Troon 5 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 7th October 2017

Portland Park, Troon
Troon v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division

 

Thistle made their way to Ayrshire for the second time this season on the back of a good win at Shettleston last week. In contrast to the Jags, Troon had made a very good start to their league campaign with three wins and a draw from their five games. Scott Nicholl was unavailable due to work and Josh Payne was out injured with Craig Forbes replacing him. The team was otherwise unchanged from last week.

 

Troon started the game well and took the lead within five minutes with a well worked one-two, Scott McLean applying the finish with a low shot into the bottom corner. Troon were the better team in the opening stages and with Thistle not creating a great deal in the attacking third, it looked more likely that Troon would add to lead than the Jags would score.

 

However the Jags did start to turn the game around as the half went on and so it was a bit of a blow when Troon doubled the lead just before the half hour mark. Again it was Troon’s best player on the day McLean who did the damage with a tremendous effort from wide left that he whipped high over Duncan’s head and into the far corner of the net.

 

It was nearly first half disaster for Thistle as they survived two further close shaves just minutes later; first McLean nearly completed his hat-trick but was foiled by Duncan then from the corner Duncan pulled out a worldie from a point blank header.

 

With the customary two goal deficit in place, Larkhall were now able to get started and they set about in earnest trying to get back into the game and indeed they did give themselves a lifeline, pulling a goal back in the 36th minute. Ryan Innes won the ball in the middle of the park and slipped it to David Reid. Div then played an inch perfect ball through the centre of defence into Graham Gracie’s path and he took the ball in his stride and flicked it in off the post.

 

Thistle were nearly level before the interval when Gracie sprung forward to beat the offside trap and found himself in the clear with just the keeper to beat. A square ball would have given Johnny McStay an easy tap-in but he elected to take on the shot himself and Troon keeper McGowan pulled off a great save to preserve the home team’s lead.

 

Half time: Troon 2 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

The second half started with Thistle still on top and pressing for an equaliser and it came within ten minutes of the restart. After a spell of pressure Forbes took a corner on the right and it fell to Jags captain Mark Canning who kept up his impressive recent scoring run with a low drive from the edge of the box.

 

It was game on now and either team looked like they could go on and win it. For Thistle, Reid produced a great run and was about to shoot when he was tackled just outside the box and from that Troon broke forward. The ball went out for a Thistle throw but they lost possession and it fell to Troon’s Chatham who shaped to shoot then cut the ball back for a tap-in for McLean to make it 3-2.

 

The goal left the Jags with 14 minutes to try and get level and although the effort was there, there was a feeling that a change up front might have given the team a lift. Matty Clarke, Mark McKeever and Gary McStay were all available to try and help out Gracie.

 

Two penalty awards to Troon in the last two minutes gave the score a completely false look as there were never three goals between the teams in terms of possession, efforts on goal or ability. The first was a poor one to concede with a needless soft foul at the corner of the box and the second for a lunging tackle around the penalty spot but no real complaints about either of them as they were both technically fouls.

 

Duncan did well to get down and save the first spot kick but McCrea was first to react and he tucked away the rebound. McLean made no mistake with the second, scoring with a cheeky wee dink.

 

Very unlucky to lose by such a margin today but 13 goals conceded in the last three games gives plenty for the coaching staff to work on. So far Thistle have held their own against most teams in this league but badly need to start turning their good play and goals into wins.

 

Full time: Troon 5 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Duncan; Brown, Mushett (Robb 25), Reynolds; Canning; Forbes, Innes, Jack, Reid; J McStay, Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Doyle, Kelly, Clarke, Thomson (GK)

 

Troon:
McGowan, McCreadie, Clark, Keenan, Collins, Chatham, Paterson, McCrea, Forsyth, Murphy, McLean

 

Scorers: Gracie, Canning

 

Booked: Robb, Reynolds

 

MoM: David Reid had a very good first half but faded a bit in the second so MoM this week is Johnny Duncan who made several top-drawer saves including the penalty and has improved every week since he came into the team.

 

Shettleston 3 Larkhall Thistle 5 – 30th September 2017

Greenfield Park, Glasgow
Shettleston v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division

 

After a day off last Saturday due to a Scotish Cup bye, Thistle looked to bounce back from the sickening last minute loss to Glencairn with a win at Shettleston. The Jags had lost 3-1 at Greenfild Park on their last visit, on the first day of Shettleston’s promotion season 2013 – 2014.

 

Thistle were without Scott Nicholl who was working and Matty Clarke who was ill, Stuart Thomson and Gary McStay were still struggling with injury and were also both out.

 

Following a decent opening spell, the Jags once again fell behind to an early goal. Shettleston won a corner on the right, it was cleared only to Shettleston’s full back on the touch line. The ball was swung back into the middle and Town’s Crumlish had time and space to get a header in unchallenged, leaving Thistle keeper Johnny Duncan helpless.

 

 

The early goal was something that Larkhall have become used to dealing with and it didn’t knock them out of their stride too much, although in all honesty they spent the rest of the first half huffing and puffing and not really creating a chance worth talking about. The closest the Jags came was when Graham Gracie gave a glimpse of what was to follow with a great run along the bye line and a cross that the home keeper came out and took clean out, along with Jags midfielder Ryan Innes.

 

Worse was to follow just on half time when Shettleston broke away and left the Jags defence posted missing, a two on one with keeper Duncan producing the inevitable outcome of a square ball and tap in for McInosh into the empty net.

 

Half time: Shettleston 2 Larkhall Thistle 0

 

Larkhall’s first real attempt on target came just after the break when Mark Canning floated a free kick into the box and Liam Mushett’s header brought out a fine save from the home keeper. Mushett was involved again minutes later but this time it led to a goal, the big man got his head to a corner, Innes won the knock-down and smashed the ball low into the net to get Thistle back into the game.

 

 

Although Thistle were by now on top of the game and looked favourites to get level, Shettleston can point to a second booking for excessive backchat to the referee just after the goal as a turning point. Manager Dunky Sinclair made what turned out to be a very significant substitution in the 67th minute when he replaced the struggling Josh Payne with Craig Forbes and he made an instant impact on the game asThistle drew level a minute later with a goal of real quality, Forbes started the move, playing the ball to Mark Canning and making a run down he right wing. Canning played a pass up the line and Forbes headed the ball into Gracie’s path, the big striker cut across the 18 yard line leaving a trail of defenders in his wake before firing a left foot shot into the corner.

 

The Jags had their tails up now and looked the more likely team to win the game and it only took another five minutes for them to go ahead for the first time in the game. Gracie got on the end of a ball into the box and tried to dink it over the keeper but he managed to get a hand to it only for big Graham to react quickest and slide the ball into the net.

 

Thistle were flying now and the home defence looked to have collapsed under the pressure. David Reid nearly added to the tally when his cross/shot drifted just past the post but Gracie went one better from the same position when he landed his cross plum onto Brian Jack’s head for the easiest goal he’ll score all season.

 

 

Shettleston pulled a goal back six minutes from the end with a very well placed free kick by Johnston but they looked a beaten team and unlikely to cause any more damage and it was Thistle who had the final say, rounding off the scoring with a goal on the beak as Graham Gracie completed his hat-trick with a run down the left and a deadly finish hit across the keeper.

 

Another spirited comeback from the Jags against admittedly limited opposition. Goal scoring doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem and it would seem that their fate in this division will depend on whether they can shore up the defence.

 

Full time: Shettleston 3 Larkhall Thistle 5

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Duncan; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Canning; Payne (Forbes 67), Innes, Jack, Reid; J McStay (McKeever 87), Gracie. Subs: Robb, Doyle, Kelly

 

Scorers: Innes, Gracie (3), Jack

 

Booked: Canning

 

MoM: Has to be Graham Gracie, scored three and could have had a couple more but great efforts from Ryan Innes and Johnny Duncan.

 

*** Video up tomorrow

 

Larkhall Thistle 4 Rutherglen Glencairn 5 – 16th September 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Rutherglen Glencairn
McBookie.com Super First Division

 

Thistle went into the fourth home league game in a row having picked up just one win so far and whilst it is too early to be talking about must-win games, Glencairn were in a similar position near the foot of the table and a win for either team would have given them a big lift.

 

The manager made two changes from last week’s starting line-up with Graham Gracie and Billy Robb replacing Josh Payne and Liam Mushett. Mark McKeever switched from striker to a wide role in place of Payne with Gracie taking up position up front. The absence of Payne and David Reid made a big difference to the game for the Jags as they lacked any real pace down the wings and were missing crosses into the middle for the two big strikers.

 

After the early exchanges where both sides had a couple of half chances, Thistle took the lead in the 18th minute from the penalty spot. Criag Forbes went into what looked to be a 50-50 challenge with a Glencairn defender but was judged to have been fouled, Mark Canning sent the keeper the wrong way for his first goal of the day.

 

 

The Glens players and especially the highly excitable coaching staff were aggrieved by the decision to say the least and were probably spurred on by their sense of injustice to level the game a minute later from a quick breakaway down the left wing, a cross to the back post and a great volley from McNab that Duncan got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.

 

Undaunted by the setback, Thistle set about regaining the lead and got it from a great strike by Canning. Johnny McStay laid the ball back to him just outside the box and he swept it first time high into the net. It looked like Larkhall were going to see out the half and go into the interval ahead but right on the stroke of half-time Gormley was put through and finished well for the equaliser.

 

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Rutherglen Glencairn 2

 

Thistle took the lead for the third time sixteen minutes into the second half when Scott Nicholl picked up the ball from Gracie and instead of playing the one-two, swung it into the box right onto Canning in the centre-forward position. The skipper took one touch to control it with his right foot and another to slot it past the helpless keeper to complete his hat-trick. Again though the lead wasn’t to last long, a cross from the left wing position looked like it might be dropping into the top corner of the goal but Rutherglen’s McNab followed it in for a close range header that gave Duncan no chance.

 

The Jags scored what looked like it might be the winner in the 73rd minute. Craig Forbes picked up the ball in the middle of the park and played it wide out to Matty Clarke on the left wing. He took the ball for a run and played it across the six yard area, it was missed by everybody and landed perfectly for Johnny McStay at the back post who had an easy tap-in.

 

 

Incredibly however the lead lasted only four minutes this time, Innes went for a 50-50 ball just inside the box but for once was beaten to the ball, it dropped for Gormley who hit a fine shot low into the opposite bottom corner.

 

A couple of minutes from time Ryan Innes, aleady on a booking, lunged into a needless tackle in the opposition box and got his second yellow, worryingly for the second time in three weeks.

 

Larkhall’s attempt to see out the remaining few minutes came undone with the very last kick of the match. The old problem of a striker trying to defend caught them out with Johnny McStay wanting far too much time in the box instead of clearing the ball, the Glens striker dispossessed him and as McStay tried to recover the ball he caught him and gave away the penalty.

 

McKay converted from the spot and the referee didn’t even restart the game.

 

If there are positives to be taken from the day’s events, the other teams at the bottom didn’t gain much ground with none of them winning but on performances so far it looks likely that Thistle will be fighting their battles at the wrong end of the table this season.

 

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 4 Rutherglen Glencairn 5

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Duncan; Brown, Robb, Nicholl; Canning; Forbes, Innes, McKeever (Reid 70), Clarke; J McStay, Gracie. Subs: Jack, Doyle, Mushett, Thomson (GK)

 

Rutherglen Glencairn:
Baker, McGregor, Neil, Donaldson, Leyden, McGuire, McNab, Hamilton, Gormley, McArdle, McKay.

 

Scorers: Canning (3), McStay

 

Booked: Brown, Nicholl, Canning, McStay, Gracie

 

Sent off: Innes

 

MoM: Mark Canning would have been a strong contender anyway without his three goals with a good all-round performance.

 

*** Video up tomorrow sometime

 

 

 

Larkhall Thistle 3 Kilsyth Rangers 2 – 2nd September 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Kilsyth Rangers
McBookie.com Super First Division

 

The second half of the Rangers double-header was switched to Gasworks Park with the Kilsyth changing rooms being out of action.

 

 

Management team Dunky Sinclair and Tam McLaughlin were back in charge after last week’s absence due to a wedding, also returning was Liam Mushett who was one of six changes from last week’s starting line-up. Out went keeper Stewart Thomson and Graham Gracie with injuries, Niall Reynolds, Brian Jack, Billy Robb and David Reid. Taking their place were new keeper Johnny Duncan, Matty Clarke, Scott Nicholl, Mark Canning and Mark McKeever.

 

Kilsyth hadn’t got off to the best of starts either with just a single point so far after a last minute pre-season change in manager and the loss of players, both teams were in need of a result to get their campaigns started.

 

Like the previous two games however, Thistle got off to a bad start with the loss of a goal after just seven minutes. Again the frailties at set pieces were exposed as a corner from the right was headed across the goal into the far corner. The goal didn’t upset the rythm too much though and the Jags players looked determined to try and get the goal back as quickly as possible.

 

 

Ryan Innes had a couple of very good chances with close range headers but put them both straight into the keeper’s arms in a game that he will probably want to forget. He found himself in forward positions more often than usual and as well as the two chances, took a sore one in the face from the Kilsyth goalkeeper, needing to go off for treatment. He also picked up a first half booking for being the third Thistle played to try and bring down Kilsyth’s Davidson as he charged forward, slightly unlucky but he couldn’t have any real arguments about it.

 

Kilsyth added to their lead in the 14th minute as the Jags kept up their 100% record of going two down in league matches. This time it was a long ball forward that Smith was first to reach and he slid it past the advancing Duncan.

 

If Thistle’s last two league games have taught them anything though, it’s how to deal with the loss of two early goals and for most of the rest of the game they were the better team. It looked like a goal would put them right back in with a chance and it came just before the half hour mark. A long ball from the right into the box was missed by two Kilsyth defenders who both seemed to mis-time their jumps and it fell to Mark McKeever who did well to get a good cross in for Johnny McStay to head home.

 

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Kilsyth Rangers 2

 

It only took Larkhall two minutes of the second half to get level and again it was Johnny McStay who got the goal. The big striker was persistent in the box in what looked like a lost cause and got the break of the ball with it falling kindly to him to fire it across the keeper into the net.

 

The dust had hardly settled when McStay was in action again, going clear just outside the box where he was fouled by the Kilsyth defender in a last ditch effort to save his team conceding again. The defender was sent off for the challenge although Nicholl couldn’t take advantage from a good position and sent his free kick wide.

 

 

It was game on now and Thistle looked like the team who was most likely to get the winner, although Kilsyth did have their moments and were still dangerous looking on the break at times. The one man advantage only lasted for fifteen minutes however as Innes rounded off his day by getting involved in a scuffle and picking up a second yellow along with his opponent who was also booked in the incident.

 

Home hearts were in their mouths midway through the half when Kilsyth broke and a ferocious shot from the impressive McFadden spun off Anndy Brown’s boot and looped up into the air, it looked like it might drop into the top corner of the net but scraped the bar as it went over.

 

The pressure was mostly in the other direction though and the Jags got the goal they deserved with twenty minutes left. Henderson in the Kilsyth goal dropped a clanger as he went out for a high ball and failed to claim it, McStay was on hand like all good strikers and stuck the ball away for his hat-trick.

 

He nearly had his fourth just minutes later with a great snap shot that flew a yard wide but three was enough on the day to give Thistle their first win of the season.

 

A cracking game, especially if you were on the home side, played for the most part in good spirits. Kilsyth played some good football in the first half and Thistle again showed their battling qualities to come away with all three points.

 

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Kilsyth Rangers 2

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Duncan; Brown, Mushett, Nicholl; Canning (Jack 78); Payne, Forbes, Innes, McKeever, J McStay, Clarke (G McStay 80). Subs: Reynolds, Doyle

 

Kilsyth Rangers:
Henderson; Waters, Denholm, Falconer, Harrison, Kelly, McFadden, Smith, Farrell, Davison, Wright. Subs: Kane (GK), Reid, McLaughlin, Dolan, Janik

 

Scorers: J McStay (3)

 

Booked: Mushett, Nicholl

 

Sent off: Innes

 

MoM: Unlucky on Scott Nicholl again who had a really good game but three goals = MoM, rules are rules.

 

Sorry about the video this week, only got the first half before the camera packed in.