Greenock 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 29th October 2016

Ravenscraig Park, Greenock
Greenock v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

Andy Brown returned from honeymoon but started today’s game on the bench while Declan Doyle retained his place at right back and Scott Nicholl began his suspension, leaving a makeshift looking defence but fortunately Niall Reynolds has come into some good form and held it together well at the back.

Matty Clarke returned to partner Graham Gracie up front as Gary McStay dropped to the bench.

Thistle started with the majority  of possession on the huge playing surface but there was hardly an incident of note for the first half hour of this game, the rest of the first half was a different story though as both teams made several good chances each.

Greenock brought the game to life with a mazy run that resulted in a shot that blazed well over the bar then Thistle replied with a drive from Reid cutting in from the left that was followed by a quick move that sent Gracie clear only for him to shoot weakly straight at the home keeper.

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Stuart Thomson brought off a magnificent save just before half time to keep the Jags level, a ball was swept in from the left back position and found a Greenock player in space on the edge of the six yard box. It looked like he couldn’t miss but Tommo stretched brilliantly to palm it clear.

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Thistle had hardly had time to let the relief set in before they ran straight up the park and took the lead. Reid and Gracie played the ball about on the left then Div swung in a great cross that Matty Clarke rose and met and lifted over the home keeper.

Half time: Greenock 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

Greenock had been out of the game for most of the first half but the second period was a different story. They began in search of an equaliser and their early early pressure paid off. Another run down Thistle’s left resulted in a perfect ball into the six yard box that was finished well by McClure.

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Thomson had to get down well twice to keep the Jags level in this shaky early period as it looked like the home side were going to build on their momentum and get a lead and it stayed that way until midway through the half. Larkhall broke and Brian Jack fed Reid on the left, he drove on and hit a good shot that the keeper saved well and that was swiftly followed by Jack himself having a go with a curling effort that the keeper kept out of the top corner.

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Thistle were on top again now and had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Reid again broke down the left and as he homed in on goal unselfishly squared it for Gracie but he shot straight at the keeper from eight yards. Reid had the ball in the net minutes later with a close-range header but was ruled offside then Hugh Kelly had to react quickly to cover up for some defensive slackness as he dived in to head the ball back to Thomson and keep the Jags level.

The Jags got the winner with three minutes to go with a route one special, Thomson booted the ball long and it was flicked on by Reid into the path of Grcie who lobbed it over the advancing keeper.

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Matty Clarke gave his usual tireless performance and was replaced by Liam Mushett for the last few minutes as the manager looked to solidify the defence and hold on for the win.

On balance it was a win that Thistle just deserved although Greenock did very well to come back into it after a bad start and it keeps the Jags on the tails of joint leaders Cambuslang Rangers and St Roch’s who both also won today.

There were good performances throughout the team – Niall Reynolds had another good game and helped young Doyle who recovered from a few shaky moments. Kelly gave good protection to the back three and Reid also covered well at left back when required as well as bombing forward, Canning and Jack saw plenty of the ball in midfield and Josh Payne had his moments despite never hitting the highs of last month while Gracie took his goal well.

Full time: Greenock 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

Website man of the match: Thomson pulled off some great saves and was a close contender but David Reid was outstanding and used the pitch to full advantage as he constantly stretched the home defence and set up both goals.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Canning, Reid; Clarke (Mushett 87), Gracie. Subs: Brown, McKeever, McStay

Royal Albert 1 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 22nd October 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Royal Albert v Larkhall Thistle
Scottish Cup 1st Round

Thistle went into today’s game with Andy Brown on honeymoon, Ryan Innes not having trained for two weeks due to illness and David Thomson just back from injury. On the bright side club catain Mark Canning was fit again and took his place in midfield.

Liam Mushett was replaced by Declan Doyle at right back and Matty Clarke was also rested, Gary McStay taking his place up front.

Albert started the game looking like they were determined to have a real go and might well have taken an early lead with a couple of good early moves.

However it was the Jags who got the opener and again it came from a corner on the right taken by David Reid. The ball came out to Mark Canning just outside the box and he swept it forward to Graham Gracie who let the ball run across him then was a bit lucky to get a break off an Albert defender to get the ball back, when he did there was no mistake as he rattled it high into the near corner.

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Albert came back again but it was Thistle who looked to have put themselves through to the next round with a second in the 26th minute. Reid picked up the ball in midfield and played it out to Josh Payne on the left. He continued his run into the box and when he got the return ball he hit it low and hard hard across the face of the goal only for the unfortunate Stobie to deflect it into his own goal.

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The rest of the half petered out without much in the way of incident with Thistle seeming to have done enough, even at this early stage.

Half time: Royal Albert 0 Larkhall Thistle 2

The second half continued where the first had left off with the Jags cruising and they made a substitution after an hour when McStay came off to be replaced by Matty Clarke, followed shortly after by Ryan Innes coming on for Brian Jack.

It seemed that the only thing that could get in the way of a home win was the self destruct button and it was pushed not once but twice in a mad two minute spell. Firstly Scott Nicholl got himself involved with an Albert player when it looked like he had won the foul anyway and saw a straight red, then Reggie Innes flew into a challenge that looked to be at least a booking but probably a red card was a bit harsh.

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With a two man advantage for Albert,  the last fifteen minutes was always going to be backs to the wall for Thistle but the nine men produced the best football of the game with a fast flowing break down the left wing that resulted in Reid setting up Gracie for an easy finish – only for the striker to fluff his lines and hit the ball staight at the keeper.

The game turned in Albert’s favour with a substitution when they brought on Barry Murdoch to give them a much needed steadiness in midfield and they pulled a goal back from one of his excellent balls into the box. Jags keeper Stuart Thomson only managed to parry his free kick right on to the head of former Thistle man Alan Campbell who nodded into the net past him.

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Albert nearly took the game to a replay with an almost identical move minutes later, again Thomson made a great diving save to his left and the ball dropped to an Albert player but this time the keeper got up brilliantly and showed great reflexes to touch the ball over the bar.

Thistle put the game beyond doubt a minute into injury time with a third goal, Gracie made a lung-bursting run down the left past the defence and got a shot in that keeper Smith managed to block but it fell right at the feet of Canning who tapped the ball home.

A great cup tie that had a bit of everything in it, with credit being due to Albert for taking the game all the way to the last seconds. Thistle could have been out of sight but again showed a soft side when holding a lead.

Full time: Royal Albert 1 Larkhall Thistle 3

Website man of the match: Stuart Thomson had a bit of the jitters in the early stages but recovered well to pull off a great save that kept Thistle ahead but Niall Reynolds was solid at the back and dealt with most things well so is this week’s Man of the Match.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack (Innes 65), Canning, Reid; McStay (Clarke 60 (Burns 77)), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, D.Thomson (GK), Stewart

Royal Albert:
Smith; Howson, M.Anderson, Stobie, Rinn, Hamilton; J.Anderson, Baptie, Campbell, Scott, O’Kane. Subs: Haley, Rennie, Murdoch, Clark, Brennan, Neill

Booked: Reynolds, Reid, Gracie
Sent off: Nicholl, Innes

Video highlights, sorry battery ran out so last goal is missing

Match Sponsor – Royal Albert v Larkhall Thistle (Gasworks Park)

The club have great pleasure in announcing that Frank B Craig your local electrical goods retailer will be the match sponsor for Saturday’s game in the Scottish against local rivals the Albert.

We are sure Frank and his party will enjoy their day and Larkhall Thistle wish to record their appreciation for his support.

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Ashfield 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 15th October 2016

Peugeot Ashfield Stadium, Glasgow
Ashfield v Larkhall Thistle
West of Scotland Cup 1st Round

Thistle went in to the first of two weeks of cup ties with Mark Canning still not recovered from his warm-up injury at Johnstone Burgh, Ryan Innes also out, Liam Mushett (groin injury), David Thomson (knee injury), Craig Rutherford (calf injury) all doubtful and Andy Brown away on honeymoon.

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With Innes injured the manager looked to Paul Burns to fill the gap and the level of opposition probably suited his game a bit more, getting time on the ball before he was closed down.

As expected against their struggling lower league opponents, Thistle took control of the early part of the game but their only real attempts at goal were a header from Graham Gracie and a shot from Josh Payne past the post, niether of which really troubled the Ashfield defence. At the other end however Stuart Thomson had to get down well to block with his feet when a goal looked on the cards.

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The first half petered out with nothing much more from either side although just before half time Larkhall had a claim for a penalty when a home defender went to ground to block and the ball hit his hand, it would have been a fairly soft award though and there were no real complaints.

Half time: Ashfield 0 Larkhall Thistle 0

Thistle got off to a flyer with a goal a minute into the second half. Scott Nicholl started the move on the left and played a one-two with David Reid then played the ball forward to Gracie who got the break of the ball and chipped the stranded keeper from the edge of the box.

Brian Jack nearly repeated the feat ten minutes later when he hit the woodwork with an even more spectacular attempt at a lob after a knock down from Gracie and Matty Clarke tried yet another chip after being put clear from a ball out of defence from Nicholl but his attempt landed on the roof of the net.

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Ashfield got themselves level after 61 minutes when Thomson who had looked a bit jittery, again failed to hold a shot and the striker was left with an easy tap-in. Once again the Jags had failed to hold and build on a lead despite the vast majority of the play and most of the chances. It was nearly even worse when a close-range finish was ruled out for offside and a toe poke from six yards flew over the bar after Thomson had again spilled the ball.

Burns then inexplicably played the ball straight across the back to an Ashfield player who squared inside to his team mate but he shot wide, a real let off for the Jags and they were now under a bit of pressure for the first time in the game. It wasn’t until 15 minutes from time that Thistle threatened again, when Gracie tried to take on the whole defence when a lay-off might have been the better option.

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The game looked to be heading towards penalties when Gracie struck again for Thistle with four minutes left. Substitute Connor Stewart got the ball on the right wing and played it inside to big Graham who cut in and hit a low drive from 25 yards that sneaked low inside the post.

As with any cup tie it is all about the result and getting to the next round but Thistle will face much sterner tests than this and will need to start taking their chances if they have any hope of a run in either this cup or the Scottish.

Full time: Ashfield 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

Website man of the match: Graham Gracie took his goals well and Hugh Kelly had a fine battling performance in midfield but as well as his Maradona turn in the box and setting up the first goal, Scott Nicholl was solid in defence so he is this week’s MoM.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Burns, Reid (Stewart 70); Clarke (Rutherford 70), Gracie.

Booked: Gracie, Nicholl, Payne, Kelly

Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 4 – 8th October 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Lesmahagow
Central League First Division

Thistle went into the game with Craig Rutherford still injured, Mark Canning not recovered from his warm-up injury at Johnstone, Andy Brown getting married and Liam Mushett doubtful having picked up an injury in training. Mushett did make it into a starting line-up that was unchanged from last week’s win at Johnstone.

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The Jags had the perfect opportunity to take the lead after 22 seconds when they were awarded a penalty for handball but Graham Gracie’s tame penalty was easily saved by the Lesmahagow keeper.

Gracie looked determined to atone for the miss and less than a minute later got the ball and played a great pass through the defence into Matty Clarke’s path, he took a stride and slotted into the corner for the opener.

Larkhall swiftly followed that up with a second minutes later when Brian Jack played in Gracie in a similar position on the left and he made no mistake this time, firing the ball low into the same spot as Clarke.

Sixteen minutes in and with the home side having literally all of the chances and the vast majority of the ball, they extended their lead further. David Reid had been tormenting the right back and putting in some excellent crosses but this time he rolled it back into the path of the oncoming Clarke who drilled the ball home.

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At this point Thistle were rampant and in the rest of the half created chance after chance that could and should have seen  the game out of sight, their local rivals were shellshocked at the onslaught and it really did look a question of how many.

There was no indication at that point that Thistle were to go on and finish the game without any further scoring.

Matty Clarke had the perfect chance for a first half hat-trick when he was clean through one on one but his lob came back off the bar with the keeper helpless.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 0

Manager Dunky Sinclair’s message at half time would undoubtedly have included keeping things tight in the early stages of the second half and not losing an early goal but three minutes into the second half Niall Reynolds was caught out by the swerve of a punt through and the ball landed at the feet of the Gow striker whose lob gave Thomson no chance.

Although Thistle were under the cosh after the goal as Lesmahagow dominated the early part of the half and pressed hard to get back into the game, they should surely have scored in the 65th minute when Reid, Clarke, Gracie and Payne all passed up chances to score in an incredible mellee with the keeper stranded outside his goal but enough defenders getting back to make lunging blocks.

The home players took heart from their endeavours and nearly scored minutes later when Payne set up Gracie but he blasted his shot over the bar.

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Thistle seemed to be coping well with anything that Gow could throw at them but the visitors snatched an unlikely second with fifteen minutes left when the ball bobbled in the box and their striker nipped in to get a flick on it before Thomson could gather.

Thistle made their only substitution in 83 minutes when Gary McStay came on for Clarke and he was involved in their best chance in the closing stages when he picked out Ryan Innes on the edge of the box who slipped it right to Jack, he hit a good shot that looked to be heading for the to corner before the keeper produced a good save.

Larkhall were looking to see the game out and although Gow had a few attempts, few would have predicted how the final couple of minutes were about to unfold.

Lesmahagow won a corner a minute from the end that went straight across the face of the goal and got the slightest of touches to send it into the net then followed that up with a similarly scrappy goal from a fee kick a minute later that dropped to their unmarked striker who swivelled and crashed in the winning goal from six yards.

This was real game of the season stuff for any neutral watching with Thistle producing their best form of the season so far in a first half that should have seen them out of sight and a spirited comeback from Lesmahagow who demonstrated in the most emphatic way that it is only putting the ball in the net that really counts.

Website Man of The Match: The front line of Gracie, Clarke and Reid had a great first half but ultimately the misses cost Thistle the game whilst the defence failed to hold the lead once again so man of the match this week goes to Ryan Innes who battled hard all day and won ball after ball in the middle of the park.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 4

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid; Clarke (McStay 73), Gracie.

Scorers: Clarke (2), Gracie

Booked: Nicholl, Reynolds, Innes