Cumbernauld United fell four points behind Darvel after losing out to their Ayrshire rivals in Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash.
A crowd of over 400 were at Guy’s Meadow for the eagerly awaited showdown - and saw former Clyde man Darren Miller conjure up a sublime piece of individual skill to make the difference in a closely fought encounter.
United had been enjoying the better of a fairly attritional first half and had come close to opening their account through Scott Thomson and Kieran McAleenan, before Chrissy Hall’s flick header evaded Darvel keeper Chris Truesdale only to come back off the upright.
The rebound saw the visitors spring forward and striker David Grant fired a crossfield pass to Miller who, 22 yards out and standing a matter of yards in from the touchline, showed outstanding vision to unerringly chip the ball over United keeper Darren Hill, a step beyond his six yard line at best.
Darvel came close to controversially extending their advantage approaching the interval when referee Ryan Oliver adjudged Hill to have picked up a passback from Clark Thomson, but only after theatrically running to consult with his two assistants, standing 25 and 50 yards respectively further away from the incident than the whistler was.
The second half was equally tight. Miller almost came up with another electric moment, curling a 25-yard free-kick against the face of the crossbar while a sweeping United move upfield brought Paddy McCabe to fire over a driven cross that a full stretch McAleenan diverted against the post.
Thomson then dragged a shot wide before any home hopes of salvaging a share of the spoils were ended by a truly calamitous second goal just short of the 80th minute mark.
Miller’s pressing brought about an untidy exchange of passes between United captain Ross McCabe and goalkeeper Hill that culminated in the big defender clipping the ball into his own net.
United boss Andy Frame said afterwards: “We’ve dominated possession and if we had scored from the chances created in the first half before Darren’s exceptional goal then I really believe we could have gone on to win the game.
“I cannot bring myself to chastise Ross or Darren over it as they have played outstandingly well all season, but yet again the timing of the goal has allowed Darvel to see the game out comfortably.”
This Saturday United are away to Petershill.