Pupils forced to settle for one point on the road

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Harthill Royal JFC 1
Campbeltown Pupils 1
West of Scotland FL Division Four

Campbeltown Pupils had to make do with a point away from home last Saturday after conceding a late equaliser to West Lothian outfit Harthill.

Travelling for their last game of the calendar year, the Pupils were much changed from the team that had faced semi-professional giants Pollok FC on league cup duty the previous weekend.

However, the Pupils got into their stride quickly, when striker Conner McMurchy’s good work chasing down the Harthill keeper forced the hosts’ goalie into a miskick, which found its way to the feet of Ryan Deans just inside the Harthill half.

The Pupils midfielder guided a wonderful floating shot into the net from 40 yards to give the Pupils a third-minute lead.

At the other end, the McFadyens-sponsored Pupils’ stand-in goalkeeper Ellis Robertson, normally an outfield player, performed well between the sticks.

He was shielded by an unusual back four of John McCallum at left back, Ryan McConnachie partnered in central defence by Ross Souden, and Stuart Crossan at right back.

The Pupils wide midfielders, Gregor McFadyen and Rhys Casci, worked hard to find openings in the Harthill defence, while in central midfield, Deans was replaced by the returning Donald McCallum due to a niggling injury to the Pupils’ goal-scorer.

Donald McCallum almost conjured up a second goal for the Pupils when he turned sharply and played in Casci, whose vision was hampered by the low winter sun and he couldn’t find the target when one-on-one with the Harthill keeper.

A cagey first half played out in largely attritional fashion and the score remained 1-0 to the Pupils.

Into the second half, the Pupils became more defensive, content to try to manage each wave of Harthill attack, while enjoying some chances themselves, including a surging run from Crossan at right back, who just couldn’t find the run of a teammate at the end of the move.

Scott Souden also had a chance when driving through towards goal from the halfway line, but his attempted audacious chip didn’t have the height to evade the home keeper.

Matthew Lang was introduced in place of McMurchy for the Pupils, while Michael McKinlay replaced the injured Ross Souden in defence.

At the other end, the hosts were dangerous from set plays, so each throw-in, wide free-kick and corner had to be defended with maximum concentration.

The Pupils let their guard down with only injury time remaining, when a ball was turned wide.

A Harthill winger probed into the box before cutting the ball back to an on-rushing teammate in a central area of the box, who passed a firm shot high into the net despite the best efforts of Robertson in goal.

Prompted into action again after the concession of a goal, the Feathers Inn-sponsored Pupils went close twice in the space of two minutes when Donald McCallum, who had settled in nicely into midfield alongside Tarbert’s Lewis McNaughton, jinked through a couple of Harthill players before playing in Casci, whose rasping low shot across goal just went wide of the keeper’s left-hand post.

With almost the last action of the game, McCallum found a few yards of space and hit a dangerous low left-footed shot from all of 25 yards which the keeper could only parry for a corner.

With the resulting corner cleared, the Pupils had to settle for a point, which was well earned and perhaps a fair reflection on the match, but tinged with disappointment after leading for so much of the game.

The Pupils were treated to post-match hospitality before their journey back to Kintyre, ahead of a three-week festive break.

The Pupils return to action on Saturday January 8 with a scheduled home tie to Paisley outfit Glenvale, with kick-off 1.30pm at Kintyre Park.

The Pupils would like to thank all local businesses and individuals who donated gifts and prizes, as well as those who entered the Pupils’ Christmas prize draw.