A LATE penalty secured a vital point for Greenock in this six-goal thriller at Brig O’Lea stadium.

Conditions were soft underfoot, but the surface was thankfully deemed playable by referee Ronnie Strain, as Greenock hit down the slope in the first half.

Craig Brown had the first opportunity as early as the sixth minute when he was played in behind the Neilston defence, but instead of hitting a shot the striker tried to play the ball to Kenny Munro and it was blocked by the home keeper.

It was Neilston who opened the scoring on 22 minutes, from the penalty spot.

Luke Murray’s attempted clearing header at the back post went up in the air, and as the ball came back down into the box the Greenock defence missed the chance to clear, and it fell to Cameron, whose dummy deceived David McGarrigle, who brought the home player down. Cameron scored from the resulting spot-kick.

However it only took Greenock a few minutes to equalise.

After a period of pressure, a Jamie Cunning corner kick was whipped into the front post. The ball was cleared by a home player but blasted off one of his team-mates just two yards out and into the net for an unfortunate own goal, but one which was nevertheless gratefully accepted by the visitors.

Greenock had their tails up now and hit the woodwork on 32 minutes.

A Barri Stanton free-kick was driven into the box, where Thomas Docherty flicked the ball on but saw it strike the post and go wide.

Each side was taking turns to be in the ascendancy, and it was Neilston who took the lead again six minutes before half-time.

A home clearance to the halfway line should have been dealt with easily by the Greenock defence.

But Barry McLaughlin’s clearing header hit Ryan Begley and was directed towards the Greenock goal. The alert McKay latched on to the ball 25 yards out and bore down on Mark Monk before rounding the keeper and slotting home.

Greenock were now facing up the Brig O’Lea slope as the second half got under way, and their task looked equally uphill when Neilston went 3-1 up just six minutes into the second period, when slick play between McKay and Cameron saw the latter shoot home.

But they hauled themselves back into contention on 62 minutes. Docherty pushed up front, and clever play by him and Munro on the right saw the ball move quickly to the left wing, where the advancing Cunning timed his run to perfection to connect with the ball 25 yards out and send a screamer into the back of the net.

A revitalised Greenock almost equalised on 75 minutes, as the influential Docherty slid the ball into the path of Murray with just the keeper to beat, but his rushed shot was well saved.

But the all important leveller came nine minutes from time. There seemed little threat to the Neilston defence when a through ball went into their box, but away from goal.

However Murray chased what looked like a lost cause and was pushed to the ground, with referee Strain pointing to the spot for the second time in the match.

Ryan Craig, pictured, coolly slotted home from the spot to clinch a valuable point for the Ravenscraig men.

Manager Martin Campbell said: “Over the piece a draw was probably a fair result. We started well and Neilston’s penalty came against the run of play, though it was the correct decision.

“I feared it wasn’t going to be our day when we went 3-1 down in the second half, but great credit must go to the boys for getting themselves right back into the game and picking up what was a great point.” Greenock: Monk, Murray, Cunning, McLaughlin, McGarrigle, Begley, Jamieson, T. Docherty, Brown (Craig 60), Stanton (Trialist 75), Munro. Subs not used: Boyd, JP Dow.

Greenock Juniors are sponsored by SAVEHEAT, and the Lighthouse Bar.