THE fight for the West of Scotland Football League Premier Division title is looking harder than ever to call after the completion of the final round of fixtures for January on Saturday.

None of the day’s results raised more eyebrows than the one at Bellsdale Park, where defending champions Beith were widely expected to sweep aside Cumnock – only for Murdo MacKinnon’s men to surge to an impressive 3-1 win.

Boosted by the midweek news of the successful appeal against both their red cards in the previous week’s draw with Clydebank – with Jamie Wilson’s red downgraded to a yellow and Andy McLaughlin’s rescinded altogether – Nock led at the break through Allan McKenzie’s strike, with Sam Jamieson’s header and McLaughlin himself putting the game out of the champions’ reach before Ciaran Diver’s late consolation.

The win took the Townhead Park side up to fifth in the table – albeit with more matches played than any other team in the top flight – and saw Beith drop from third to fourth thanks to Darvel’s 2-0 win over a St Cadoc’s side who’d started the day in second, with Ross Caldwell and Mark Sideserf netting for Tony McInally’s team.

Nock’s victory saw them climb above a Benburb side who were held at home by Largs Thistle, who might feel they deserved more than a single point from the goalless draw in Govan after Scott Adam’s first half effort was disallowed and Will Sewell’s second-half penalty was saved by Bens keeper Grant Hay.

Auchinleck Talbot had to come from behind to avoid a banana skin against the top flight’s bottom club, with Brendan Sharpe’s overhead kick seeing Irvine Meadow draw first blood; Neill McPherson was given acres of space to head home the leveller before the break, and Talbot went on to dominate the second half, with Ross Smith giving the visitors the lead from the penalty spot before Neil Slooves and Ewan Thomson completed a 4-1 win at Meadow Park for Tommy Sloan's side.

Despite the win, Talbot remain just outside the top half of the table, one place behind Gartcairn, who scored twice from the penalty spot in the dying moments to deal a major blow to Glenafton’s hopes of top flight survival.

Glens led at the break after Ollie Rowe took advantage of a fumble from the Gartcairn keeper – one of three occasions on which the Glens would lead, only to be pegged back each time, with Michael Moffat and Dylan O’Kane the second half scorers for Ryan Caddis’s side, who suffered heartbreak when Mark McGuigan converted from the spot in the 90th and 94th minutes to give the Airdrie men full points.   

Jack Whittaker’s late, late free kick gave Hurlford a 2-1 win at home to First Division St Roch’s and a place in round four of the West of Scotland Cup, while Ardrossan Winton Rovers made it a perfect 10 wins in a row at the same stage of the competition, defeating Thorn Athletic 4-2 in a match switched to Winton Park after two postponements at Thorn’s home ground in Johnstone.

The win sets up Winton for an intriguing trip to Darvel in round four, while Ford will host Cumbernauld.

The only two Ayrshire sides in First Division action met each other at New Voluntary Park, where Whitletts remain undefeated under new boss Mick McCann – though the former Glenafton, Troon and Talbot man may feel his side should have taken a fourth straight win, rather than having to settle for a share of the spoils against Kilbirnie Ladeside; Jordan Boyd’s first half double had Vics apparently in control, only for Chris Black and Danny Bamford to grab a point for the Blasties in the final 10 minutes.

In the Second Division, Craigmark tumbled to a second defeat in a row, with Andrew Strachan’s first half goal not enough to stave off a 3-1 defeat to Glasgow University at Station Park, while Muirkirk’s hopes of pushing towards the promotion places suffered a setback after a 2-0 loss at home to Caledonian Locomotives.

Irvine Vics ended a run of four straight losses in convincing fashion, keeping themselves in touch with the Third Division promotion places after a 5-0 win at home to North Ayrshire rivals Ardeer; Kevin Adam and Ben Strain put Vics in control before Kyro Crawford netted a hat-trick in the space of 10 minutes against an Ardeer side who finished with 10 men.

Dalry Thistle became the first side since September to come home from Threave Rovers with full points, Chris Love and Aaron Miller the scorers as Chris Wilson’s side won 2-1 – while Kello Rovers’ long wait for victory on the road is finally at an end after Archie Scott struck to earn the Nithside Park team all three points – and only their second victory of the campaign – against Girvan at Hamilton Park.

Lugar continued their climb up the Fourth Division table with a third straight win, Grant Wallace, Jamie Donnelly, Jack Marks and Ewan McIver all finding the net in a 4-1 victory at Easterhouse that puts them in touch with the promotion places.

Eglinton climbed above Carluke into 10th place in the standings, with Liam Davis, Finlay Grier, Dean McLaughlin and Mitchell Ewing on target in the Jousters’ 4-0 win at home to Campbeltown Pupils – but there was agony for Saltcoats Vics, who appeared to be in control after Scott Miller’s brace earned them a 2-0 lead at home to Rossvale, only for the visitors to roar back and snatch all three points late on.

Finally, with neither team having a league fixture scheduled, South Ayrshire rivals Maybole and Troon locked horns in a friendly at Ladywell, with an own goal and strikes from Dean Fulton and Leyton Dunlop earning the Portland Park side a 3-0 win.

Fixtures for Ayrshire’s WoSFL clubs this Saturday, February 3, are as follows.

South Challenge Cup, fifth round: Troon v Caledonian Braves, Kilwinning v Shotts Bon Accord.

Premier Division: Auchinleck v Glenafton, Beith v Clydebank, Cumnock v Irvine Meadow, Hurlford v Darvel.

First Division: Cambuslang v Kilbirnie Ladeside, Whitletts v Maybole.

Second Division: Bonnyton v Caledonian Locomotives, Craigmark v Ardrossan.

Third Division: Ardeer v Vale of Leven, Dalry v Bellshill, Glasgow United v Girvan, Kello v Irvine Vics.

Fourth Division: Carluke v Lugar, Eglinton v BSC Glasgow, Thorn Athletic v Saltcoats.