Footballers at every level love clarity, knowing what they need to do, when and why, in order to win matches therefore one can only imagine what the players of Pollok and Auchinleck Talbot felt about the crazy sequence of events that unfolded in Saturday’s absorbing 3-3 draw between the Premier League’s leading pair.

Your game face is on after completing the fitness and tactical preparations for one of the biggest matches of the season and there is a healthy backdrop of 1004 fans in attendance (braving a horrendous downpour) to provide extra focus for those among two well-matched teams needing it.

But all the while there is a situation totally outwith your control, the great unknown, or put another way, an understanding of how the referee will officiate the game, in this case, up and coming whistler Ross Hardie, whose sending off of three Pollok players and awarding three penalty kicks (two of them to the home side) will be the main conversation topic in and around Shawlands and East Ayrshire hostelries for weeks to come.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t agree with all Mr Hardie’s big calls but did feel he got more right than wrong however mine did appear to be the only supporting voice among the torrent of boos and catcalls from both sets of supporters that awaited him going into the Lok pavilion at the final whistle.

Pollok boss Murdie McKinnon summed up the thoughts of the vast majority inside Newlandsfield  when saying afterwards: “All Referees should by and large be predictable in how they control and manage a game but that certainly wasn’t the case today in what should have been an outstanding spectacle between two sets of the best players in the WoSFL.

“It wasn’t because, Mr Hardie made the 90 minutes all about him with decisions that were baffling to say the least and led to both sets of players being unable to compete because they didn’t know what he would come away with next.

“I’m 25 years in the game and have never come across anything remotely like today and believe me that is saying something.

“Two top teams going at each other in the true spirit of the game is what the paying public want to see however the football itself was completely obliterated by a refereeing performance that words fail me to describe.

“I don’t like criticising match officials because they have a difficult but essential job on their hands but I simply must speak out when a wonderful match-up has been totally ruined by one man.”

Taking a deep breath, Murdie lauded 8 man Pollok’s against all odds display to salvage a draw.

He added: “I’m delighted in the circumstances to come out with a point but I'm devastated for my players as I think they deserved more for the magnificent effort they put in today.

“Our goalkeeper Jordan Longmuir produced a string of out of this world saves, as he always does when it’s needed and deserves all the plaudits going however I’m immensely proud of each and every single Pollok player for the way in which they stood up to the pressure from Talbot particularly over the closing 25 minutes when it was like a training exercise for them with 11 players against our 8.”

The actual football bit on Saturday had seen Auchinleck start the the better of the teams only to fall behind, in the most unlikely of fashions, an Andy Leishman blunder, with just eight minutes played .

A high looping cross looked food and drink for the game’s No 1 goalkeeper, especially when rising unchallenged however his choice to punch rather than catch the ball only succeeded in a sclaffed attempt of his gloves falling perfectly for prolific Lok hitman Adam Forde who maybe didn’t believe his luck but nevertheless turned the ball home for 1-0.

A certain equaliser was prevented by Longmuir superbly touching a netbound Bryan Boylan shot past his post before the home side silenced the large visiting support again in 31 minutes by doubling their advantage from the spot.

A long throw-in by Bryan Wharton led to a push on Ryan McGregor, spotted by Mr Hardie and the giant Leishman almost made amends for his earlier gaffe by getting a hand to Greegsy’s well struck spot kick only for the ball to come back off the upright allowing the Pollok midfielder to score at the second time of asking.

At 0-2 down, Talbot were rattled but throwing them a lifeline is tantamount to opening the floodgates and theirs arrived shortly afterwards when Jamie Glasgow was tripped by Evan Horne, bringing the Lok man a second yellow card and his marching orders by Mr Hardie.

The plan may almost certainly have been for his ten team mates to get to half time with their lead intact and reorganise but their Ayrshire visitors were having none of it and their pressing forward in wave after wave of attacks was rewarded by the Referee pointing to the spot after Boylan going  to ground was adjudged as  from a push by Bryan Wharton  allowing Glasgow to expertly halve his side’s deficit to 2-1 .

And the scores were levelled just minutes later when the buoyed up Talbot  marksman cut in from his left side beat ato curl a terrific 22 yard shot into the far corner of the net beyond Longmuir, left unsighted by a couple of players running across his line of vision.

Neither side made changes during the interval and Mr Hardie’s take on the manhandling inside the box had also remained unaltered as he saw fit to make a third spot kick award  in 57 minutes after another Wharton throw-in brought  a blatant tug on McGregor’s jersey allowing the defensive midfielder to step forward after all the protests had died down to duly bag his second goal of the game.

Auchinleck’s response to going 3-2 behind was to pile on the pressure but Pollok’s rejigged backline was coping with everything thrown at them  however their resistance suffered a hammer blow in 66 minutes when commanding stopper David Brownlie  needed treatment after picking up a knock defending a corner kick.

While lying on the ground, he made the mistake of reacting to being baited mercilessly by a number of the Ayrshire club’s supporters  and his anything but terms of endearment were overhead by the standing nearby Mr Hardie who immediately brandished a red card to reduce Pollok’s beleaguered playing numbers down to nine.

McKinnon’s ire over the manner of this second dismissal  was clearly visible out on the touchline however he was incandescent in the 75th minute when a collision between Forde and Talbot centreback Craig McCracken, going for a high ball, saw the little striker despatched inside by the referee but only after an inexplicable delay.

Initially it looked like the Pollok ace was the more sinned against than sinner but either the sight of McCracken’s blooded nose or a word in the ear from his wired-up linesman had Mr Hardie pulling out a red card for the third time in the afternoon.

The closing stages brought a predictable Talbot onslaught but the home team packed their box with what bodies they could muster and made no pretence of doing anything other than holding out for a 3-2 scoreline, helped no end by last line Longmuir showing his shotstopping trade at it’s masterful best on at least three occasions with saves he later described in unassuming fashion as “doing his job”.

He was to be beaten however in the 88th minute after yet another bout of Auchinleck posssion saw the ball shuttled out left from where Aidan Wilson fired over a low driven cross that substitute Graham Wilson adroitly directed beyond the helpless Lok No 1.

A frantic five minutes of injury time ensued but 3-3 was the final scoreline much to the delight of the home team’s supporting throng who roared their approval before heading to the dressing room area to join in the berating of Mr Hardie & Co.

Visiting gaffer Tommy Sloan admitted: “I’m disappointed our 11 men have not won against their 8 but at the same time I’m relieved at getting an equaliser as late as we did.

“At the start of the game and definitely at 2-0 down I’d have gladly settled for a point but not after the way things worked out.”

On the controversy surrounding the man in the middle’s performance, he said: “I didn’t think any of the three penalty awards were justified not least because bumping and jostling goes on at every  set play situation and go unpunished more often than not but the Referee has deemed it different today.”

The Newlandsfield share of the spoils enabled third in the table Clydebank to keep in touch with the leading pair, albeit barely, after Gordon Moffat’s men succumbed to a 1-0 defeat, their second in four days, at home to fourth top Kilwinning Rangers for whom substitute Calvin Kemp provided the matchwinning goal.

Hurlford United kept up the pressure on the leading quartet thanks to Mikey Wilson, Lewis Morrison and Marc McKenzie counters bringing a deserved 3-1 Blair Park victory over Benburb whiley et  another would-be Ayrshire challenger Irvine Meadow also made up ground despite leaving it late, Jamie Whyte and Michael Wardrop both netted in the final three minutes, in getting the better of Troon by a 2-0 scoreline.

Cumnock chalked up a first win in four starts thanks to Smart Osadolar(2) and Finlay Frye (pen) goals earning an emphatic  3-0 win against  a struggling Blantyre Vics  that sank deeper into the relegation mire after being overtaken by Kilbirnie Ladeside whose 3-1 comeback triumph over Largs Thistle with Liam McGuinness, Johnny Gallagher and Brendan Sharpe on the mark was yet another kick in the teeth for the Seasiders’survival hopes.

In other Premier games, Beith and Rutherglen Glencairn took a point apiece from a pulsating 3-3 Bellsdale Park contest while Sam McKee and Jordan Ryan goals brought a 2-1 win for Glenafton away to Rossvale  and a rejuvenated Cumbernauld United beat bottom markers Bonnyton Thistle thanks to a Jack McMahon score in-between a brace of Kieron Boubreki goals.

RESULTS: P.D.M Buildbase Premier League. Pollok 3Auchinleck Talbot 3, Hurlford Utd 3 Benburb 1, Rossvale 1 Glenafton 2, Beith  3 Rutherglen Glencairn 3, Clydebank 0 Kilwinning Rangers 1, Largs Thistle 1 Kilbirnie Ladeside 3, Cumnock 3 Blantyre Vics 0, Cumbernauld Utd 3 Bonnyton Thistle 2, Irvine Meadow 2 Troon 0. PDM Buildbase Conference League A.Forth Wanderers 1 Bellshill Athletic 4, Muirkirk 1 Maryhill 3, Craigmark 1 Whitletts Vics 3,Maybole 0  Arthurlie 2, Johnstone Burgh 8  Saltcoats Vics 1, Lugar Boswell  4 Irvine Vics 3,  Shotts Bon Accord  5 Glasgow University0, Lesmahagow 1 Girvan 1. PDM Buildbase Conference League B. Port Glasgow 0 Cambuslang Rangers 1, St Cadocs 4 Ashfield 2,Carluke Rovers 5 Glasgow Utd 4, Thorniewood Utd 7 Dalry Thistle 0, Greenock 4 Newmains Utd 4, Gartcairn 2 Renfrew 1, Royal Albert 1 Ardeer Thistle 6. PDM Buildbase Conference League C. Lanark Utd 3 St Anthonys 3, Vale of Leven 1 Kilsyth Rangers 2, Neilston 0 Petershill 2, Larkhall Thistle 0 Drumchapel Utd 3, Wishaw 5 Glasgow Perthshire 1, St Rochs 3 Ardrossan  Winton Rovers 2.

PDM Buildbase Division Four. Campbeltown Pupils 0 Finnart2, Harmony Row 4 St Peters 1, Harthill Royal 2 Glenvale 1.