A THUG who left a man unconscious and bleeding from a serious head wound after a late night attack has been told he's lucky not have been facing a murder charge.

Thomas Simpson repeatedly punched his victim and tussled with him until the man lost his balance and fell backwards — cracking his skull off a kerb stone.

The incident happened outside the Pullman Tavern in Kilmacolm.

The badly injured man's girlfriend said: "He seemed to have a fit and he was shaking quite violently.

"His whole body was shaking and blood was coming from his head.

"His breathing was off, just short breaths."

Simpson, 21 — who has a string of convictions for public disorder offences — fled the scene and was found 'cowering' in a villager's wood shed, a jury trial heard.

Sheriff Andrew McIntyre told him: "Your actions were extremely dangerous and there are people who have died as a result of a single blow to the head or striking their head on the ground.

"It was only through good fortune that this was not worse."

Simpson had claimed to a householder who found him in the outhouse that he'd been the target of a chase following trouble at the pub at closing time.

But he made off again as it became clear that police were on their way to speak to him.

The serious assault took place as a friend of the victim was fighting with one of Simpson's pals outside the Pullman at around 11pm.

CCTV showed Simpson — who was with four other young men — moving in towards the action as it appeared that his friend was losing the punch-up.

The assault victim, 23 — a university student — then tried to intervene to prevent further violence and Simpson turned on him.

He insisted he was acting in self-defence but this was described as 'ridiculous' by the injured man's 20-year-old girlfriend and it was rejected by the jury.

The victim — who had gone to the pub an hour earlier for a pint and a game of pool — told Greenock Sheriff Court: "I said to the other people there not to get involved because there were quite a bit more of them than my friend.

"I tried to stop it. I didn't want to get involved."

A large cut to the back of the man's head required a dozen stitches and it has left a permanent four-inch scar.

His girlfriend said: "I was worried because he was bleeding quite a lot and was unconscious."

Questioned further about Simpson's claim of self defence, the young woman said: "I'd say that it was my boyfriend who was acting in self defence."

Asked if that was because she was the victim's girlfriend, she replied: "No, it is because I have eyes."

A 52-year-old resident who found Simpson in his wood shed told the court: "He explained that there had been some trouble at the pub and he'd been chased.

"A neighbour rang and said that the police wanted to meet with us.

"On hearing that the young man said he didn't want any involvement and said, 'I'm away'."

The jury of eight women and seven men found Simpson guilty by a majority verdict.

He committed the assault to severe injury on January 19 last year.

Defence lawyer David Tod said: "This matter is more than a year old and Mr Simpson has not been in further trouble.

"When the complainer fell to the ground it is not the case that Mr Simpson involved himself any further.

"He did not continue to assault the victim when he was essentially helpless."

Mr Tod said it was his client's position that he had initially moved to break-up the fight.

The solicitor told the court: "The interests of justice could be served by a community-based disposal."

Sheriff McIntyre said: "It was obviously quite plain to the jury that you were not acting in self defence or under any provocation."

The lawman added that whilst he was 'entitled' to jail Simpson, he was 'narrowly persuaded' to impose a direct alternative.

Simpson, previously of Islay Avenue, Port Glasgow, but now of Hope Street in Greenock, must complete 300 hours of unpaid work — the highest tariff available to the court.

He will also be electronically tagged and confined to his home between 7pm and 7am each day for ten months, and be under supervision for a year.

A progress review has been set for March 6.