LOVAT continued the revival of their season’s fortunes with a 3-2 penalty shoot-out victory over current trophy holders Kinlochshiel in their first round Artemis MacAulay Cup match at Balmacara on Saturday. Hero of the hour was Lovat manager Fraser Gallacher, who had named in himself in this week’s pool largely because his squad had been so depleted by injuries picked up in recent games. Having come on in extra time, he found himself on hand to convert not one but two penalties to win the shoot-out.

Not that there was any shortage of excitement throughout the regulation 90 minutes, with Lovat taking the game to their hosts in the opening period without really testing home keeper Scott Kennedy, who had no more than a couple of shots from Lovat front man Lorne Mackay to deal with.

The key to the outcome lay in the middle of the field, where Shiel’s international centre Finlay Macrae was unable to dominate in his usual fashion thanks to tight marking by visiting centre Danny Kelly. As a consequence the Shiel forwards did not get enough ball to work with until late in the game, when they had opportunities to score but a fantastic double action save by Lovat keeper Stuart Macdonald – where he first blocked a John Macrae strike with his hand then swiped the ball clear as he fell – kept Kinlochshiel at bay. The fact that Macrae also hit the woodwork, as did substitute Gordy Macdonald, added to the general sense that it was never going to be Shiel’s day.

This was no more clearly illustrated than when it came to the penalty shoot-out. With the score tied 2-2 after the first round of five each, the game moved to the sudden-death phase whereupon Lovat supremo Gallacher, who had earlier scored the lead penalty for his side, converted his second strike of the afternoon. With Shiel’s Jordan Fraser finding his second effort saved by Macdonald, Gallagher’s strike proved decisive and his side now move on to face Lochaber, who also defied expectations to defeat Kingussie 2-0 away from home.

Two first-half goals from Shaun Nicholson did the damage for Lochaber and their defence were tight enough to prevent any hope of a second-half revival from a Kingussie side, which has stumbled over the past couple of weeks.

Also stumbling were Premiership Glenurquhart, who lost after a penalty shootout to Fort William. With the score 2-2 after 90 minutes thanks to two strikes by Fort’s Arran Macphee against goals from Fraser Heath and James Hurwood, a goalless extra-time period resulted in the penalty shootout, where conversions by Jack Fraser and Bobby MacMillan were enough to win Fort the tie.

Fort William now meet Newtonmore in the next round after the Badenoch side beat Skye 3-1 via two goals from Glen Mackintosh and a single from Iain Robinson. James Pringle scored for Skye.

There was plenty of MacAulay action in the south too, with Oban Celtic coming from 4-2 down to beat home side Inveraray 5-4 after extra time. A goal from Ruaraidh Graham and an Allan Macdonald hat-trick were evened up by strikes from Lee Askey, Daniel Madej and two from Neil Carmichael. An extra-time goal from Daniel Macmillan was required to see Celtic through.

They now face a derby tie with Oban Camanachd, who also progressed thanks to a 4-0 home win over Ballachulish.

In the final MacAulay tie of the round, two goals each from Calum McLay and Craig Anderson plus a single from Brian Slattery saw Glasgow Mid Argyll defeat Aberdour 5-1, with David Mackenzie netting a late consolation for ‘Dour. Mid Argyll will now face Kyles Athletic.