KINLOCHSHIEL took an important step towards securing their first ever Marine Harvest Premiership title on Saturday with a 4-0 win at home over nearest challengers Kyles Athletic.

The result sees Shiel take a two-point lead over Kyles at the top of the table and at the same time wipe out the Tighnabruaich side’s superiority in goal difference which had until now placed them in pole position. Not that anything is done and dusted as yet, as both sides have one fixture left to play, and with league shinty on hold to accommodate next weekend’s Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup final between Lovat and Newtonmore, Shiel manager Johnston Gill admits there is still a long way to go before his players can aspire to be crowned Scotland’s shinty champions.

“We have one massive game away against Oban Camanachd left to play – and that will define our season. Kyles’ final league match is at home against bottom side Glasgow Mid Argyll and we have to assume they will win that and win it well,” said Gill.

“Everything for us now hinges on how we perform against Oban. They are a good side for whom we have a healthy respect and rightly so since the games between us so far this season have been tight. However my players now know exactly what they have to do.”

Gill’s players certainly knew what they had to do at Balmacara on Saturday. They took the game to Kyles from the off going ahead in the third minute when some excellent interplay between the forwards saw the ball fed through to unmarked frontman Keith Macrae, whose powerful finish comprehensively beat keeper John Whyte for the opener.

Kyles should have equalised some minutes later after they worked the ball into the D but Sandy Mackenzie’s close-range attempt was smothered by Scott Kennedy, making it the first of a number of vital stops the home keeper pulled off on behalf of his team in the course of the afternoon.

Kinlochshiel quickly made Kyles regret the miss when they scored their second in 12 minutes after Oliver Macrae netted a rebound off Whyte who had kept out an initial angled strike from Keith Macrae.

The visitors pressed hard to regain the initiative but found themselves on several occasions kept out by Kennedy. Kinlochshiel themselves were denied a third goal when a shot from John Macrae struck Kyles’ goalie John Whyte on the face with the ball scrambled past for a corner.

While there was no further scoring before half-time, the stalemate did not last long after the break with Shiel going further ahead in 52 minutes courtesy of a tenacious solo effort from full-forward John Macrae. He held off challenges from defenders Andrew King and Donald Irvine to slip the ball home from close range.

Kyles then threw everything they had at Shiel including subs Dunky Kerr and Innes Macdonald but with top-scorer Roddy Macdonald unavailable – he was on the sidelines sitting out the second week of a two-match ban – the Tighnabruaich side lacked an effective cutting edge. Fortune did not favour them much either when Jordan Fraser’s last minute strike for Shiel put a gloss on the game which, in light of their overall performance, seemed an overly harsh judgement on Kyles.

Meanwhile the fate of the clubs at the bottom end of the Premiership remains only partially resolved with Glasgow Mid Argyll’s away loss to Oban finally confirming their relegation.

Kilmallie’s 6-2 loss to Newtonmore means they still require to make up ground on both Lochaber and Glenurquhart though they have two matches left to effect their escape.

Finally, Lovat defeated Kingussie 3-1 at Balgate.