VETERAN striker John Boyd came off the bench to snatch a sensational winner for Greenock in the 94th minute of this hard-fought match at Thorniewood.

The 46-year-old, now also the club’s assistant manager, had only come on 10 minutes earlier for what was his first on-field appearance of the season.

And he really was the epitome of a super-sub, as he rose to steer a header from a Martin Orr corner into the net to spark wild celebrations amid the Greenock contingent.

It was an outcome that hardly looked likely at one point, with the side a goal behind with 70-plus minutes on the clock, and a man down, too, following a red card for Barry McLaughlin.

But this team has gained a reputation for digging themselves out of such situations, and their efforts on Saturday have taken them one step closer to securing their place in the Super First Division for another season.

Mind you, it could have been a lot more comfortable had Kenny Munro taken a golden chance to put Greenock ahead just 45 seconds into the match.

A Ryan Craig shot in the very first attack of the game was spilled by home keeper Chris Fitzpatrick, and Munro looked certain to score as he latched on to the rebound, but from an admittedly tight angle he somehow skewed his shot wide of the post.

Thereafter it was pretty much all Thorniewood in the first half, as Greenock struggled to cope with an awful surface which made ball control virtually impossible.

The home side was also in need of the points, with relegation staring them in the face, and the match became littered with free-kicks and a simmering tension.

The first booking came almost on the stroke of half-time, with Barri Stanton yellow carded for a foul on the edge of the box which saw Thorniewood’s Chris Lennon limp off the pitch.

And from the resultant free-kick Kieran McIntyre blasted in a low shot, which Greenock keeper Ryan McWilliams got a hand to, but saw the ball squirm from his grasp and into the net.

Greenock continued to find it hard going in the early stages of the second half, with early bookings for Orr and Brendan Gillan, who was then replaced by Luke Murray as manager Martin Campbell attempted to keep 10 men on the park.

But his efforts were thwarted in the 68th minute when McLaughlin was dismissed by referee David Roome, albeit somewhat harshly for what appeared to be a slight kick at an opposing player.

It looked bleak for Greenock at that stage, but a moment of brilliance from Craig Brown, inset right, brought them level on 74 minutes.

The striker brought down a high ball with consummate skill and slipped an inch-perfect pass through to Munro, who made amends for his earlier miss by gliding the ball under Fitzpatrick for the equaliser.

Thorniewood then rallied briefly, and McWilliams saved well from a John Devine header, and the home side then had loud appeals for a penalty for hand-ball turned down by referee Roome.

With Greenock coming back under pressure in the closing stages, Boyd was brought on in a bid to calm things down, retain possession and hold on for a point, which they would undoubtedly have accepted.

But the wily old fox showed he still has what it takes, when he muscled his way into the box to grab an amazing winner deep into stoppage time, a goal which probably gave him as much satisfaction as any during his professional career at the likes of St Mirren and Dumbarton.

He said: “We would have been happy with a point, to be honest, and I went on to hold things up a bit as we were under the cosh at the time.

“But there was always the chance of getting on the end of something in the box, and I was delighted for the boys as much for myself that I got the winner.

“It was either me or John-Paul Dow who were going to be named on the team-line, just to fill the bench really, but we went for myself because I have done a wee bit of training this season, and it all worked out well in the end.’’ Manager Campbell said: “I hate to go on about the park, but it was really terrible.

“We have players who like to get the ball down and keep it under control, but that was impossible out there.

“So I am delighted to have come away with the win. I wouldn’t say putting Boydy on was an inspired substitution, but it certainly paid off, and his excellent goal got us very valuable points.’’ Greenock: McWilliams, Orr, Gillan (Murray 55), McLaughlin, Jamieson, Begley, T. Docherty, Stanton, Brown, Craig (Downie 73), Munro (Boyd 84). Sub not used: Cunning.

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