Larkhall Thistle 5 Bellshill Athletic 1 – 3rd December 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Bellshill Athletic
Central League First Division

The Thistle players limbered up for their big night out in Newcastle with a routine win against a frankly poor Bellshill side.

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There was almost a full squad to pick from with only regular keeper Stuart Thomson out (holiday). Scott Niicholl was available again after suspension but Liam Mushett kept his place in the back three in what was Larkhall’s first home league game since Lesmahagow in early October.

The visitors got off to a lead against the early run of play with a swirling hit that dropped in over keeper David Thomson but that was almost the entire sum of their threat on the day.

The Jags for their part made heavy weather of the first half and although they bombarded the Bellshill with chance after chance, couldn’t manage to get the breakthrough that their play deserved as Bellshill clung gamely to their lead.

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The game turned around five minutes before half time when Josh Payne scored directly from a corner with an effort that keeper Grant must have been disappointed with. Thistle managed to take a lead into the break with a second goal just before the whistle when Gracie latched on to a loose ball in a goalmouth scramble and slammed it into the roof of the net.

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It was no more than Thistle deserved and there couldn’t have been too many complaints if the score had been four or five.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Bellshill Athletic 1

The second half was a bit better for Bellshill in terms of pressure and possession, but unfortunately for them worse in terms of goals. They looked to have come out as if they were on a mission but Larkhall increased the lead seven minutes into the half following a good team move when David Reid got on the end of a Mark Canning cross and planted a great header into the bottom corner.

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Although the Jags were two goals up, memories of recent home defeats to ‘Gow and Fauldhouse from winning positions made the lead less comfortable and the pressure was added to by Bellshill having the bulk of the rest of the second half play.

Indeed it wasn’t until seven minutes from the end that Thistle put the game out of sight when they went further ahead from the penalty spot, following another sweeping move down the left side. Mark Canning stepped up and sent Grant the wrong way to make sure of the points.

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Substitute Matty Clarke put the icing on the cake with a tap-in two minutes from time from a cross by Ryan Innes.

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Another good result that keeps the chase for promotion on track although the team never really hit the heights they are capable of. And Although the scoreline didn’t flatter Thistle at all, it was probably as much down to the level of opposition who will surely struggle to stay in the league at this rate.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 5 Bellshill Athletic 1

Website man of the match: As picked by recovering Thistle stalwart Hugh Kerr – Josh Payne

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly (Jack 63), Payne, Innes, Canning, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 78), Gracie (McStay). Subs: Nicholl, Burns

Bellshill Athletic:
Grant; McDonald, Jeffrey, Jushkowiak, Simon; Smith, Howarth, McCormack, Brunton, Nichol, Simpson

Scorers: Payne, Gracie, Reid, Canning, Clarke

Booked: Reynolds, Kelly

Video of the highlights below, unfortunately due to (cough…) technical reasons, the Bellshill goal is missing (and also Levi’s prediction that Thistle would go on and win).

Royal Albert 0 Larkhall Thistle 5 – 20th August 2016

After Monday night’s shock defeat at Forth, Thistle needed to win today and if Lesmahagow also won, the Jags had to win by 4 goals more than them.

Thistle raced into an early three goal lead and looked as if they could have won by any margin they wanted to. The scoring began in the fifth minute when David Reid powered down the left wing and crossed for Ryan Innes to slide the ball in.

Five minutes later Reid repeated the run down the left but this time he went all the way himself and rolled the ball over the line. Innes then added another three minutes later after good work from Josh Payne.

Thistle had virtually all of the ball in the first half and the only real surprise was that they only managed to add one more goal. Reid again was involved, he took a corner on the right and the ball was cleared out to Gary McStay who drilled a low shot from edge of the box.

Half time: Royal Albert 0 Larkhall Thistle 4

Albert came out for the second half with a different  attitude altogether and took the game to Thistle and made much more of a game of it. They had a couple of chances in the early part of the half especially but Jags keeper Thomson wasn’t to be beaten.

Matty Clarke replaced McStay after an hour and Paul Burns came on for Canning with 12 minutes left as the Jags chased the goals they knew they needed.

The final fifteen minutes was one-way traffic towards the Albert goal as Thistle created chance after chance, Graham Gracie himself could easily have scored five but for an outstanding display from the Albert keeper.

Gracie did score the final goal minutes before full time but as it turned out it wasn’t enough to get them through. Both Thistle and Lesmahagow finished with the same points and goal difference but the Gow went through by virtue of scoring one more goal.

Full time: Royal Albert 0 Larkhall Thistle 5

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Payne, Canning (Burns 78), Innes, Jack, Reid; McStay (Clarke 60), Gracie. Subs:  Doyle, Rutherford, Stewart

Scorers: Innes (2), Payne, McStay, Gracie

Booked: Canning, Gracie

Forth Wanderers 1 Larkhall Thistle 0 – 15th August 2016

This game was due to be played on Monday 22nd but was brought forward by a week. Unfortunately though the only ones who knew about the fixture change were the members of the Thistle committee so there is no report on the game.

The only information available is that Matty Clarke missed a penalty.

Full time: Forth Wanderers 1 Larkhall Thistle 0

Larkhall Thistle 2 Lesmahagow 1 – 13th August 2016

Lesmahagow came to Gasworks Park in what looked like it was probably going to be the showdown match in Section 1 but unfortunately Hugh Kelly was injured and Tam McLaughlin decided to use Paul Burns as an emergency replacement in front of the back three, a position he struggled to come to terms with. With Graham Gacie on holiday, Ryan Innes suspended and first choice keeper Stuart Thomson out it was a far from full-strength team that took to the park.

The Gow took an early lead from a corner, their centre half scoring with a header but Thistle equalised in 9 minutes when Brian Jack finished at the back post from a pass from Matty Clarke after a good move.

The Jags had the upper hand after the goal and Mark Canning was unlucky not to score with a chip from 30 yards before Clarke was through on the keeper and ballooned his shot over the bar.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Lesmahagow 1

Trialist Craig Rutherford had a good first half but was replaced at half time by Gary McStay who came on and showed a lot of good touches and held the ball up well.

Thistle took the lead early in the second half when Josh Payne latched on to a through ball and slotted it into the corner after another good move. Minutes later the same player should have scored again but rattled the ball against the bar when it looked easier to roll it in.

As would have been expected in a keenly contested derby, Lesmahagow didn’t take the situation lying down and fought hard for an equaliser. Johnny McStay came on as a second half substitute for Gow but failed to take any of the several good chances that fell his way and Thistle defended solidly to preserve their narrow advantage until the end.

Gow’s McStay also provided a moment of real entertainment that he might want to forget with possibly the most theatrical dive ever seen at Gasworks – complete with loud wailing – the effect of which was to send both sets of fans into fits of laughter and the referee reaching for his yellow card.

With full points from their opening two games against what were at least on paper their toughest looking opponents, Thistle now look firm favourites to progress to the knock-out stages of the cup.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Lesmahagow 1

Scorers: Jack, Payne

Booked: Brown

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Burns, Canning, Jack, McKeever (Doyle 75), Payne, Clarke, Rutherford (McStay 45). Subs Stewart

Larkhall Thistle 3 Lanark United 1 – 10th August 2016

The new season got underway at the second time of asking after Saturday’s bizarre postponement and the game got off to exactly the start Thistle would have wanted when they took the lead in the second minute.

Scott Nicholl swung a ball from left back over to Graham Gracie on the right wing, he went past his man and crossed for Matty Clarke to head in at the back post.

The lead was short-lived however as Lanark drew level when Jags keeper Thomson fumbled an attempted catch and Maxwell passed the ball into the empty net.

Lanark looked the sharper of the two teams and were unlucky not to take the lead on a couple of occasions in a first half that they largely dominated. Thistle on the other hand found it hard to get going and didn’t create much in terms of clear chances.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Lanark United 1

The Jags almost replicated their start to the first half when Clarke sent Gracie clear in the first move of the half but he choked his effort and shot wide past the post.

Thistle took the lead again 13 minutes into the half with the kind of football that had been totally lacking in the first. Gracie took the ball just inside the opposition half and played in Clarke on the left, he held it up and picked out Mark McKeever’s overlapping run which ended with a cross to the back post that Mark Canning met on the run and slotted in.

Lanark should have equalised with a similar chance shortly after but Gallagher forgot to have the shot and missed the ball altogether. Matty Clarke then produced a moment of quality when he took the ball past a couple of defenders just outside the box and curled a dipping shot that came back off the bar.

Acting manager Tam McLaughlin made a double substitution with 20 minutes to go, Clarke and Stewart replaced by Doyle and Rutherford and five minutes later he made the final change when Paul Burns replaced Hugh Kelly.

Lanark pressed hard in the last 15 minutes for an equaliser but some good defending and good luck kept them out. It was Thistle who tied the game up with a third goal five minutes from the end, Gracie knocked the ball down into the path of Rutherford and he set up Brian Jack who found the bottom corner with a low drive.

A good second half performance by the Jags who took their chances where the visitors failed to capitalise on theirs.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lanark United 1

Scorers: Clarke, Canning, Jack

Booked: Canning

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly (Burns 75), Stewart (Doyle 70), Canning, Jack McKeever, Gracie, Clarke (Rutherford 70). Subs Thomson (GK), Payne

Lanark United:
Brown; Christie, Murphy, Lawson, Collins, Imrie, Maxwell, McCrum, Gallgher, Duggan, McGurk. Subs: O’Connell, Kearney, Brown