A LITTLE bit of local footballing history was made on Saturday as Rhu Amateurs and Helensburgh AFC met for the first time.

Following a 1-1 draw in the pre-season friendly fixture, Rhu won a penalty shoot-out 6-5 to lift the Joshua John William Black Trophy, gifted to mark the recent birth of a son to Rhu legend and former Helensburgh captain Dougie Black and his wife Rachael.

The game provided useful match practice for both teams ahead of their first competitive fixtures of the new campaign, in which Rhu will again compete in Division 1B of the Caledonian League, while Helensburgh will line up in the first division of the Greater Glasgow Premier AFL after securing promotion at the end of last season.

Though Rhu were formed in 1896, making them one of Scotland's oldest amateur teams, they had never met Helensburgh since the latter club's formation 10 years ago, and a good crowd of spectators turned out at Ardenconnel Park to watch the teams' first ever meeting.

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The first half belonged to the visitors, who dominated for long spells; the first chance fell to Brooks Tadlock, when he was played in by a fine through ball by Ross Jeffries, but the shot wasn’t struck with any great power and Ainsley in the Rhu goal saved comfortably.

Burgh were making things difficult for their hosts, but it was Rhu who nearly snatched the opening goal when McKell found himself clear on the right wing; his cross was met by Smith, but the big striker made a mess of the header and it flew harmlessly over the crossbar.

Stung by this close escape, Helensburgh managed to put pressure on the hosts’ defence again, and in the space of 10 minutes, Caleb Phipps saw two strikes at goal rebound off the posts to safety.

Ross Jeffries also went close and only stout defending kept the ball from finding the net.

However the pressure paid off soon after when Jeffries knocked the ball into the net after some excellent work by Tadlock.

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More chances came and went for the visitors, but none were converted, leaving Helensburgh holding a slender half-time lead.

If the first half belonged to Helensburgh, the second half was controlled by the home side, who changed formation in a bid to pose a greater threat up front.

With the pressure building Rhu gave themselves a chance to get back into the game when Smith chased down a through ball into the box.

Helensburgh keeper Gemmell came out to block him, but as the two collided, the big striker fell to the ground; despite pleas from the visitors that he had made the most of the contact, the referee, obviously on the wrong side of the challenge to see it correctly, awarded the penalty.

Justice, however, was done, at least from a Helensburgh perspective, as Gemmell saved the spot-kick superbly by diving low to his left.

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Helensburgh were finding it difficult to create any real chances, and it was only free-kick attempts that were troubling the Rhu keeper, while at the other end the visitors’ defence was always under the cosh.

Smith was causing problems with his fleet of foot, and he earned his team a second penalty – this time with no doubt about the foul.

Having seen his first attempt saved, this time the striker handed over the spot-kick duties to veteran Dougie Black, who coolly sent Gemmell the wrong way – leaving his former team-mates remembering a miss from the spot against Belleaire a couple of seasons ago, and wondering why he had failed to convert on that occasion.

With the clock ticking towards full time, young Adam Bell almost snatched the winner, but his shot flew agonisingly wide of the post.

With the sides locked at 1-1 as the final whistle blew, a shoot-out was held to decide the fate of the trophy – and with plenty of encouragement from the crowd for each of the penalty takers, it was Rhu who emerged on top.

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Helensburgh manager Sam Gemmell said: “In the end, although it was ‘only’ a friendly, you couldn’t fault the effort of the players, who gave their all in some really poor weather.”

After the match both sets of players gathered in the Rhu clubhouse to look back on the match – and perhaps look forward to the two teams meeting again before too long.

This Saturday, August 3, Rhu welcome Campbeltown Pupils FC to Ardenconnel Park for a friendly fixture kicking off at 2pm.

Helensburgh, meanwhile, don’t start their Greater Glasgow Premier AFL League Cup sectional matches until August 17, at home to Cambria.

This Saturday, the Burgh side travel to Toryglen to play North Kelvin United, before taking on Jordanhill on August 10.

(Match photos by Tom Watt)