A 3-2 home defeat to Argyllshire visitors Kyles Athletic saw Lovat lose out on pole position in the Mowi Premiership, with Kingussie – who posted a 4-1 victory over Kilmallie – taking over as current top dogs in shinty’s elite division.

If the result came as a crushing disappointment to the league hopes of the home side, for visiting manager Dunkie Kerr, the win confirms his belief that the squad he inherited from James Perlich can still compete for national trophies. “Lovat have been a tough side to beat over a number of years and I’m delighted that we were able to come north and pick up both points,” he said.

“We certainly made a slow start but overall I felt we were the better team, though there was not much in it – and neither goalie had a lot to do. Our player pool is tight and that makes it difficult, but if we can keep away from injuries then who knows what is possible?”

A happy ending for the Tighnabruaich side did not look to be on the cards right at the start of this match, however, as Lovat began strongly with full-centre Fraser Heath and his two wing-men Callum Cruden and Duncan Davidson pushing forward from the outset. This early pressure paid off in the 10th minute when a snap shop from outside the D by Thomas Fraser struck the bar and the loose ball fell to Lovat’s top scorer Greg Matheson, who fired it from close range past Kyle’s keeper John Whyte.

Kyles then had to dig in at the back to keep Lovat from adding to their tally, but with their international striker-turned-defender Roddy MacDonald having the edge on Lovat frontman Marc MacLachlan, the visitors gradually worked their way back into the game. The equaliser took a while to come, though warning of its arrival came on the half-hour, when a strike from distance by Thomas Whyte flew through a ruck of players and forced Lovat keeper Stuart MacDonald into a first-class save.

Eventually, Kyles did get back on even terms after a high ball across from the left by winger Ross MacRae saw second-forward Grant Irvine pull the ball down and, with a slip by defender Martin Mainland clearing his path to goal, he knocked the ball low past MacDonald to send the sides in for the half-time break with the score tied 1-1.

Kyles continued to play effective shinty after the restart and began to threaten the Lovat backline more consistently. Despite that they once again went behind, this time in the 66th minute, after a lapse of concentration from Whyte when he failed to cut out a cross-field attempt by MacLachlan. This allowed the ball to run into the path of Lovat’s Lewis Tawse who had little trouble in executing the simplest of close-range finishes.

Kyles boss Dunkie Kerr then rejigged his line up, pulling eventual man of the match Grant Irvine back to full-centre and moving Thomas Whyte up front. He had an immediate effect, first-timing a pass from captain Colin MacDonald high into the Lovat net to make it 2-2.

Kyles then turned the screw as the home defence began to lose focus, though Stuart MacDonald spared their blushes with his tidy stickwork on a couple of occasions without really being tested. Though even he was undone when in the 82nd minute, after stopping the initial shot from sub Connor Kennedy, half-forward Robbie MacLeod was on hand to chip the ball over him for a deserved winner.