NEILSTON have the upper hand in the battle for the Kenny Hay Trophy after edging out Barrhead rivals Arthurlie in a seven-goal thriller on Saturday.

A hectic opening period to the game saw six goals scored in the first 24 minutes and was quite a treat for the spectators who returned to the Brig O’Lea.

Cammy Haddow put the hosts ahead after a couple of minutes but Tam McGauchey and Andrew McLaughlin responded for Arthurlie to turn the game in their favour.

The Barrhead team’s lead was short-lived, however, as Conor Bolger and Kieran Brophy then scored for Neilston to put them 3-2 up before a quarter of an hour had been played.

Brophy got his second and Neilston’s fourth on 24 minutes but the final goal of the afternoon didn’t arrive until the last 10 minutes, with Gary Smith pulling one back for the visitors.

The teams will meet again this Saturday at Dunterlie Park in the second leg of the annual clash.

Up to 250 fans can attend the game, on a first come, first served basis, and kick-off is at 2pm.

Neilston boss Derek Carson has backed the decision to allow the clubs to compete for the Kenny Hay Trophy over two legs, as it means both will be able to generate some much-needed revenue after a difficult year which has seen them unable to welcome supporters due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told Barrhead Sport: “It gives both clubs the option of having fans in, although we are limited to 250.

“Once we hit the 250 mark, unfortunately the gates will be closed, so I think the fans need to be in early.”

Carson also admits his players are determined to claim the local bragging rights.

“There are no friendlies when we play each other,” he said. “The players get it in their heads that they’re up against their nearest rivals, so we’ll see how it goes.

“The second leg is the day after the Scotland versus England match, so I don’t know how both squads will be looking after that.”

Neilston and Arthurlie’s development sides will also battle it out this season after the Conference arrangements were announced by the Lowland Development League.

The under-20s will compete in Conference F of the set-up, with fixtures due to be revealed in the coming weeks.