MARINE Harvest Premiership leaders Kyles Athletic slipped back into second place after losing 2-1 away to Camanachd Cup finalists Lovat at Balgate – while rivals Kinlochshiel picked up a point against Newtonmore at the Eilan.

For Kyles, the failure to pick up any points at Kiltarlity was made worse by the fact that they also lost top forward Roddy MacDonald to a second-half red card, meaning he must now serve an automatic two-match suspension.

The fact that those games are against Kyles’ closest challengers – Newtonmore and Shiel – only makes matters worse for the Tighnabruaich side.

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Without MacDonald, the man whose four second-half goals brought them the Macaulay Cup in last month’s epic final clash with Newtonmore – the odds on them landing their first Premiership title have lengthened considerably.

Not that the day had started out badly for Kyles. Having weathered a first-half attacking flurry which saw goalkeeper John Whyte make three superb stops from Lovat’s new signing Mark Maclachlan, they took the lead early in the second half.

Unsurprisingly, MacDonald was the scorer, wrong-footing his marker, Calum Cruden, before shooting low past Lovat’s international goalkeeper Stuart MacDonald for the opener.

The home side quickly struck back through top scorer Greg Matheson after a free hit from Calum MacAulay had sought him out at the edge of the D. The Lovat front man quickly controlled the ball before guiding it up over Whyte with a flick of his wrist for the equaliser.

The game continued to swing from end to end, with both sides looking equally dangerous. Then, in the 64th minute, MacDonald was red-carded for retaliation by referee Archie Ritchie – and when he left the field Kyles chances of keeping their title challenge on track probably went with him.

It did, however, take an exceptional goal – again from Matheson to finally see off the Argyllshire side. Profiting from the extra man, Lovat played with three at the back and when defender Cruden, without the worry of shackling MacDonald, sent over a low corner, Matheson was able to cushion the ball up in the air before volleying it decisively into the roof of the net for the winner.

The main beneficiaries of Kyles’ lapse were Shiel, who moved a point clear at the top of the league table courtesy of their 2-2 draw away at defending champions Newtonmore.

In a keenly contested encounter, Shiel made the early running but went behind after nine minutes. In More’s first attack of the afternoon, a Glen Mackintosh strike bounced up off Shiel keeper Scott Kennedy’s outstretched foot and into the net.

Shiel levelled within two minutes when, under pressure from John MacRae, More’s Andy Mackintosh scored an own goal. Despite continuing pressure, Kinlochshiel could not add to their tally and Newtonmore, who put in a much better second-half performance, took a deserved lead in 58 minutes through a neat Fraser Mackintosh finish.

Shiel, however, eventually equalised through Keith MacRae and were able to see out the match to a successful conclusion.

Also in the Premiership, the question of relegation remains open after Glenurquhart and Glasgow Mid Argyll shared the points in a 2-2 draw at Drumnadrochit.

James MacPherson opened for Glen but second-half goals for GMA by Craig Anderson and Calum Maclay had the Loch Ness-side team chasing the game until David Smart’s last-minute strike eventually earned them a share of the points.

Elsewhere in the Premiership, Kingussie defeated Oban Camanachd 4-3 away.

Skye ensured their promotion to play among the sport’s elite next season when they secured the National Division title with a 2-1 victory over Caberfeidh.