A MUCH-CHANGED Helensburgh line-up travelled to newly-crowned first division champions Crookston Castle in the Challenge Cup quarter-final on Saturday – but despite the league placings between the sides, Crookston needed a late goal to snatch a 4-3 win.

Crookston creating some early chances and opened the scoring through Brian Hepburn after the visitors failed to clear their lines.

But Helensburgh quickly got themselves back into the match, David Wilkie equalising from the penalty spot after Allan was upended in the box.

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Crookston regained the advantage with an unchallenged Liam McQueen header that flew past keeper Paul Cavanna, but Helensburgh levelled again when Johansson set off on a mazy run to the edge of the area before laying it off for Scott Petro to score.

However it was Crookston who regained the advantage in the closing moments of the first half, Colin Price making it 3-2 after more hesitation in the Burgh defence.

Having made their one change midway through the first half, Helensburgh knew the second period was going to be a long shift – but they gave as good as they got, and Allan and Petro both had decent chances to score.

And with 10 minutes to go, good play by Johansson and Steven Martin set up Keith Thomas to shoot into the net and make it 3-3.

Helensburgh’s legs were tiring now, but with the lottery of a penalty shoot-out looming, the visitors’ dreams were dashed when a long clearance eluded Gerraint Meader and allowed Price to loop a shot over Cavanna for the winner.

Manager Sam Gemmell said afterwards: “It was a difficult one to take – after the result on Wednesday night we didn’t really want any more injuries leading up to what could be a league decider in a couple of weeks.

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“But the lads who stepped in, and those playing through pulls and strains, were excellent, and we gave a decent account of ourselves.

“We have been unbeaten in the league since November when Jordanhill beat us 4-1.

“Since then, the lads have worked their socks off, and from being third from the bottom then, we now sit second from the top.

“We have one more mountain to climb, assuming other things go our way, and that’s where our attention now lies.”

Helensburgh’s last league match is due to be played on Saturday, June 1, when they travel north to play South Lochaber Thistle.

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