SEVEN Ayrshire sides remain in contention as the South of Scotland Challenge Cup runners and riders were whittled down to the last 32 at the weekend – but four more saw their dreams of glory dashed.

Among the local clubs who booked their place in the fourth round were 2022 winners Auchinleck Talbot, whose turnaround in form following a difficult start to the season continued with a fourth straight win in all competitions, Ewan Thomson scoring twice as Tommy Sloan’s men saw off East of Scotland First Division side Arniston Rangers 4-1 at Beechwood Park.

Also flying the East Ayrshire flag in round four will be Glenafton, with Gary Fraser’s screamer early in the second half enough to edge Mark Roberts’ men past Dundonald Bluebell at Loch Park.

West Premier champions Beith put the disappointment of their Scottish Junior Cup exit at the hands of Hermes behind them on Saturday, though Chris Strain’s men, who led top flight rivals Arthurlie 3-0 early in the second half at Bellsdale Park, had to hold off a spirited fightback by the visitors before Ryan Monan’s goal set the seal on a 4-2 win.

Plenty of fingernails were bitten down to the quick in Perth before Largs Thistle made sure of their place in the draw, with Cory Hughes putting away the match-winning kick as Stuart Davidson’s side edged a sudden-death shoot-out 5-4 following a 1-1 draw.

Troon had an easier afternoon of it, with Dean Fulton, Jack Sherrie and Mark Shankland all on target in a 3-0 win at home to Abbey Vale, while Gavin Millar hit a brace and Graham Boyd and Dylan Mackin also found the net as Kilwinning Rangers saw off Hawick Royal Albert 4-1 at Buffs Park.

The last Ayrshire side in the draw for the fourth round is also the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, with Lugar Boswell Thistle building on their impressive league form of recent weeks by chalking up a 5-1 win over Fourth Division rivals BSC Glasgow at Rosebank Park;  Adam Lowe’s early penalty put the Jaggy Bunnets on their way before Lewis Kerr, Kieran Oliver and a Conan Mackin second-half double completing the win.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Irvine Meadow found the gap between the foot of the West Premier and the top of the Lowland League too big to bridge – though Martin Ferry’s men pushed Cumbernauld Colts all the way at Broadwood, with Isaac Kerr and Euan Baird twice pegging back the hosts before two goals in the last four minutes earned the home side the win.

Ardrossan Winton Rovers suffered home cup heartbreak for the second week in a row as St Andrews United – conquerors of Auchinleck in the senior Scottish Cup last month – kept their cup dreams alive with a 3-2 victory at Winton Park.

Hurlford United tumbled out of the tournament after losing 1-0 at home to Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, while Kilbirnie Ladeside's short trip up the A737 ended in a 4-0 loss against First Division rivals Johnstone Burgh at Keanie Park.

Cumnock Juniors were the only Ayrshire side in Premier Division action on Saturday, with Murdie Mackinnon’s men showing plenty of fighting spirit to earn a share of the spoils away to Darvel, Sam Jamieson and Andy McLaughlin finding the net in the second half as the Nock twice came from behind to earn a creditable 2-2 draw.

Whitletts are still looking for their first win of the season in the First Division, with new boss Ryan Caddis watching on from the dugout as an own goal gave Blantyre Vics all three points at Castle Park, while Maybole had to settle for a share of the spoils after a 2-2 draw at home to Renfrew.

Caddis’s departure for the Whitletts hot-seat saw senior Craigmark players Kieron McCrum and Mark Gilmour take temporary charge for the Mark’s game away to Kilsyth Rangers – and the Station Park club’s players rose to the challenge in admirable fashion, with Michael Reilly and Brandon McEvoy scoring in the 2-0 win at Duncansfield.

David Blyth’s penalty was enough to earn Muirkirk full points at home to Yoker Athletic, making it four without defeat for the Burnside Park men, while Bonnyton Thistle eased to a comfortable 3-0 win at home to struggling Wishaw.

It was a day to forget for the two Ayrshire teams in Third Division action on Saturday, with Dalry Thistle tumbling to a 4-1 loss away to Greenock and Ardeer Thistle on the wrong end of a chastening 5-0 scoreline against Glasgow United at Greenfield Park.

Kello Rovers may still be searching for their first league point of the season, but the Nithside Park team showed plenty of battling spirit on Saturday at home to top flight Gartcairn, with the hosts’ 3-2 defeat in the second round of the Junior Cup hinting at better times ahead for Rovers supporters.

John McFarland, Dylan McLintock and Stuart Hannah were on target for Eglinton in their 3-1 win at home to Rossvale in the Fourth Division – but there were few smiles bigger on Saturday night than those on the faces of Saltcoats Vics’ players and supporters after Bryan Slavin’s men secured their first points of the season in a 4-2 victory over Royal Albert at Campbell Park.

Finally, Irvine Vics, who were without a competitive game on Saturday, arranged a friendly away to Vale of Clyde, with Alessandro Savarese scoring the visitors' only goal in a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Second Division promotion chasers.