Two moments of magic seal home win for Pupils

Ryan Deans jostles for the ball.

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Campbeltown Pupils 2
Neilston 1
SAFL Premier Division One

Campbeltown Pupils battled hard last Saturday to claim a home win over league rivals Neilston.

Two fantastic goals in a keenly contested game were enough to see the Pupils over the line, in a match that might well have been abandoned near its end.

The Pupils started in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and initially struggled to create fluid moves on the heavy but playable Kintyre Park pitch, which had passed an early-morning inspection.

With Alasdair Ferguson called into action in the Pupils’ goal early on to block a Neilston shot in the box – with Ross Souden clearing the ball away at the last moment – the Pupils took their time to find their rhythm, but did so spectacularly.

Keith Mitchell and John McCallum combined to release Gregor McFadyen on the left wing, before he cut the ball back to right midfielder Scott Souden, and offloaded to attacking midfielder Ryan Deans on the edge of the box, who unleashed a stunning right-footed shot that arrowed into the roof of the net, and make the score 1-0 at half-time.

After the interval, the Pupils made a personnel change when right-back Stuart Crossan, feeling unwell, was replaced in defence by lone striker John McCallum, with younger brother Donald McCallum brought on to spearhead the attack.

The home side then had to withstand some inevitable Neilston pressure, as the visitors’ substitutes made an impact and began to probe for openings, but central defensive pairing Lee Allen and Ross Souden helped preserve the Pupils’ lead.

Neilston thought they had equalised after a collision between Pupils’ keeper Ferguson and a Neilston striker resulted in a visiting player despatching the loose ball into the net, however match referee Jimmy Litster ruled that the challenge on the young keeper was overly heavy, and disallowed the goal.

Then, admittedly against the second-half run of play, the McFadyens-sponsored Pupils struck the decisive blow in the match. Keith Mitchell picked up the ball on the left and released McFadyen down the left flank, from where he produced a fine low cross which substitute Donald McCallum struck low into the Neilston net with his left foot to make it 2-0.

But with some 20 minutes to play and the Pupils cruising, Neilston halved the deficit, a visiting striker gambling on Ferguson’s kick, and blocking it, the resulting break of the ball landing in his path for an easy finish, providing a lifeline to the men from East Renfrewshire.

But their hopes of an equaliser would quickly fade, after a Neilston player-coach – already booked on the touchline for dissent ­– was sent off for a foul on Mitchell within a minute of entering the field of play.

The same player then proceeded to throw a running punch as he left the field, before both teams became embroiled in an on-pitch melee.

After the fisticuffs fizzled out, the game of football resumed and a healthy Kintyre Park crowd watched a settled final 10 minutes of action as the Pupils did enough to seal a welcome three points, over the team they had beaten on the road in front of the BBC Scotland cameras a month previously.

Finally, midfielder Ryan Gilchrist, enjoying a regular return to first-team action, was given the man-of-the-match award, with the creative energy of McFadyen another highlight for the Pupils.

Tomorrow (Saturday) the Feathers Inn-sponsored Pupils travel to Busby on league duty, with kick-off at 2pm. For more info, follow Campbeltown Football on Facebook or @PupilsAFC on Twitter.

Campbeltown Pupils’ squad v Neilston: Alasdair Ferguson, Keith Mitchell (captain), Lee Allen, Ross Souden, Stuart Crossan, Gregor McFadyen, Ellis Robertson, Ryan Deans, Ryan Gilchrist, Scott Souden, John McCallum. Subs: Kenny Kerr, Michael McKinlay, Johnny McCormick, Ross Brown, Donald McCallum (used).