Larkhall Thistle v Forth Wanderers

Thistle went into this decisive game where only a win would be good enough. Craig Forbes was missing due to work commitments and Mark Canning and Ryan Innes were still on holiday.

The Jags starting line up surprised some of the home supporters with Graham Gracie and Div. Reid starting on the bench.

The match had an explosive start with Forth opening the scoring inside 2 mins. when their no.9 scoring with a header . Not to be out done shortly after the restart Thistle were back on level terms when Jonny McStay latched on to pass from Billy Robb and lobbed the ball over the advancing Forth keeper into the net. Forth at this stage looked the more likely to score and it was no surprise when their no. 10 . picked up the ball and from the edge of the penalty area and netted in Stewart  Thomson’s left hand corner. This goal stung the home team and Matty Clarke should have done better when put clear on the left hand side of the box his effort on goal did not trouble the keeper. Thistle were struggling to compete in midfield with Forth controlling this area of the pitch.

Half time Larkhall Thistle 1 Forth Wanderers 2

Thistle started the second half in determined fashion and equalised with a goal that had more than a hint of offside about it. Jonny Mcstay taking the ball to the bye line and crossing for Matty Clarke to knock the ball home. The Forth keeper then had tremendous save from a Matty Clarke free kick and also saved well from Scott Nicol. Thistle finally went ahead when Brian Jack played in Scott Nicol who controlled the ball well and shot past Cherrie in the Forth goal. Shortly after taking the lead Jonny McStay who was limping was replaced by Graham Gracie and Scott Nicol was replaced by Div.Reid. Before the changes had any time to take effect Forth equalised when Hugh Kelly lost the ball and the Forth no 11 latched on to the ball and outstripped Liam Mushett to score the equaliser.

Thistle went on the offensive to try and get the winner with the woodwork saving Forth on three occasions and Liam Mushett missing at the back post. Graham Gracie then was desperately unlucky when his netbound shot was scrambled clear by a Forth Defender. Stewart Thomson then had to tip over a great effort from the Forth no.9.

Thistle continued to push forward but the Forth defence stood firm until the final whistle.

Forth therefore qualify for a lucrative home quarter final against Pollok by virtue of a superior goal difference of one goal. Bit of Deja vue as this happened to the Jags at this stage last season .

 

Team; Stewart Thomson, Andy Brown, Niall Reynold, Liam Mushett, Josh Payne,Billy Robb,Hugh Kelly, Brian Jack(Gary McStay) Scott Nicol,(Div. Reid) Jonny McStay(Graham Gracie) Matty Clarke.

Booked ; Billy Robb, Hugh Kelly.

 

On a night when the majority of the team looked off the pace the Man of the Match award goes to Niall Reynolds who once again was his usual competent self.

Larkhall Thistle 3 Forth Wanderers 3 – 16th August 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Forth Wanderers
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1

 

Thistle once again failed to beat lower-league opposition at home and missed out on a money-spinning home quarter final tie with Pollok by one goal. Although the Jags went through the section unbeaten, Forth also managed the same set of results and their goal difference was one better so they qualify from the section for the first time.

 

Despite hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions, Thistle just couldn’t get the win that the 1-1 draw with Royal Albert had left them needing.

 

A bitterly disappointing end to a good run with the big Super League kick-off just three days away, hopefully the team will pick themselves up and start off the league campaign with a win at Darvel on Saturday.

 

Sorry no match report tonight but I couldn’t make the game due to work.

 

Larkhall Thistle 1 Royal Albert 1 – 12th August 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Royal Albert
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1

 

A win today would have left Thistle only needing a home draw with Forth in their final game to progress to a lucrative home tie against Pollok. The Jags were missing six players and it left the bench looking a bit short of options with only two outfield subs but the starting eleven could have been a first choice team from last year with the exception of new boy Craig Forbes.

 

Thistle are now two leagues above their Larkhall rivals and for the majority of the game played like they knew it and only had to turn up to win. It was only after going a goal down that they stepped up their game and looked like they wanted to win the game.

 

 

Albert contained some early pressure fairly comfortably and eased themselves into the game as the half wore on, looking like the team more likely to score. Thistle’s best effort came from a Brian Jack lob after a poor defensive clearance.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Royal Albert 0

 

Albert had two penalty claims at the start of the half for handball and there could have been no real complaints if either one had been given. Their ealy pressure looked like producing a goal and so it did thirteen minutes into the second half.

 

 

Albert took a deserved lead after what Arthur Montford might have described as a stramash. Thistle conceded a needless free kick from the right back position and keeper Thomson punched the ball only as far as the penalty spot, where it was driven in from. Tommo saved but it rebounded and was fired in again on the half volley, well saved then hit back in, scrambled off the line and finally fired into the roof of the net.

 

Of most concern to Thistle would be the fact that there were four attempts at goal and an Albert man was quickest to the ball each time.

 

In fairness to the Jags players, they reacted well to the loss of the goal and set about the task of getting it back which the duly did fourteen minutes later, albeit helped by a big slice of luck.

 

Forbes played the ball out wide right to Josh Payne who laid it off to Graham Gracie and burst inside on a run. Gracie tried to play him in but hit the ball straight at an Albert defender who took a wild swipe and missed it altogether, allowing the ball to run into the path of Payne who curled it into the corner with a great strike.

 

 

Thistle pressed for the rest of the game and carved out a few chances, but Albert held out for a draw that to be honest was the least they deserved. If they could only reproduce that level of effort and commitment throughout the campaign they would surely be closer to the top of the league than the bottom.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Royal Albert 1

 

So Albert ended Thistle’s run of eight straight wins but the Jags can take some heart from the fact that they came back and didn’t actually lose the game. Wednesday’s decider against Forth is now winner takes all and is shaping up to be a cracker.

 

Man of the Match: Josh Payne for his effort and good finish.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly (Robb 79); Payne, Forbes, Jack, Reid, McKeever, Gracie. Subs: Doyle

 

Not much in the way of highlights in this one but the goals are in the video below.

 

Lesmahagow 2 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 5th August 2017

Craighead Park, Lesmahagow
Whitletts Victoria v Larkhall Thistle
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1

 

Thistle went into today’s game in good form and just behind Forth in the section table after Forth’s 5-2 win over Royal Albert. This was Lesmahagow’s first game of the competition. The two McStays were unavailable for the game and David Reid was on the bench with a niggling injury. Scott Nicholl was preferred to Niall Reynolds at left back while Liam Mushett started in front of Billy Robb.

 

 

Larkhall got off to a confident start, playing the ball around and keeping possession early in the game. The closest the Jags came to scoring early on though was from a shot by Josh Payne after cutting in from wide right but he sent his effort right across goal and past the other post.

 

Lesmahagow shooting up the hill in the first half offered very little in an attacking sense and all of the chances were created by Thistle, the home keeper performing miracles at times to keep his team in the game.

 

The game’s first major incident came after 20 minutes when Scott Nicholl got into a shoving match after a bad tackle on him, both players sensibly shown yellow by the referee. However two minutes later Nicholl let his temper get the better of him as he wrestled an opponent to the ground, via the unfortunate Thistle official Ross Dunn’s jaw on the way down.

 

Nicholl was shown a second yellow and Mark McKeever dropped to left back to cover.

 

The loss of a man however didn’t upset the Jags tempo in any way and they continued to dominate the game, creating chance after chance that the Gow defence did well to keep out. Thistle did take a deserved lead in 35 minutes when a long ball out of defence from McKeever found Craig Forbes on the left inside the box. Forbes cut inside and squared the ball to Graham Gracie who took his time and composed himself before slotting it into the bottom corner.

 

It took Thistle less than five minutes to double the advantage, Matty Clarke picked up the ball in the middle of the park and played it out wide to Payne on the right, the winger set Gracie away and he rolled it into the path of Ryan Innes who turned and fired a first time shot past the keeper.

 

 

As the Jags coasted towards a well-earned half time break the referee threw Gow a lifeline with a highly contentious penalty award for a clash of heads between a Gow forward and Andy Brown. The penalty was converted and the lead was cut to one goal at the break.

 

Half Time: Lesmahagow 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

The second half had just started when the referee gave his third match-changing decision to Lesmahagow by awarding them another soft penalty. Jags keeper Thomson had no chance with the spot kick and now Thistle were up against it for the first time in the game, hitting up the slope and with the momentum now firmly with the home side.

 

 

Thankfully however the Jags are a better team than Lesmahagow and the team spirit is second to none. Without the award of any further penalties the Gow didn’t really have much to offer and it always looked likely that if there was to be a winner it would be Thistle.

 

Gracie was put through on goal a couple of times, albeit with still a lot to do and on another day could have had three or four goals. One that new boy Forbes will want to forget could have put the Jags ahead in 70 minutes but after great work from subs Mark Canning and David Reid to set him up he managed to sclaff it out for a throw-in from inside the six yard box.

 

Big Craig will tell you these are always harder than they look.

 

Thistle got the breakthrough with eight minutes left although the goal did carry a shade of luck. Gracie picked up the ball just outside the box and laid it off to Innes on the right who mishit it into the path of Reid. Div took a touch then drilled a low shot that found the net off the post.

 

Full Time: Lesmahagow 2 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Thistle’s winning run continues with a tremendous fighting performance by all involved, in particular Gracie, Forbes and Andy Brown. Mark McKeever though is the Man of the Match for stepping in and driving the team forward when they were down to ten men, the win was as much down to him as anybody else.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Nicholl; Jack; Payne (Canning 65); Innes, Forbes, McKeever (Reynolds 56), Gracie, Clarke (Reid 56) Subs: Robb, Doyle

 

Booked: Forbes

 

Sent off: Nicholl

 

Lanark United v Larkhall Thistle

Thistle opened their section league cup campaign at Lanark without Hugh Kelly suspended for first 2 games and Scott Nicol who was serving the last game of a 2 match suspension. Gary McStay was on holiday and keeper Daniel Terry injured. They were then dealt another blow when Div.Reid pulled up injured in the warm up resulting in a late re-shuffle with Matty Clarke coming into the line up.

Thistle starting confidently playing a crisp passing and moving game with both Mark Canning and Matty Clarke both testing the Lanark keeper. At this stage Lanark were struggling to cope with the jags passing game Graham Gracie then picked up a pass from Matty Clarke and drove into the Lanark penalty box electing to pass to Josh Payne who netted but the referee correctly ruled him offside. The first  goal was only delayed and after a fine move involving Josh Payne and Brian Jack the final through ball put Graham Gracie in the clear and he duly netted. Billy Robb was then booked for deliberate trip on the Lanark no. 11 who at this point was looking dangerous when on the ball. The home team then had a claim for a penalty when the same player was impeded on the edge of the area but the referee deemed it outside the box with the resultant free kick being blasted against the Thistle defensive wall. Play swung to the other end with Thistle coming close with a Matty Clarke shot after good work from Craig Forbes. half time arrived with Thistle looking comfortable despite their narrow lead.

Half time Lanark United 0- Larkhall Thistle 1

Thistle started the second half strongly and went two up with another fine move involving Matty Clarke and Graham Gracie whose final ball across the six yard area was finished off by Jonny McStay to put the Jags two ahead. The game then went through a period of mid field play with neither side really threating.Lanark pulled a goal back after 60 minutes with an own goal Niall Reynolds finding his own net when attempting to clear a pass across the six yard box. This goal gave the home team a  boost and Dunky freshened things up firstly replacing a tiring Matty Clarke who was starting his first game of the season after missing the friendly programme due to holidays his replacement was Mark McKeever. Ryan Innes then replaced the hard working Brian Jack as the visitors tried to get back control of the game. Stuart Thomson then had a tremendous one handed save low at his right hand post as the home team made a determined effort to get back on level terms. Graham Gracie then set up his strike partner Jonny McStay who went close his shot whistling by the post.Thistle were back in control and a fine Billy Robb chipped pass put Graham Gracie in the clear and he blasted the ball past Halford in the Lanark goal to restore the Jags two goal lead. Thistle played out the remainder of the game quite comfortably to win what is always a difficult game.

 

Team ; Stewart Thomson, Billy Robb,Liam Mushett, Niall Reynold, Josh Payne ,Craig Forbes , Mark Canning, Brian Jack,(Ryan Innes) Matty Clarke (Mark McKeever)

Graham Gracie, Jonny McStay

Subs. not used Div Reid, Andy Brown, Declan Doyle.

On the night  all the players worked hard and there were no failures  Josh Payne put in his usual shift up and down the right flank despite it being his first outing of the season as did Craig Forbes in mid field but tonight’s man of the match goes to Graham Gracie for his two goals and an assist for Jonny McStays goal.

On now to Lesmahagow on Saturday for what will be another difficult game.