NEWTONMORE can still win the Marine Harvest Premiership despite losing for the third time this season, according to their experienced wing-centre Paul MacArthur.

A 1-0 defeat by Lovat at Balgate saw the current champions drop to fifth place in the table, six points behind league leaders Kyles Athletic.

MacArthur, an ever-present in the Badenoch side’s seven-in-a-row run of title successes admits the odds are stacked against his side reaching title number eight.

“There is no doubt we have left ourselves almost mission impossible,” he said.

MacArthur added: “At this point Kyles are favourites but we both have 10 matches left and we have to play each other home and away.They also play Kinlochshiel home and away, so we still have a chance.”

As far as Saturday’s match was concerned MacArthur was left to ruefully reflect on a game that he thought Newtonmore should have won convincingly.

“It is very frustrating – we completely dominated possession in the second half but we didn’t show that little bit of cleverness that you need to unlock a tight defence.

“They like nothing better than a close-combat scrap and we played directly into their hands. Our forward play was too predictable and instead of playing around them we played straight down the middle and made it easy for them.”

Goal-scoring does appear to be a problem area for More, with last year’s top-scorer Glen MacKintosh struggling with form while his regular strike partner Evan Menzies has not made an appearance for the senior side in 2017. Last season they combined to score 49 goals, while in 2017 MacKintosh has hit – by his standards – a meagre 13 goals.

On Saturday MacTavish Cup goal-scoring hero Fraser MacKintosh was sidelined with a calf strain while defender Mike Russell broke a finger during the week and also missed out.

There was much to admire about Lovat’s victory, however. Their luck held in a torrid second half when Newtonmore attacked relentlessly. Goalkeeper Stuart MacDonald was once again in unbeatable form but in front of him the Lovat back four, anchored by full-back Drew Howie, produced a monumental defensive performance.

And there was nothing flukey about Lovat’s goal four minutes before the break with Lorne MacKay, booked just moments before, firing a blistering shot against More keeper Norman Campbell and as the ball bounced free, Greg Matheson gleefully swept home from close range.

The win moves Lovat to third in the table but their resurgent form may have come too late for a title challenge.

Kinlochshiel’s run of poor form continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw by second-from-bottom Lochaber. Paul MacRae, back from injury, hit the opener for Shiel in the 31st minute but the home side rallied and in the 53 minute Stuart Callison struck the equaliser.

In Shinty’s south area the Artemis MacAulay Cup semi-finalists were confirmed with Kyles beating Glasgow Mid Argyll 2-0 in Tighnabruaich, while Oban Camanachd defeated town rivals Celtic 4-0 at Ganavan.

Kyles, who face Oban Camanachd next Saturday in the Gregor Cameron Consultancy Celtic Society Cup final, welcomed back striker Dunky Kerr for his first game of the season and he showed that he has lost none of his goal-scoring instincts as he hit both his side’s goals.

The Oban derby went ahead at Ganavan but despite any misgivings that rivals Camanachd may have had about the venue they made light of them as they powered to a 4-0 victory.

First-half goals from Aiden MacIntyre and Daniel MacVicar set them on their way and Matt Rippon completed the victory hitting both his side’s goals in a dominant second-half display.