ALI MAULE hit a double as Rhu Amateurs saw off local rivals Helensburgh 5-2 in a keenly-contested local derby at Hermitage Academy last week, writes our Rhu Amateurs reporter.

In spite of the horrendous weather, with near-freezing temperatures, driving rain and a bitterly cold wind, there was plenty of good football on display – and even though the match was ‘only’ a friendly, with local bragging rights at stake there was no danger of either side taking it easy in their final fixture of the year.

Rhu got off to the brighter start, dominating possession in the opening moments, and after Ross Jeffrey was tackled by Ryan Jones, the ball broke for Dougie Black to slot home the opening goal from the edge of the box with just three minutes on the clock.

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Rhu didn’t have long to wait for the second after Brian Cameron fired home a free kick following a foul on Eddie Bell on the edge of the box.

Helensburgh, however, fought back, and at the 30 minute mark great play down the wing saw Karl Johansson beat four men before finding Jamie Paterson unmarked in the box to slot home past stand-in Rhu goalkeeper Aldo Gallagher.

Five minutes later, though, the pendulum swung back towards the men in red, who regained their two-goal advantage after Adam Sharkey’s nice cutback set up Maule to sweep the ball low past Helensburgh keeper Craig Gemmell.

But the Burgh didn’t give up, and again they reduced the deficit, this time David Wilkie finding the net with a simple finish on the stroke of half-time after Brian Cameron was tackled inside his own penalty area.

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After a quick half-time turnaround, Rhu started the second half the same way they had begun the first, Maule grabbing his second of the night after a cross from Gary Stillwell was mis-controlled by Jones, with Maule chipping the ball coolly over the onrushing Gemmell from the edge of the area to make it four.

The pace of the game slowed as the second half went on, partly down to the persistently dreadful conditions and partly thanks to a series of substitutions in the Rhu ranks, but there was still time for Lee Dickson, the visitors’ captain for the night, to rise high above Gemmell to head home the fifth.

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With the local teams’ league fixtures on a hiatus for Christmas, a festive friendly was arranged to be played last Wednesday on the 4G surface at Hermitage Academy, writes our Helensburgh FC correspondent.

With an earlier pre season game ending 2-2 another tight encounter was expected.

On a night when ducks would have been tucked up and sitting round the fire, the Burgh team, with a few regular players missing due to injury and Christmas nights out found themselves on the back foot right from the kick off as their visitors, with a strong wind behind them, pressed forward strongly.

The pressure paid off when former Helensburgh captain and Rhu legend Dougie Black picked up the ball just outside the box and, with no-one closing him down, fired the ball low into the corner.

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The hosts, were struggling to get to grips with the Rhu lads as they continued to push forward, and it was no surprise when the visitors scored again, this time another former Helensburgh player, Brian Cameron, finding more space and time at the edge of the box to find the back of the net.

The Helensburgh team, who had been struggling to settle, with some trialists playing for the first time, finally started to get into the game and slowly started to put pressure on the Rhu defence, eventually managing to reduce the arrears when Jamie Paterson found himself alone in the box and slammed the ball into the net.

Despite the weather conditions, both sides were providing good entertainment for the small crowd that had gathered to watch and the Rhu side had another reason to celebrate when Ali Maule made it 3-1.

And Maule was unfortunate not get a fourth after seeing another attempt crash of the crossbar.

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The home side, though, didn’t give up, and managed to reduce the arrears again just before the half time whistle, with David Wilkie getting on the end of some slack play at the back by the Rhu defence to knock the ball past Gallagher in goal.

The second half was played in much the same vein as the first, although some niggle was beginning to show between the teams.

Rhu increased their lead 10 minutes in when Lee Dickson scored from a headed corner, and that lead was extended when Maule bagged his second after a mix-up in the Helensburgh defence left him clear to lob the ball over Gemmell in goal who had been stranded due to the mix up.

Chances for both teams came and went, but as the freezing rain continued to hurl down on the players, the decision was made to bring the game to an end with ten minutes remaining as it was in no-one’s interests to continue.

Burgh manager Sam Gemmell praised everyone who took part in the night’s game.

“The players, officials and those who had come to watch, including an intrepid young reporter from the Advertiser [Ed’s Note: are you sure about the ‘young’ bit?], had to withstand some atrocious weather, and it’s to everyone’s credit they held out for as long as they did,” Gemmell said.

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“As for the game itself, we never really got a foothold in it – we had a good few lads missing for one reason or another, and with lads brought in to make up the numbers, it was always going to be difficult to get into any sort of rhythm against a fairly strong Rhu side who showed no mercy.

“However it goes to show how close both teams are, with all the goal scorers on the night having played for either team at one point in their amateur career.

“We all have a bit of a break now as the respective leagues stop for the festive period, so it’s a chance for Stewart Maule and myself to reflect on how things have gone so far for both clubs this past footballing year.

“To all who support both local teams, be it in person or via the excellent coverage provided by the Advertiser, we hope you all had a very merry Christmas and you get everything you wish for in the New Year.”

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Helensburgh squad: Craig Gemmell, David Wilkie, David McKell, David Sinclair, Jamie Paterson, Karl Johansson, Callum Dods, Steven Martin, Jamie Halliday, Ben Bertman, Dylan Coughlin, Chris Payne, Fraser Makeham, Ryan Jones.

Rhu squad: Aldo Gallagher, Eddie Bell, Lee Dickson, Brian Cameron, Adam Bell, Jack Gorman, Dougie Black, Gary Stillwell, Adam Sharkey, Ali Maule, Ross Jeffrey, Ally Fagan, David Holborn, Lewis Grant, Aaron Sharkey.