HELENSBURGH’S return to league action ended in controversial – and premature – circumstances on Saturday when the match referee abandoned the game after being physically attacked by an opposition player.

Leading 5-3 against league leaders FC Baillieston at Hermitage Academy, the Burgh players were bemused – and then alarmed – to see one of the visitors, on being shown a red card for dissent after protesting at the award of a penalty to the hosts, raise his hands to the official and push him away.

Though the red-carded player was quickly pulled away by his team-mates, the referee immediately came across to the Helensburgh bench to inform them that he was abandoning the match.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a good day for Helensburgh, who had inflicted Baillieston’s only previous defeat of the league campaign when the teams last met in January.

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The hosts got off to a perfect start when they were awarded a penalty for handball, Stuart Bailey duly despatching the ball past the keeper.

Helensburgh dealt well with the visitors’ long game, but were dealt a shock after 30 minutes when Baillieston equalised after their striker controlled a loose ball 20 yards out and was able to fired low into the net with no-one closing him down.

The hosts thought they’d taken the lead a few minutes later when David Allan headed home David Sinclair’s cross, only for the referee to blow for offside – but the winger didn’t have to wait long to get on the scoresheet, when he hooked the ball home after good work by Wilkie.

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As in their previous meeting, which Helensburgh won 5-3, goals weren’t hard to come by on Saturday, and The visitors were level again through a header after some poor defending – but Burgh weren’t finished, and Allan headed home his second to give the home side a 3-2 lead at the break.

The second half started with a bang when Allan completed his hat-trick, outpacing the Baillieston defence to slip home his side’s fourth three minutes after the restart – but once again the visitors hit back, their striker again finding space to fire past keeper Craig Gemmell.

Then came Bailey’s second successful spot-kick of the match, this one converted after Caleb Phipps was brought down in the box – only for the attack on the referee to bring a premature end to the match.

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Helensburgh manager Sam Gemmell said: “I was disappointed with the ending; however, no-one should be allowed to do what the player did, so I have sympathy with the referee.

“We have played really well in the last couple of games and dominated teams who have been in higher league positions than us.

“For the Baillieston game to be stopped when it looked like we were taking three valuable points is extremely disappointing to us, but we need to move on and focus on the challenge that awaits us over the next few weeks.”

“On the down side we have lost two important players due to bad tackles which might have well brought their season to an early end.”