Champions Darvel wrapped up their West of Scotland Premier League campaign in style this afternoon by coming from behind to win at Meadow Park.
Mick Kennedy’s men trailed 1-0 after a fairly balanced first half thanks to an opportunistic strike from Callum Graham.
But they found other gear after the break and goals from Ryan Thomson, Andy Stirling and substitute Lewis Morrison secured a well-deserved win.
The result sees Darvel finish with 90 points while Irvine Meadow’s hopes of a top six finish are now beyond them with one game to go.
Meadow showed his opponents respect before kick-off by welcoming them onto the pitch with a guard of honor.
But the niceties were removed when referee Paul Timmons’ whistle signaled the start of the game.
It was an end-to-end trick in the opening rallies before Darren Miller of Darvel registered the first shot on target in six minutes – a ferocious effort from a tight angle that stung goalkeeper Marc Waters’ palms.
Meadow looked a threat on the counter-attack and the visitors were lucky enough to escape on 16 minutes when Connor Boyd’s cross was just too high for unmarked Graham in the penalty area.
Jordan Kirkpatrick came within inches of giving Darvel the header on 23 minutes when his side-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area flashed just past the post.
The same player punched a dangerous ball in the face of Medda’s mouth soon after, but none of his teammates were there to take advantage.
At the other end, Jamie Martin – whose trickery and straight run was causing Vale’s back line problems – came a hair’s breadth from finding the top corner with a curling strike from 20 yards out.
The deadlock was finally broken two minutes before the break, with Graham beating a tentative Darvel defense to score a loose ball after goalkeeper Lyle Avci blocked an effort from Boyd with his feet.
Darvel didn’t have time to respond before whistler Timmons ended the first half.
But less than 15 minutes after the resumption, the visitors had turned the game upside down.
Midfielder Thomson got them level in 51 minutes when he waltzed through the heart of the Meadow defense and calmly passed Waters from 10 yards.
It was 2-1 on the hour mark, with Stirling leaping from defensive confusion to sweep high into the net from six yards out.
Darvel had picked up the pace and Meadow was struggling to cope. Thomson was unlucky not to add to his tally on 73 minutes when his 25-yard curling effort landed on the crossbar.
There was an air of inevitability around a third goal for Darvel and it was a real beauty when he arrived six minutes later.
Substitute Morrison took an exquisite touch to kill a long dead diagonal ball to the right side of the penalty area, then drilled an unstoppable shot into the opposite corner of the net to put the play past Meadow.
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