AUCHINLECK TALBOT were given the perfect pick-me-up after exiting the Scottish Junior Cup by winning the race to land freed Ayr United striker Gavin Friels.

The prolific marksman reputedly turned down a more lucrative contract offer tabled by Irvine Meadow in order to sign on for a second playing stint at Beechwood Park.

His arrival is undoubtedly a massive boost to the Ayrshire side's hopes of retaining their Super Premier League crown, but Saturday's derby visitors, Glenafton, will not be happy if Tommy Sloan pitches Friels straight in for a debut.

The New Cumnock outfit are understandably nursing a sense of outrage after shelling out a substantial four- figure sum to buy out his registration at Pollok in order to fix him up on loan from Ayr United back in November.

One Glens appearance later - their Scottish Cup replay defeat by Lanark United - he was recalled by his Somerset Park employers, much to the chagrin of the Junior side, who then had salt rubbed in their wounds by convoluted transfer rules dictating they would have no prior claims on the player were he to subsequently revert back to playing at this level.

If that wasn't enough, he then joined their fierce rivals and his every touch is now set to be mercilessly barracked by visiting fans.

However, new gaffer Sloan insists the experienced front man can handle the cauldron-like atmosphere that is sure to prevail.

He said: "We've not got around to thinking about our line-up but Gavin has the temperament to cope if he does get the nod.

"He's been around the block a few times so I cannot see him being fazed in the slightest.

"If anything, I would imagine he will be all the more determined to silence his critics by scoring a goal or two."

Likely to be charged with the onerous task of subduing Friels or whoever Auchinleck plump for from their array of attacking riches are visiting centre-backs Dale Beattie and John McCaig, whose recent displays have caused Glens boss Gerry Collins to sing their praises.

He said: "Our three consecutive 1-0 league wins have been brought about on the back of rock solid defence.

"In that respect Dale and John have been nothing short of magnificent.

"Now comes the ultimate test of their abilities because to my mind Talbot carry one of the most potent attacking threats in Junior football - and that was my opinion before they went out and snapped up Friels."

Meanwhile, Cambuslang Rangers boss Alan Wardlaw is making more changes after signing ex-Lanark United midfielder Paul Hughes.

Heading out the Somervell exit door on free transfers are long-serving defender Stevie O'Neil and first season Junior goalkeeper Martin Fusari.

Elsewhere, travelling difficulties mean two former Cambuslang stars, Johnstone Burgh striker David Menelaws, who lives in Airdrie, and Bathgate Thistle left midfielder Stuart Maxwell (0141-770 1684) are desperately keen to find new clubs. FORTH Wanderers have put three players up for sale. Centre-back Andy Wands, striker Ross Donaldson and midfielder Neil Ward can leave. Contact leading official John McCormack on 07831 487 848.