Neilston 3 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 29th April 2017

Brig ‘O Lea Stadium, Neilston
Neilston v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

All three of the league leaders faced potential banana-skin away fixtures with Thistle going into their game a point clear at the top and knowing that three wins would guarantee that they finished as champions.

 

The game got off to a flying start with three goals in the first eight minutes. Graham Gracie latched on to a through ball from Josh Payne to give Larkhall a lead inside the first minute and that was followed by a spate of corners as they went in seach of another goal.

 

 

When the second goal did come five minutes later it was from another corner, Payne crossing from the left and after a couple of defenders had had a go at trying to clear, the ball sat up perfectly for Niall Reynolds to continue his scoring streak wirh a close range volley.

 

For a lot of teams that would have been enough to make sure that they guaranteed the points but unfortunately this season Thistle have had a bad habit of losing goals when in a winning position.

 

Sure enough the comeback started just two minutes later when Neilston won a throw on the left, the ball came in and the Jags defence just didn’t cope with it, it was headed on and Curren sneaked in unchallenged to head in from two yards. There were claims of offside from the Larkhall bench but the Neilston man had run from well behind the defender to score.

 

 

From then on the rest of the half was all about Neilston trying to equalise and the flow of the game was mostly towards the Jags goal. Thistle didn’t really create anything at all and they lost all of the early fluency they had had.

 

The second goal for Neiston came from a quick break out of defence. McDade swept a great ball from right to left to find his team mate but the shot when it came was weak and going wide but Niall Reynolds looked to have got a touch on it to deflect it in past Thomson.

 

Half Time: Neilston 2 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

Manager Dunky Sinclair made a double substitution at half time with Mark Canning and Liam Mushett replacing Brian Jack and Andy Brown. The plan was probably to add a bit of height to the defence with Mushett but in truth the back three looked even more unsteady than it had in the first half.

 

Indeed David Thomson was called on to keep Thistle level 10 minutes into the half when Mushett left a passback woefully short and let in the Neilston striker, Thommo had to come out of his goal sharply to block.

 

The winning goal for Neilston came in the 61st minute and was again a defensive disaster for Larkhall. A mis-hit ball forward was misjudged by Reynolds, letting in Neilston’s winger on the left who crossed to find his team mate running on to the ball. He made a hash of his shot but it came back out wide for a second bite at the cherry. His cross was again unchallenged and fell to Patterson who had time to swivel and fire a low shot past Thomson.

 

 

Thistle looked dispirited and with the third goal a lot of the fight went out of them. The best they could manage in the second half was a shot from Payne after a good bit of play that went high over the bar and an effort from Canning that went past the post.

 

Neilston were by far the more determined team and defended brilliantly after recovering from the early setbacks. Despite their league position they have lost fewer goals than Thistle and it showed today as they became the only team so far to complete the double over the Jags this season.

 

There were mixed results elswhere for the other teams involved in the promotion race. As expected, St Roch’s won at Johnstone Burgh but Cambuslang Rangers were held to a draw at Thorniewood. That left the table with the three teams all on 51 points but Thistle slipped to third place by virtue of having the worst goal difference.

 

Now for the first time in ages it is out of Thistle’s hands, even two wins wouldn’t guarantee promotion as St Roch’s have an extra game to play and Cambuslang have a vastly superior goal difference. St Roch’s are in the driving seat on paper but face the toughest of midweek tasks – away to Super Premier leaders Kirkintilloch Rob Roy in the cup – before travelling to in-form Wishaw on Saturday.

 

Full Time: Neilston 3 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

Website man of the match: Hugh Kelly was the best of the rest but Graham Gracie was the pick today. Often criticised for a lack of effort, not only did he take his goal clinically but he chased every ball from the first whistle to the last and ploughed a lone furrow up front with little support.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Brown (Mushett 45), Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly; Payne, Jack (Canning 45), Innes, Reid, McStay (Clarke 70), Gracie. Subs: Doyle, McKeever, S. Thomson

 

Neilston: Graham; Clark, Payne, Young, Geddes; Docherty, Curren, McDade, Patterson, Diack, Patterson

 

Scorers: Gracie, Reynolds

 

Booked: Nicholl

 

 

Larkhall Thistle v Thorniewood Utd.

Again Ian working away so no video tonight. This was Thistle’ s 5th. game in 11 days then after Saturday no mid week games why all the rush plenty time.

DavidThomson continued in goal with Andy Brown and Josh Payne dropping to the bench.

Thorniewood opened strongly and went ahead in 11mins. through man of many clubs Keigan Parker Thistle equalised 5 minutes later with a shot by Ryan Innes which was cleared  by a Thorniewood defender but the referee gave the goal saying the ball crossed the line.The visitors went ahead in 38 mins. with Welsh netting. Not to be outdone Thistle equalised in 44 mins. Niall Reynolds netting from inside the box.

Half Time 2-2.

Not much to write about for second half with Matty Clarke being replaced by Josh Payne then Mark McKeever replaced Gary McStay with both teams huffing and puffing with no real scoring opportunities at both ends. Top league now Thistle 51 pts 3 to play Cambuslang 50 pts 3 to play all away from home Roch 48 pts. with 4 to play with one of them Thistle at Larkhall on a date to be decided.

 

Team; David Thomson , Niall Reynolds, Liam Mushet ,Scott Nicol, Matty Clarke(Josh Payne ) Hugh Kelly, Brian Jack, Div, Reid, Graham Gracie, Gary McStay( Mark McKeever)

Subs not used Andy Brown,Declan Doyle, Stuart Thomson(gk)

 

Man of the Match goes to Hugh Kelly for a strong display in the middle of the park.

Vale of Clyde 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

Thistle were missing Stewart Thomson who did not arrive until after kick off and captain Mark Canning who is working in Berwick for the week.

The first half was a bit of a non event on what was a very bumpy  pitch and the home team who were only interested in lumping the ball from one end to the other.

The second half started in much the same fashion but the Vale opened the scoring in 55 mins with a shot from the edge of the box . Dunky reacted a couple of minutes later with Gary McStay replacing Mark McKeever a move which along with the change of Matty Clarke replacing Josh Payne was significant . Within a minute Thistle were on level terms with Div Reid netting across the keeper into the far corner. Ten minutes later the Jags went ahead with Div. heading in a Scott Nicol free kick.

Dunky then replaced Hugh Kelly with Niall Reynolds. Thistle were quite comfortable and held on for three valuable points.

Team, David Thomson , Andy Brown, Liam Mushet,Scott Nicol, Josh Payne( Matty Clarke), Hugh Kelly(Niall Reynold), Ryan Innes, Brian Jack , Mark McKeever (Gary McStay) Graham Gracie

Subs not used Craig Rutherford , Declan Doyle.

A stuffy performance by every player against a team battling to avoid relegation.

With every player giving their all there were many candidates for man of the match but the award goes to Liam Mushet who dealt very well with the aerial bombardment from the Vale.

With St. Rochs drawing 0-0 with the Gow the situation is that Thistle on 50 pts. with 4 to play max 62 pts. Cambuslang also on 50pts with 3 to go max. 59pts. St.Rochs 45 pts. with 5 to play max. 60pts.but have they still to come to Larkhall so somethings got give . This game now Thistle’s last home after the latest fixtures issued date still be decided.

Still a long way to go but we are very much in control of our own destiny and I am sure the players will give it their best shot.

Larkhall Thistle 2 Wishaw 3 – 22nd April 2017

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

 

A twelve game unbeaten run that included ten wins had seen Thistle move up to second place in the league with six games left and it all began at the home of today’s visitors back in November. Since then the Jags had gone on a run that many of us have never witnessed before to make themselves favourites for the league title itself.

 

With St Roch’s on cup duty this was an opportunity for Thistle to stretch their lead over them to six points, Cambuslang Rangers at the top were expected to win at home against Forth.

 

Wishaw started the game looking the more determined side and took the lead after eight minutes, Mark Canning had a shot blocked and Wishaw broke forward through Dan Kindlan who was allowed a criminal amount of time and space to waltz through the middle of the park unchallenged before hitting a low shot from the left edge of the box that Thomson might have felt he could have done better with. A poor goal all round to lose.

 

 

The goal settled Wishaw and they dealt well with anything that Thistle could come up with in the way of chances and the long balls were being easily dealt with by their defence, although they did not really trouble the Larkhall defence too much either.

 

The visitors doubled their lead on 28 minutes when a corner kick fell perfectly at the back post for Dean Kindlan to blast in from close range.

 

Thistle got back into the game with a great goal five minutes from half time. Josh Payne took the ball in the middle of the park and spotted a gap between the Wishaw defenders, he played the perfect ball out left for Graham Gracie to run on to and take wide of the keeper before squeezing it it from the tightest of angles.

 

The goal brought the Jags to life as they shook off their sluggish start and set about getting level. That was blown out of the water though as Wishaw won a free kick right on 45 minutes which Dan Kindlan swept past Thomson for his second goal of the game.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Wishaw 3

 

It was as poor a first half showing as Thistle have put up all season so the second half could only really have been an improvement. The Jags set about an assault on the Wishaw goal that saw them create chance after chance, albeit none of them very clear cut as the Wishaw defence dug in and looked happy just to sit deep and get rid of the ball.

 

After an hour it was clear to all that changes were needed but Niall Reynolds might count himself unlucky to have been hooked along with Brian Jack in favour of Scott Nicholl and Hugh Kelly. Reynolds had been one of the few pass-marks players up that point but the manager wanted to use the extra attacking ability of Nicholl who can get further forward.

 

The Wishaw defence survived a real scare when Josh Payne cut in on the right side of the byeline and tried to score from an even tighter angle than Gracie but his shot rolled just in front of the goal line and past.

 

 

Keeper Stewart Thomson kept Thistle in the game with a great save as he came out to block a shot from Smillie who was put clean through on goal by Dan Kindlan.

 

The Jags took full advantage as they broke quickly to pull a goal back through Canning with sixteen minutes left on the clock. Canning started the move when he knocked the ball forward to Gracie who set off on a run after a one-two with Reid. The big striker got a lucky break as he tried to take the ball past the last defender and it broke back into his path but he unselfishly squared it to Canning who kept cool to roll it into the corner.

 

 

The remainder of the game was virtually one way traffic as the Jags laid siege to the Wishaw goal but a combination of good defending, desperate last minute blocks and good luck thwarted their best attempts at getting level.

 

Thistle also had a shout for a penalty denied when the ball was played off a Wishaw defender’s arm but in truth it was too close to award a spot kick and couldn’t have been considered as deliberate.

 

The Jags finally ran out of time and tasted their first league defeat of 2017. Despite a much improved second half there is no doubt that Wishaw were the better team on the day and fully deserved their win. Cambuslang were held to a shock home draw by Forth so if ever there was a day to lose a game this was probably it. The real winners were St Roch’s who saw the two teams above them lose a bit of the advantage they had. It is now a genuine any two from three with Cambuslang possibly looking the most precarious at the top.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Wishaw 3

 

Scorers: Gracie, Canning

 

Website Man of the Match: On a day where nobody really reached the heights they are capable of, Josh Payne plugged away well and provided the Jags only real moment of quality in the game.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl 61); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack (Kelly 61), Reid; McKeever, (Clarke 72), Gracie. Subs: D.Thomson (GK), Doyle

 

Wishaw:
Thomson; McIntyre, Goodall, Watt, Eley,; McCafferty, Grant, Dean Kindlan, Smillie, Dan Kindlan, Collinder, Bannerman

 

** Sorry no video this week, camera failure at Thistle’s first goal so not worth doing

Wednesday 19th. April Larkhall Thistle v Forth Wanderers

No match report or video as Ian is working away from home. This in effect was Thistle’s game in hand on St, Rochs. Mark Reynolds opened the scoring for the Jags in 10 minutes then 7 minutes into second half Graham Gracie made it 2 . Forth pulled one back 8mins. later. Mark McKeever then added a 3rd. with Graham Gracie scoring his second of the night with 5 minutes remaining. Thistle now sit in 2nd. place with 47pts 3 in front of St. Rochs with both having 6 games to play. Cambuslang still lead with 49 pts with 4 games to play so squeaky bum time approaching for all 3 clubs. Thistle have a heavy schedule with Wishaw at home on Saturday followed by Vale of Clyde away Monday 24th. followed by Thorniewood at home on Wednesday 26th . then away to Neilston Saturday. All to play for but coaching staff and players taking it 1 game at a time.

 

Team – S. Thomson, Brown. Nicol[Mushet], Reynolds, Payne, Innes ,Kelly [Canning],Jack, Reid, Gracie, McStay [McKeever] ,

Sub. not used D.Thomson [GK]  Clarke.

According to reports a good all round performance with every player playing his part.

Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 15th April 2017

Rockburn Park, Springburn
Bellshill Athletic v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

Bellshill’s new ground maybe reflects the troubles that the club has gone though since they moved from their old park in the town centre, a bit of fenced off spare grass at the bottom of a scheme but at least they’re back in Bellshill. It’s hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for them in their current situation but it is a reminder of how much of a struggle it is to keep teams like them (and indeed Thistle) going, great credit is due to everybody who gives up their time to make it happen.

 

The two teams both had everything to play for but for different reasons, Thistle knew if they kept winning the league title was in their own hands but their hosts were fighting to avoid relegation. Mark McKeever and Ryan Innes were recalled to the starting line up in place of Gary McStay and suspended captain Mark Canning.

 

 

 

The Jags got off to a flyer when they took the lead after 10 minutes, McKeever latching on to a through ball to confidently roll it past keeper McGraw. The rest of the half was one-way traffic as Thistle took the game to their hosts without much in the way of reply.

 

Graham Gracie had the chance to make it 2-0 before the break when he was put in on the keeper and only a great save denied him.

 

Half Time: Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

The second half was more of the same, the ball generally heading in the direction of the Bellshill goal. There were few real chances but the best of Thistle’s fell to Innes who inexplicably put the ball past the post from five yards out. There was a scare at 1-0 when ‘Hill full back Chalmers strode forward and hit a tremendous long range dipping effort that thhe home supporters thought had gone in but had just cleared the bar. It was to prove their only real threat of the 90 minutes.

 

Larkhall finally got the breakthrough in 72 minutes when David Reid snatched a goal, the ball bobbled in the box and fell to Ryan Innes who slipped it through to Reid for an easy finish. The relief was written all over Div’s face at finally getting a goal and his reaction was typical of this Jags team who now know they are in with a real chance.

 

Div got his own second and Thistle’s third six minutes from time, after being unselfishly set up by substitute Gary McStay he shimmied the Bellshill defence to create space for himself in the box before drilling the ball low past the keeper.

 

The combination of a poor uneven surface and a howling wind meant that there wasn’t much silky football on show but any that there was came from Thistle. Although Bellshill battled hard, this was as comfortable a win as Thistle could have hoped for, the Jags were in truth fitter, faster and stronger all over the park.

 

With Cambuslang not playing and St Roch’s only drawing with Wishaw, the league position has been strengthened and the Jags are now level with St Roch’s on 44 points with a game in hand and five points behind Cambuslang with three games in hand.

 

Full Time: Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Website man of the match: Josh Payne had a great first half and Hugh Kelly controlled the midfield. Andy Brown however never put a foot wrong and is probably overdue a MoM so he gets it today.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly; Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid, McKeever (McStay 75), Gracie (Mushett 85). Subs: Rutherford, Stewart, D.THomson

 

Bellshill Athletic: McGraw; Chalmers, Shaw, Simon, Howarth; Peat, Smith, Nichol, Brunton; Simpson, Brown

 

Scorers: McKeever, Reid (2)

 

Booked: Nicholl

 

Rossvale 4 Larkhall Thistle 5 – 9th April 2017

Petershill Park, Springburn
Rossvale v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

Thistle’s only previous visit to the Petershill Park for a competitive game was the opening fixture of last season when they were hammered 8-2, they were hoping for a big turnaround in fortunes this time out. The teams had played out a hard-fought game in December that resulted in a 2-1 Jags win and more of the same was what was required to keep up the push for the title.

 

Larkhall manager Dunky Sinclair made a couple of changes from last week’s penalty defeat by Arthurlie, with Scott Nicholl and captain Mark Canning recalled to replace Liam Mushett and Ryan Innes.

 

A quiet opening 15 minutes saw both sides pay some nice football between the boxes without really creating any goal scoring opportunities.

 

 

Thistle took the lead in the 17th minute when Mark Canning pinged a ball out wide that he looked to have overhit but David Reid did well to keep it in and send over a low cross that was finished at close range by Graham Gracie to give the Jags the lead.

 

Josh Payne has been showing signs of his early season firm in the last couple of games and he made it 2-0 in the 28th minute. Niall Reynolds did well to clear out of defence and from the resulting quick throw Gracie took the ball to the bye line and crossed for Hoff to tap in.

 

Thistle looked to have put the game to bed when a second from Gracie made it 3-0 just before the interval.

 

Half Time: Rossvale 0 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

The second half was less than 30 seconds old when Brian Jack made it 4-0 with a close-range header from a Gracie cross after a throw in on the left was taken quickly by Reid.

 

Four soon turned to five when Gracie burst through the middle and despite keeper Donnelly’s best efforts to rugby tackle him, managed to scramble it into the empty net. The keeper was lucky it was a goal or he would have been sent off.

 

 

That looked to be very much end of story but Thistle’s bad habit of slacking off when ahead came back, this time with what was nearly a calamatous collapse.

 

The first signs of a blip in the perfect day came in the 75th minute when Rossvale had a free kick that dropped on the penalty spot and took a strange bounce, landing at McDowell’s feet who swept it into the net from his position on the deck.

 

It looked like a consolation goal and when McGrath added a second six minutes later it was still nothing more than a bit of a annoyance that 5-0 had turned to a less impressive 5-2. The manner that he strolled through to get his shot away left a question mark about the defence though and Thomson, although he had been excellent didn’t cover himself in glory with his attempt to save it.

 

Possibly the big turning point of the game came minutes later when Thistle captain Mark Canning was sent off for swearing at the referee. A decision that angered the bench, players and supporters given that the referee had just booked the home keeper for the same offence. Being a man down against a fit young side who are used to pinging the ball about on their artificial surface was always going to take its toll.

 

Gracie should have restored the four goal advantage a minute later with a point blank header from a corner on the right, but instead it was Rossvale who pulled another one back. The manner that the goal was scored must have triggered off alarm bells as the home side took the ball from deep in their own half and passed it right the way through to Seaton who backheeled it in after drawing Thomson off his line, a move than spanned three quarters of the length of the park without a challenge from a Thistle player.

 

Things started to get really bad though right on the 90 minutes when Niall Reynolds capped his own personal game of two halves with an own goal, heading in from a cross. Neilly had been outstanding in the first hour of the game and was heading for man of the match before the late defensive collapse.

 

Thistle hung on by the skin of their teeth in the end after a frantic last two minutes that saw them survive a penalty claim then a header that Rossvale should have equalised with right at the death.

 

A game that should have been out of sight with the best win of the season turned completely sour and the Thistle fans trooped out almost dejected at the end. It was a bizarre experience coming away from what was in reality very good away win feeling like you had lost.

 

Full Time: Rossvale 4 Larkhall Thistle 5

 

Website man of the match: Graham Gracie again, no real contest here. Involved in all of the goals scoring three and setting up the other two.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly (Mushett 83); Payne, Jack, Canning, Reid (Stewart 80); McStay (Rutherford 64), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Innes

 

Rossvale: Donnelly, Hadden, Doherty, Leadbetter, McDowell; Holmes, Forbes, O’Brien, Spalding; Baird, Seaton

 

Scorers: Gracie (3), Payne, Jack

 

Booked: Kelly, Brown

 

Sent off: Canning

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Arthurlie 2 (3-5 pens) – 1st April 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Arthurlie
Central League Cup – Second Round

 

Thistle’s current 9 game unbeaten league run stretches back to Cambuslang on Guy Fawkes day, but their cup form hasn’t been quite the same losing out to Fauldhouse and Craigmark Burntonians at home. This however was a free hit at the Super Premier big boys with the Jags not expected to get past the tie.

 

It was a young looking Arthulie team that took the field but they showed that they had junior level grit with a first minute challenge that left Ryan Innes reeling on the deck. It wasn’t to be the last go at him either as later on he had to go off for treatment with a head knock that left him bleeding.

 

The Jags got off to a dream start with a goal inside the first three minutes, Garry McStay took a great touch and rolled the ball into the path of Graham Gracie who kept a cool head to slot it in low past keeper Hay.

 

 

Gracie had another chance to score minutes later but this time couldn’t find the net as he put his shot past the post.

 

Arthurlie gradually came into the game though and after 18 minutes drew level when Liam Mushett misjudged a ball in the air and Deas ran through to score easily with a low shot to Thomson’s right from 14 yards out.

 

Arthurlie had the best chance of taking a lead into the break with a close range header but Thomson produced the first of his brilliant saves to somehow throw out a hand and tip the ball over the bar.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Arthurlie 1

 

The first chance of the second half fell to Thistle from a corner, David Reid put over a good ball and it found its way through to Mushett who placed his header wide of the post when he really should have done better.

 

Thomson was called upon again with another great save, coming out of his goal and blocking a shot when the Arthurlie player was through on goal.

 

The visitors were awarded a penalty in an incident that Niall Reynolds will want to forget, he called for a ball then didn’t make it, handing possession to an opponent who broke clear. Reynolds chased him, determined to win the ball back but in his eagerness to make up for his mistake needlessly brought him down just inside the box. Tommo again came to the rescue with a stop from Lie’s Smith to keep the scores level.

 

Going into the last ten minutes the game was evenly poised with the Super Premier team never looking two leagues above Thistle. Both teams were playing a similar type of game with long balls out of defence.

 

The game looked like it was heading for penalties but Arthurlie got their noses in front again when sub Murty was too strong for Josh Payne, then the big number 10 Smith outmuscled Andy Brown to put the ball through to McLernan who got the wrong side of Mushett and slotted low into the net.

 

 

Thistle kept pushing for the equaliser they had deserved on the day and it came in the last minute of normal time when Payne score direct from a corner kick.

 

Full time came and Arthurlie scored with the first penalty. As Reynolds went to take Thistle’s first, the referee wasn’t happy with the position of the ball and made him re-spot it then fussed around him – clearly putting him off his kick which was saved.

 

The rest of the penalties were scored by both teams and Arthurlie won 5-3, a poor way for the Jags to go out and the referee needs to take at least a bit of the blame.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Arthurlie 2 (3-5 pens)

 

Scorers: Gracie, Payne

 

Website Man of the Match: Graham Gracie had a good first half and took his goal well, in contrast Stewart Thomson had a shaky start when he dropped the ball a couple of times but settled after a great save to put in a man of the match performance.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly (Nicholl 70); Payne, Innes, Jack, Reid; McStay, Gracie. Subs: Clarke, Stewart, Rutherford, D.Thomson (GK)

 

Arthurlie:
Hay. Convery, Brennan, Chisholm, McGregor; Deas, McKie, Leyden, Carroll, Smith, McLernan. Subs Graham, Mundy