Good workout on Tuesday night against the Scottish Amateur Cup holders Thistle winning 3-2 with all players getting a runout.
Highest number of goals £150 – Billy Frame, The Tavern
Lowest number of goals £15 -Margaret Gibson and Andrea Gibson
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Benburb
Central League First Division
Welcome back to Hugh as he took his seat at the front, it’s been a while but the referees have had it easy for too long.
Thistle were looking for a win to boost their chances of keeping up with the early season pacesetters, but with Andy Brown out they decided to use Liam Mushett as a makeshift left back although Declan Doyle was available and on the bench.
Benburb almost got off to a dream start when they were through on goal in the first minute but the shot went over the bar. The Jags recovered well from that early scare and took control of the early part of the half, taking lead in 12 minutes when Marty Clarke made a good run down the left to the byeline and cut the ball across the face of the goal for Mushett to tap in.
The visitors looked certain to equalise ten minutes later from a scramble inside the box but the shot came back off the post and an even better effort followed a few minutes later with a curled shot that hit the inside of the far post.
The equaliser came ten minutes from half time from a highly dubious penalty award when the referee gave a spot kick for what looked to most to be a normal 50/50 arial challenge. The penalty was converted by Livingston, giving young Thomson no chance in the home goal.
Thistle’s best attempts at regaining the lead before half time came through a couple of free kicks, the first saw Mushett get a head to it but without causing any real threat. The second however was a blistering drive from David Reid that produced a very good save from Sommerville after a tremendous run from Josh Payne had brought the foul.
The Bens did have another good chance to score before the break but Thomson pulled off a good double save with his feet to keep the score level.
Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Benburb 1
Larkhall got out of the blocks early in the second half and looked to regain their lead – shooting towards the gasworks end – and indeed they got the goal in the fifth minute when Matty Clarke lofted a header into the top corner from a Reid corner.
The tails were up now with the Jags pushing to build on the advantage with a third goal that would probably have killed the game. Graham Gracie, Reid and Clarke all had chances in a ten minute spell that the visitors didn’t have much answer to. Clarke was having a lot of joy down the left side and carved out two good chances, both of them saved well by the Bens keeper.
Hugh Kelly had picked up a silly booking in the first half for attempting to handball it into the net and inevitably it came back to haunt him with 15 minutes left to play. A couple of minutes before that he had just managed to get away with a tackle in the middle of the park as he flew in but got a clean contact on the ball, this time though he mistimed it and the referee produced a second yellow card.
It was backs to the wall stuff for the rest of the game as Benburb applied the pressure to try and get level again but the team as a whole defended superbly and limited the visitors to only a couple of genuine chances.
A good fighting performance by Thistle again to take all three points in what turned out to be a good end to end match that both teams made up for in effort what they might have lacked in terms of quality. The Jags now join Thorniewood, St Rochs, Cambuslang Rangers and Neilston in a 5-way tie for the lead at the top of the table, all on nine points from four games.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Benburb 1
Website Man of the Match: Another fine week for the youngsters with David Thomson producing a string of good saves and Ryan Innes solid in midfield and getting back towards his best, but again it was Josh Payne’s tireless running and sparks of genuine ability that set him apart from the rest on the park.
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Canning, Innes, Reid; Clarke (Jack 78), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, McKeever, S.Thomson (GK), Burns, Doyle
Sommerville; Meechan, Wright, Greer, Collinge; Jackson, Blackwood, Boyle, Livinston, Wright, Jarvie. Subs: McNeil, Mailey, Gallagher, Lewis, McCallum
Scorers: Mushett, Clarke
Sent off: Kelly
Kingshill Park Forth,
Forth Wanderers v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Central District First Division
Stewart Thomson (wedding) and Brian Jack (holiday) both returned to the squad after missing the game against Neilston. However Paul Burns (wedding), Liam Mushett (work commitments) and Craig Rutherford (calf injury) were all missing. David Thomson retained his place in goal with Hugh Kelly starting in midfield. Thistle started brightly and Graham Gracie opened the scoring in 13 minutes after a fine move involving Ryan Innes and David Reid. As in previous games the Jags then proceeded to dominate the game but once again failed to take the chances they created with the home keeper having an outstanding game. Forth equalised 10 minutes before the interval despite the visitors having the majority of the play.
Half Time: Forth Wanderers 1 Larkhall Thistle 1
Worse was to follow at the start of the second half when Forth took the lead inside 50 seconds after a mix up in the Thistle defence. Credit to the Thistle they immediately took the game to Forth and equalised within two minutes through a well struck shot inside the penalty box by Ryan Innes. Thistle were now in control creating chances which again they did not convert. However they took the lead with a well struck free kick from Reid giving the keeper no chance.
The game was now getting a bit tousy and the referee quite clearly was not in control of the game with players in both teams committing fouls which should have been punished. With two minutes remaining the referee awarded Forth a penalty which to say the least was a mystery to most people in the ground Niall Reynolds tackling a Forth player in the box with both players ending up on the ground, the ball being cleared and play continuing. The referee then stopped the game, went back to the Thistle penalty box, booked Reynolds and awarded a penalty. Young David Thomson however had a magnificent save down to his right .
Three good points when we again missed numerous chances with credit to the players for fighting back from a 2-1 deficit.
On a day when everyone played their part the man of the match award goes to Graham Gracie for his outstanding work rate and involvement in the goals.
Full Time: Forth Wanderers 2 Larkhall Thistle 3
D.Thomson Reynolds, Brown, Nicholl; Payne, Kelly, Innes, Canning, Reid, Clarke, Gracie.
Subs. McKeever, Doyle, Jack, McStay, S. Thomson first game for a while when no substitutions were made.
On behalf of everyone at the club we would like to offer our sincere condolences to ex president and club sponsor Roy Gibson and his family on the passing of his mother.
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Neilston
Central League First Division
Thistle began their home campaign with what looked on paper to be a difficult game, although Neilston finished just above the relegation spots last season they had got off to good start this season with a defeat at Pollok being the only blip in an otherwise 100% record.
Thistle got off to a great start after only four minutes when Graham Gracie knocked the ball into the path of David Reid who took a touch and drilled a perfect low drive past the keeper.
The pair linked up well again minutes later to set up a chance for Matty Clarke but he could only blast his shot into the side netting, and although the Jags had the majority of the early play and created some good chances, it always felt that one goal wouldn’t be enough to win the game.
The game did indeed turn as the half went on and ten minutes before the interval young David Thomson had to pull off a tremendous save from a point blank header to keep the Jags in front.
The referee came under heavy pressure from the Neilston bench who were screaming for a penalty every time the ball went into the box but he did well to keep his cool and rightly deny the claims.
As the half went on though it looked more and more like Thistle should have taken better advantage of their superiority to add more goals and that the visitors would do the inevitable and equalise.
Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 0
The first chance of the second half came after 6 minutes when Gracie played in Reid on the left and he ran 30 yards before shooting wide, Josh Payne then made a couple of great runs down the right and produced two balls into the danger area that Innes and Reid should have done better with.
Unfortunately that was about as far as it went for Thistle on the day and the remaining 25 minutes or so belonged almost entirely to Neilston.
The visitors created chance after chance and it looked only a matter of time before they equalised and the goal did come by way of a soft penalty award, converted after 68 minutes by Kennedy.
Hugh Kelly had surprisingly been left out for Paul Burns who was finding it impossible to keep up with the pace of the game and was taken off after an hour to be replaced by new signing Liam Mushett. The less said about the big defender the better too as he was promptly sent packing for advising the referee to go away in less subtle language.
Shug showed in the reaining 18 minutes why he should have been on from the start but with a man down Thistle were facing an uphill task to even salvage a point.
Neilston were also reduced to 10 men late in the game when Clark was sent off for a crunching tackle on Ryan Innes but the visitors adapted better to the loss than Thistle and got the winning goal two minutes from time when a cross from the left went over Thomson and Young slid in at the back post to send the ball crashing into the roof of the net.
A great start for Thistle followed by a massive slump when they failed to build on the lead means they lost their chance to stay up with the early leaders in the league. The team is looking more settled now although there is still a bit of a weakness in defence, if Andy Brown was missing they would struggle badly and it looks like only really Hugh Kelly is capable of playing in front of a back three.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 2
Website Man of the Match: David Reid had a great first half but faded badly, Andy Brown gets it this week.
D. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Payne, Canning, Burns (Mushett 60), Innes, Reid; Clarke (Kelly 72), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, McKeever, McStay
Digney; McDade, Geddes, Clark, Young; Stevenson, Docherty, Stoney, Cameron, Kennedy, McLachlan. Payne
Booked: Burns, Nicholl, Kelly
Sent off: Mushett