BELLSHILL ATHLETIC boss Robert Downs reckons his switch to Arthurlie will not kill off the Central First Division leaders' hopes of title glory.

The four-point cushion over nearest challengers Lesmahagow appeared ever so slender after word broke of gaffer Downsy bringing the curtain down on an impressive two years with the Lanarkshire outfit in order to return to one of his former clubs.

The 35-year-old insists he did everything by the book in keeping club official Paul Fox fully informed of his application for the Arthurlie post, however no statement has been forthcoming over how Bellshill intend to proceed ... even in the interim.

Former player John Fallon, Scott Archer and Keiron McGuinness are names being linked with the post, but the outgoing boss - whose close friend and loyal No.2 Stevie Aitchison has agreed to join him in the Dunterlie dugout - said: "Bellshill have a terrific bunch of players who have performed brilliantly all season and we have every faith in them going from strength to strength.

"The club may decide to invite applications for a new manager, but I believe they already have the ideal candidate in Brian McGinty, who has assisted Aitchy and myself on the coaching side of things.

"He is well steeped in the Juniors, but has plenty of Senior contacts, and I cannot help but feel that appointing someone of his standing in the game would be well received in the dressing room. If the right man is on your doorstep then why go shopping elsewhere?"

Downsy, Aitchy and goalkeeping coach Phil Bannister are looking forward to meeting their Arthurlie players for the first time tonight ahead of honing preparations for a daunting debut match - the three-times postponed Scottish Cup fourth-round showdown at home to Rob Roy.

He added: "Our plan is to get a good week's training under our belts and build on the terrific work undertaken by Billy Peacock, Gavin Duncan and David Merriman over the past couple of weeks.

"It's imperative to get to know the players quickly, so it helps in that respect that Aitchy and I have come up against many of the Arthurlie guys during our playing careers as well as sharing a Pollok dressing room with the likes of Ryan McGregor and Alan Muir.

"Nevertheless, I will keep in touch with Gavin for his insight, as we cannot afford to leave to leave any stone unturned for what is shaping up as a real baptism of fire against Stewart Maxwell and his players.

"Maxi knows how to set his teams up and will come here feeling confident of pinching a result, and even more so, now that he has fixed up Clyde loan signing striker Kevin Watt.

"He has good players to call upon, but we consider ourselves to be fortunate in the extreme after inheriting a top-notch playing squad here at Arthurlie."

Downsy's four-season long playing stint in the Sky Blue colours tends to be overshadowed by his time at the Lie's arch-rivals Pollok, where he and Aitchison accumulated over 500 appearances between them.

However, he revealed these "roots" were not a consideration when it came to putting his name forward for the Barrhead post.

He insisted: "Aitchy and I thoroughly enjoyed playing for Pollok, but there is no way we would allow that to restrict us in a managerial sense, especially as we rate Arthurlie as one of the top five clubs in the West Region.

"Managing at the highest level possible has always been our aim, and we are both delighted to be back in the Super Premier Division, but under no illusions there are trying times ahead before we can be sure of staying in it.

"The people at Arthurlie have given us this fantastic opportunity and we will not fail in trying to make the most of it."

The management duo have been inundated with text messages since the announcement of their appointments, and both men are now anticipating a somewhat boisterous reception when they meet up with former Pollok gaffer Rab Sneddon and their ex-Newlandsfield team-mates at an arranged get-together at the end of this month.

The prospect of a continuation of the icy conditions which caused the Dunterlie tie and a further eight fourth-round encounters to be postponed for a third time may force SJFA chiefs into putting back the date of the fifth round ties which are scheduled to be played on Saturday week.