THE manager of Helensburgh FC has praised his team’s “truly remarkable” achievement in winning promotion – despite seeing his players miss out on the league championship.

Helensburgh were beaten 2-1 in a title decider against South Lochaber Thistle in Fort William last Saturday – bringing to an end an incredible winning streak, stretching all the way back to November, which saw the local side record 14 league victories in a row.

But that run, as reported in the Advertiser last week, was still enough to secure promotion to the first division of the Greater Glasgow Premier AFL – an achievement all the more notable in view of Helensburgh’s poor start to the season, in which they won just one of their first four league matches.

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Boss Sam Gemmell said: “We were obviously disappointed at the end of the game, as we didn’t do what we came for, but in the end the better team on the day won.

“Although there was nothing between the teams in the first half we were well off the pace in the second, and couldn’t get any sort of grip in the game.

“Our congratulations to everyone at SLT for the title win; however, we haven’t done that badly ourselves.

“With only one win in the first four league games, to then go on and end the season in runners-up spot, and taking the title to the last game of the season, was truly remarkable.

“We are looking forward to our next challenge next season and with most of the squad signed up for next year and some new additions in the pipeline as well we go into the summer break in a positive frame of mind.”

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Helensburgh looked brighter early on, Keith Thomas leading the early charge with two driving runs from midfield, but on both occasions the final shot was off target.

But Thistle slowly started to find their way into the game, and fired a warning shot off the visitors’ bows when a 20-yard effort rattled off the post and bounced to safety.

And it was the hosts who took the lead on 20 minutes when Danny Johns slipped as he made to intercept a through ball, allowing Thistle’s veteran forward Danny McIntosh time to fire the ball past keeper Paul Cavanna.

But the away side didn’t take the loss of the opening goal lying down, and David Wilkie struck the post before Thistle keeper Dunlop was almost, but not quite, caught out by a David Allan shot.

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And Helensburgh’s pressure paid off after a hasty clearance from the Thistle defence, with David Sinclair heading home Wilkie’s throw-in.

But the hosts started the second half better, and though the Helensburgh back four were dealing well with everything they faced, at the other end Wilkie was feeding off scraps as the visitors found it hard to get on the ball and set up any decent attacks.

With Helensburgh needing the win, they began to push forward – but as they did so, Thistle caught them out at the back with a long ball forward, and the home striker’s clever cutback saw Andrew McLean sidefoot home the winning, and title-clinching, goal.

Boss Gemmell added: “My thanks to all the players that took part this year, to our strip sponsor ‘Fusebox Electrical’, and to David Boxall and Russell Makeham, who have helped me at the side of the park.”

Squad: Paul Cavanna, Ronnie Eskdale, Ryan Jones, Danny Johns, Alan Birnie, Gerraint Meader, David Sinclair, Keith Thomas, Karl Johansson, Dougie Black, David Allan, David Wilkie, Russell Makeham, James Cameron, Callum Dodds.

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Helensburgh handed out their end-of-season awards at the Logie Baird on their return to the town after the match.

The ‘goal of the season’ prize went to Ryan Jones, while the top goalscorer and players’ player of the year awards were both won by David Allan. Derek Park was chosen as the winner of the player of the year prize.

The Burgh manager added: “The club would like to thank Milan and Cara Nikolic and the staff at Logie’s for hosting our season end awards and for the buffet that was laid on.”