It was either blind faith, desperation or a tactical masterstroke on the part of Largs Thistle manager Stuart Davidson that paved the way for his side to scratch out a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Rossvale on Saturday.

Hard to conclude otherwise because even visiting supporters were seen to raise their eyebrows when just after the half hour mark in the New Petershill Park contest, Arnie opted to replace his injured and clearly unable to play on right back Brad Gray with veteran Keir Milliken.

The near totally left-footed front man seemed an odd choice even though it was no big deal that a subsequent defensive reshuffle, calling for Lawrie McMaster to drop deeper ,was also needed  to accommodate Milky’s introduction  as a forward line partner for the more youthful Will Sewell.

The Seasiders, aided by a strong wind at their backs, were holding the upper hand at this stage and they continued on top albeit now with a far greater goals threat because twice they came close to scoring the game’s opening goal.

Firstly when Milliken’s sheer presence in trying to get on the end of a right wing cross attracted the attention of two Rossvale defenders and saw the ball run through to the unmarked Sewell bang in front of goal however the hitman’s normal poise deserted him and he blasted a shot high over the crossbar from no more than six yards range.

And that glaring miss was quickly followed by a quite audacious Milliken attempt when he spotted Vale No 1 Craig Gordon straying from his line and from almost halfway let fly with a wonderfully controlled strike that beat the backtracking goalkeeper all ends up only to narrowly clear the crossbar.

All well and good must have thought Arnie out on the touchline but approaching half time he would surely have wanted to cut an escape hatch in the astro-grass surface when the aforesaid McMaster, under pressure from home team wing ace James Dolan ,was woefully short with an attempted passback, allowing the Ayr United loan signing to nip in and prod a low shot beyond keeper Danny Farrell for 1-0 .

Top scorer Sewell admitted afterwards: “ To go in a goal behind  knowing I had missed an absolute sitter did not make for one of my most enjoyable opening 45 minutes and I expected a rollicking but all  the gaffer said was that I now had to go out and make up for it.

“Hopefully I delivered for him in the second half though a lot of the credit belongs to Milky whose physicality and willingness to show for the ball took a lot of the weight of my shoulders.”

Rossvale almost doubled their advantage right from the restart as Farrell superbly parried away a netbound Ricco Diack blast before diving full length to keep out a Hugh Kerr drive but their brighter start to the resumption was controversially undone nearing the hour mark, when a tangle of bodies saw McMaster go down inside the area chasing after a loose ball bringing  whistler Robert Thomson  to point unerringly to the penalty spot  and he was not for changing his mind despite the home team’s furious protests.

Sewell took the first steps in atoning for his earlier gaffe by slotting the award home to tie matters at 1-1 and several near things then ensued for the buoyed up Ayrshiremen however Rossvale looked fairly comfortable in weathering this  storm and indeed were developing a few breakaway attacking sorties of their own heading into the game’s closing quarter of an hour.

Something special was needed to unlock the Vale defence and Referee Thomson duly handed Largs the key by dismissing Johnny Hogg after deeming a show of dissent by the full back when a foul was awarded against him, as a second yellow card offence.

The pressure simply intensified on ten man Rossvale forcing them to sit deeper and deeper in attempting to hold out for a share of the spoils.

A 90th minute Sewell cross coming off the face of the crossbar was followed by a surging Milliken run that culminated in him cleverly cutting the ball back to Stuart Faulds whose first time shot was deflected around the post to earn a corner kick, taken by Faulds and met near post by Sewell who looked on as his  powerful header found the netrior to him being engulfed by wildly celebrating team mates.

There was only time for the ball to be centred before Mr.Thomson brought proceedings to an end.

Largs boss Arnie  emerged to say: “We started the game well though without seriously troubling their goalkeeper but things turned in our favour when Milky, who is not fully match fit, arrived on the scene as a result of Brad’s injury.

“He enabled us to get much higher up the pitch through his ability to put his body in and win a few fouls and has also allowed Will to use his pace to make runs in behind the Rossvale defenders.

“He’s a terrific young prospect and a down to earth lad into the bargain so he’ll probably be first to admit today was probably not one of his better games for the club even though he has come up trumps with our two goals.

“To score twice is a fitting reward for continuing to get himself on the end of things despite missing clear-cut chances like the one in the first half which I daresay would have fazed a lot of strikers in his shoes and caused them to retreat into their shells.”

Clearly disappointed Rossvale gaffer Iain Diack rued: “Bouncing the ball too hard off the ground is a diabolical reason to send anyone off but apparently that is why Johnny fell foul of the referee.

“His dismissal and the penalty kick decision have cost us dear but I’m not going to make excuses for a poor performance that was well below the standards set by the players over the past few weeks and months.

“We weren’t sharp enough to the ball , didn’t press as we can and our passing game wasn’t up to scratch so I need to go away and look at why that was .”

Pollok moved three points clear atop the Premier League pile after goals from Johnny Lyon and Bryan Wharton secured a workmanlike 2-0 victory away to Kilbirnie Ladeside .

An own goal allowed Irvine Meadow to scrape through 1-0 against bottom markers Bonnyton Thistle while Beith had Calum Watt (2) and Nikky Docherty on the mark as they bounced back from last week’s horror Scottish Junior Cup  showing against Gartcairn to run out 3-2 winners over Cumbernauld United for whom Danny Boyle and Kieran Hannaway were on target.

And the notable outcomes at Conference League level were all in C Division where frontrunners Drumchapel United opened up an eight points gap on the chasing pack after coming back from going 1-0 behind to a David McGrath goal for  Yoker Athletic to win 2-1 thanks to Martin Grehan and Alex Docherty counters.

Second placed Neilston title hopes were dealt a killer blow  by  a 2-1 defeat at home to third top St Rochs whose marksmen were Paul Tierney and Kieran Daw while  sitting two points adrift of the Candy Rock are strong going Petershill, whose tenth win on the spin was chalked up by a Ronan Sweeney score and a brace of Stephen Docherty goals earning a 3-1 triumph over St Anthonys whose sole consolation was netted by Martin Mullaney.

And a doff of the hat congratulations are in order for Clydebank, following a memorable 2-1  Scottish Cup success away to Elgin City, with  Liam McGonagle and Nikky Little netting, which sets up Gordon Moffat’s men for a 3rd round clash against Clyde.

RESULTS: Scottish Cup. 2nd Round Replay. Elgin City 1 Clydebank 2.

Kilmarnock Pie West of Scotland Cup. Hurlford Utd 1 Vale Of Leven 1(Hurlford win 6-5 pens), Troon 3 Ardeer Thistle 4, Renfrew 1 Johnstone Burgh 0. Glenafton 1 Gartcairn 0. PDM Buildbase Premier League. Rossvale 1 Largs Thistle 2,  Bonnyton Thistle 0 Irvine Meadow 1, Kilbirnie Ladeside 0  Pollok 2, Beith 3 Cumbernauld Utd 2.PDM Buildbase Conference League A.

Maybole 6 Lesmahagow 0, Saltcoats Vics 1 Bellshill Athletic 4.PDM Buildbase Conference League B. Newmains Utd 0 Royal Albert 2.PDM Buildbase Conference League C. St Anthonys 1 Petershill 3,  Neilston 1 St Rochs 2, Yoker Athletic 1 Drumchapel Utd 2.PDM Buildbase Division Four. Harmony Row 0 Finnart 2, B.S.C. Glasgow  1St Peters 0.