Somervell Park, Cambuslang Rangers
Cambuslang Rangers v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division
With Thistle starting the game three points behind league leaders Cambuslang, this was the biggest league game the Jags had played for a number of years. Manager Dunky Sinclair decided to once again go without the club’s best defender and outstanding player for the last two seasons in Andy Brown, but instead leave a back three that was missing suspended Scott Nicholl and bring in Liam Mushett in place of last week’s starter Declan Doyle at right back.
It proved to be a gamble that backfired in a big way and although Niall Reynolds did well to try and cover the whole defensive area at times, the lack of pace and mobility in the full back areas cost the team dearly in the end.
After an even opening spell where there weren’t any real chances created, Cambuslang gradually took over the game and after about twenty minutes they were dominating and continued to do so for the rest of the match.
Stuart Thomson in the Thistle goal had to look sharp to get down and make a good double block as the home team turned the screw looking for the opener and they were really unlucky minutes later when Tommo did well to get anything on a rasping long range effort from their left back but could only parry it onto the head of an inrushing striker who managed to head it over the bar from point blank range.
Thistle having not produced much at all in an attacking sense managed to get to half time with their goal intact through a combination of some last gasp defending and sheer luck and the home side could have counted themselves very unlucky to go in at the break still level.
Half time: Cambuslang Rangers 0 Larkhall Thistle 0
The second half started much where the first had finished with Cambuslang on top and Thistle reduced to occasional breakaways, so it was a major surprise when the Jags took the lead. But even the goal owed more to good fortune than it did good play as they were awarded a hotly contested penalty for what seemed to be a nothing incident on the edge of the box. After the ‘Lang protests had died down, Mark Canning stepped up to slot the ball confidently past the home keeper.
That was about the end of the good news for Thistle as the rest of the day went from bad to worse.
The only real surprise was that Cambuslang had to wait till the 73rd minute to get their equaliser, a cross from the right wing was met with a great glancing header that took it away from Thomson into the top corner and gave the Jags keeper no chance.
Ryan Innes could also have counted himself unlucky to be left out given his recent fine form but he came on to replace Brian Jack just after the goal in an attempt to inject some energy and steel in the midfield.
Thistle were now under constant pressure and had another major break minutes later when the home centre forward fired a point blank header straight at Thomson, but it only postponed what was looking to be the inevitable and indeed the goal did come when the Thistle defence could not clear the ball out of their box and their No 20 latched on to it and crashed it into the roof of the net.
David Reid was having a bit of a fruitless afternoon on the left side and was replaced just after the goal by Mark McKeever, getting a rare appearance this season.
Cambuslang were in no mood to rest on their laurels and kept the pressure up, winning a corner on the left which was put into their own net by the Thistle defence in a goal-line tangle. The rout was complete four minutes into added time when another cross from the Thistle left back position was tapped in from close range by the home No 9, who made an unneccessary giruy gesture to the Thistle defence and should really have been booked for his stupidity.
It was a game that showed Thistle have a way to go before they can realistically challenge for the league and once again showed that they have a decent best starting eleven but are lacking in depth, especially in defence.
Full time: Cambuslang Rangers 4 Larkhall Thistle 1
Website man of the match: Hugh Kelly battled away in midfield and although he played a few stray passes he’s the pick this week.
S. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack (Innes 76), Canning, Reid (McKeever 81); Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, McStay, Doyle