talbot to a 2-0 victory over Rob Roy while managerless Rossvale  suffered a 4-1 loss at home to Cumnock whose scorers were Owen bell, Findlay Frye, Ally Miller and Kyle McAusland.