HELENSBURGH FC’s manager says he’s been encouraged by his players’ efforts in their Greater Glasgow Premier AFL President’s League Cup campaign – despite seeing them fail to qualify from their group.

After starting their season with a 3-3 draw at home to Cambria, Burgh battled back to secure a share of the spoils with a 2-2 draw at home to Kilbarchan Thistle before an unlucky 2-1 loss away to group winners East Kilbride Rolls Royce.

Reflecting on the Kilbarchan and East Kilbride results, boss Sam Gemmell said: “In both games we have struggled to get 13 lads stripped and we have had to play some of the boys in positions they were not familiar with.

“Despite not winning, the performances and effort they all have put in has been really encouraging and with a wee bit of luck both games might have gone our way.

“These are things we can work on at training and hopefully get back to winning games.”

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Kilbarchan were full of confidence going into last Wednesday’s match at Hermitage Academy after winning their previous game 7-1, and it showed early on as they bossed the opening stages against a rejigged Helensburgh team who took a while to get into their stride.

But despite the visitors’ early pressure, it was Helensburgh who took the lead, when Chris Allan picked the ball up in midfield and picked out younger brother David with a delightful pass that the winger despatched into the corner of the net.

However, Kilbarchan stuck to their game plan and continued to press the Burgh goal, eventually getting their reward when they levelled the tie with 10 minutes of the first half left.

Helensburgh started strongly in the second half, but found it hard to break down the well-drilled Kilbarchan defence; David Allan came closest to giving the home side the lead, but his shot slid just past the post.

And moments later Helensburgh fell behind in bizarre circumstances, when an attempted pass in midfield bounced off the referee and fell to a Kilbarchan player, who played a quick pass into the feet of a team-mate – and though keeper Ronnie Eskdale made a good block to keep out his first shot, the striker reacted faster to the rebound and followed up to knock the rebound into an empty net.

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Things got a bit heated as the Helensburgh players tried to remind the referee of the new rule that he should have stopped the game after the ball hit him – and the home side’s feelings of being hard done by were exacerbated when striker Brooks Tadlock had to go off injured with both available Burgh substitutes already having been used.

But despite playing the closing stages with 10 men, Helensburgh adopted a really positive attitude, pushing the visitors back in the closing stages and seeing both David Allan and Caleb Phipps coming close to equalising.

And with minutes remaining, Helensburgh’s efforts were rewarded when a Derek Park free kick from outside the box was flicked past the Kilbarchan keeper by the ever-alert Steven Baillie to earn a share of the spoils.

Helensburgh’s draw on Wednesday night, and East Kilbride’s win away to Duncanrig on the same evening, meant Saturday’s match was something of a dead rubber – but it turned out to be a very entertaining game of football.

Burgh, with some changes in their line-up, kicked off with the gusty winds at their back – and though it was EK who looked the sharper of the two teams early on, Helensburgh stuck to their task and opened the scoring when Tadlock sent David Allan through for a cool finish past the keeper.

But the loss of the opening goal stung the hosts into action, and it took them just five minutes to draw level after their striker found space in the penalty area to smash the ball past Eskdale.

EK continued to press, but the Burgh defence held firm, and were able to create chances of their own – David Wilkie almost caught out the keeper with a long-range effort, and Tadlock should have done better when through on goal, with the keeper able to block the big striker’s shot.

Just before the break it looked as if Allan had scored again, but the referee reckoned the winger was offside.

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After the break, EK, with the wind at their backs, started to turn the screw on the Helensburgh back line, but the visitors managed to hold firm, with Ryan Jones in particular doing exceptionally well in a role he was not used to.

However, the home side’s pressure paid off 20 minutes into the second half when they broke quickly down the left wing and a low cross was knocked past Eskdale for what would turn out to be the winner.

Helensburgh suffered a further setback when Jones got himself embroiled in a discussion with the match official and earned himself a red card – but despite being reduced to 10 men for the second game in a row, Burgh kept plugging away, with Ross Jeffrey twice going close before David Allan almost managed to sneak an equaliser late on, only for the EK keeper to snatch the ball before it crossed the line.

Squad over two games: Ronnie Eskdale, Derek Park, Russell Makeham, Steven Martin, Chris Allan, David Wilkie, Danny John, Brooks Tadlock, Marc McNeil, Calum Dodds, Caleb Phipps, David Allan, Jamie Paterson, Steven Bailey, Ross Jeffrey, Ryan Jones.

This Saturday, September 7, Helensburgh turn their attention to the road to Hampden and a first round tie in the Scottish Amateur Cup at home to Grangemouth-based Syngenta Amateurs.

Kick-off at Hermitage Academy is at 2pm.