HELENSBURGH FC finally picked up their first league point of the season on Saturday – but the local lads were left holding their heads after the loss of a late goal robbed them of a much-needed win.

Ryan Jones, Danny Johns and Scott Petro found the net to put the Burgh side 3-2 up going into injury time – but in the dying minutes visitors Erskine scrambled an equaliser to leave it honours even after a tremendously entertaining clash in dreadful conditions.

The local side set up in an attacking formation as they attempted to get their first points of the season – and with the return to the team of some players who have been missing for a few weeks, confidence was high.

Helensburgh started brightly and were quickly into a passing game that has been missing over the past few weeks, with Steven Conner and Karl Johansson pulling the strings in the middle and pushing good forward passes to the returning David Wilkie and club record goalscorer Petro.

The first chance fell to David Wilkie but his shot from an acute angle was saved comfortably by the keeper; further chances fell to Keith Thomas and to Wilkie again, but both failed to find the net.

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With 30 minutes on the clock the visitors snatched the lead against the run of play, when a long ball out of their defence was flicked on, and with the Burgh defenders claiming offside, the Erskine striker carried on to fire the ball past Craig Gemmell in goal.

But the visitors’ lead didn’t last long; a Helensburgh corner was cleared as far as Jones 25 yards out, and as the Erskine defence pushed out, Jones tiptoed past four opponents before coolly placing a shot out of the keeper’s reach to make it 1-1.

Helensburgh continued to belie their lowly league position by taking the game to the visitors, but ill fortune played its part again just before the break when a misplaced pass in midfield caught the home defence out of position, and when the ball broke to Erskine’s forward he rattled it into the net from 20 yards.

With words of encouragement ringing in their ears after the half-time team talk, Helensburgh started the second half on the front foot in a bid to level things up.

It looked as if Johansson and then Thomas would get the all-important leveller as each had a chance to break through the defence from midfield, but Johansson was clinically tripped as he was about to step past a defender and Thomas was harshly punished for what the referee thought was handball as he was through on goal.

At the back Johns and Steven Baillie kept a wary eye on the occasional Erskine break – but Johns was able to make an impact further up the park too. A Helensburgh corner was cleared only as far as Jamie Paterson, whose cross was flicked on by Wilkie for Johns to head home the equaliser.

And just five minutes later, Helensburgh went in front for the first time, when another cross into the box, this time an inch-perfect ball by Steven Martin, picked out Petro to head past the Erskine keeper.

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The hosts almost extended their lead with another Johns header, but this time the ball was cleared off the line by an Erskine defender with the keeper beaten.

And the lack of game time for some members of the Helensburgh squad became evident in the closing stages as Erskine pressed forward against the hosts’ increasingly tired legs.

Most of the visitors’ attempts were either rushed or dealt with well by the Burgh defence, but in the final moments Erskine forced a corner – and the ball fell to the visiting keeper, up the park in a last-ditch bid for a leveller, and his attempt at a shot was directed by a team-mate into the net in a crowded six yard box.

Manager Sam Gemmell said afterwards: “Losing the goal at the last minute was a real sickener, but the day’s performance was excellent and hopefully proved to some who were beginning to doubt that we are more than capable of competing in this league.

“Tired legs due to lack of game time for some was probably our undoing, but credit to the Erskine lads for battling right to the end of a really good game by the two sides in horrible conditions.”

Squad: Craig Gemmell, Ryan Jones, Danny Johns, Steven Baillie, Steven Martin, Karl Johansson, Steven Conner, Keith Thomas, Jamie Paterson, David Wilkie, Scott Petro, Marc McNeil, Calum Dodds, Chris Payne.

Helensburgh's final match of 2019, away to Calderglen on December 14, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

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