KINLOCHSHIEL’S bid to land their first ever Marine Harvest Premiership title faltered on Saturday when they dropped a point in a 2-2 draw against relegation-threatened Glenurquhart at Kiltarlity.

Shiel’s slip up allowed Kyles Athletic, who beat Newtonmore 1-0 at Oban, to take up pole position in the table by virtue of a better goal difference, and with both sides locked on 26 points apiece next weekend’s match at Balmacara between the pair will be crucial in deciding the fate of this season’s Premiership trophy.

For Shiel manager Johnston Gill the loss of a vital point was a matter for philosophical acceptance. “We are naturally disappointed with the result but not down-hearted. Take nothing away from Glenurquhart, they did what they had to do. As far as the championship is concerned, the lead has changed between ourselves and Kyles several times already this season – and this time next week we intend to be back on top. With two games left to play, everything is still in our own hands and we cannot be unhappy with that.”

What Gill might, on reflection, be unhappy with is the manner in which his side, having controlled a match so thoroughly in terms of play and possession, were unable to convert that dominance into goals – and indeed were ultimately reliant on a second-half penalty conversion to allow them a share of the points.

With the game switched to Balgate Park at Kiltarlity – the heavy west Highland rain in midweek rendered Shiel’s home park at Balmacara unplayable – the Ross-shire side took the initiative from the outset, cleverly using the width of the park to stretch a Glen defence that welcomed Scotland international captain John Barr back into its fold after an absence of three weeks due to suspension.

Barr’s presence – and that of speedy half-back Conor Golabek – at the heart of the Glenurquhart backline blunted the Shiel attack and despite their early pressure they produced little in the way of accurate shooting to trouble goalkeeper Stuart Mackintosh.

At the other end however things were very different, when in 11 minutes a careless clearance in midfield from Shiel wing-centre Donald Nixon fell kindly for Glen centre Arran Macdonald and his massive up-field hit was rifled home from distance by frontman James Macpherson for an opening goal that was preposterous given the run of play. Not that Glenurquhart were by any means finished and in an identical move five minutes later Macpherson once more beat Shiel keeper Scott Kennedy with a superb strike after again being set free courtesy of a long ball forward by centre Fraser Heath.

Shiel now found themselves floundering in a match they should have been comfortable in but they were able to reduce the leeway in 24 minutes after a slip by Barr allowed Jordan Fraser to play in Keith Macrae who finished well from close range to make it 2-1.

Having stayed ahead until the break Glenurquhart dug in for the rest of the match – and despite losing a second goal to a Jordan Fraser penalty in 54 minutes – they remained disciplined at the back to see out the remainder of the match without further loss.

The draw now takes Glenurquhart up to 10 points in the table and eases, though does not dispel, their relegation worries – further helped by Glasgow Mid Argyll’s 3-2 home loss to Lovat.

Meanwhile, at Fort William in the Aberdein Considine Sutherland Cup Final – the junior shinty championship which unites both the north and the south areas – Lochside Rovers defeated Kingussie reserves 3-1, thanks to strikes from Craig MacDougall, Lewis Buchanan and Ruaraidh Horn.

Kevin Thain was the scorer for Kingussie.