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

 

St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 1 – 25th March 2017

James McGrory Park, Glasgow
St Roch’s v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

After a run of four homes games and not having played away since early January, Thistle made the trip to Provanmill for this vital top of the league clash between the second and third placed teams.

 

The Jags had injury worries, Brian Jack had stitches round his eye and both keepers were carrying knocks and were doubtful. Captain Mark Canning was also doubtful due to work commitments but Stewart Thomson started in goal and Canning made it too, with Brian Jack on the bench.

 

A fine day and the lack of any senior games brought out a big crowd for the game with the vast majority supporting the home team, a dream day for the club treasurer with hundreds cramming the home terracing and shed behind the goal.

 

Thistle got off to a bright start moving the ball forward well but without anything happening up front, Graham Gracie was through on the keeper but flagged offside then Matty Clarke had a chance to play him in moments later but overplayed it on the left side and lost the opportunity.

 

The playing surface was in poor condition and the ball was constantly taking strange bobbles making it hard to play a passing game on the deck and the big St Roch’s defence meant high balls into the area weren’t going to come to much either.

 

 

The tone of the game changed after 11 minutes though when a mix up in the Jags defence let Maguire in to score with a shot into the top corner that left Thomson with no chance. They nearly added to the lead ten minutes later when another mix up, this time between Hugh Kelly and David Reid, gifted the ball which was swept out to the left wing and the St Roch’s man did well to create space for a shot that just came off the outside of the post with Thomson stranded.

 

 

Minutes later Niall Reynolds had to clear one that might have been heading in as St Roch’s settled in and controlled rest of the half, forcing Thistle back into defending deep for most of it. The Jags came closest when Gracie chased down what looked like a lost cause and won the ball back for Reid whose shot brought out a low diving save from Stark.

 

 

Half Time: St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 0

 

St Roch’s were out of the blocks early in the second half with a quick turn and shot that went just past the post and it looked like we might be in for more of the same, but Thistle have developed a steely edge in their unbeaten run and they weren’t going to go down without a fight.

 

Liam Mushett was involved going forward as well as in defence and he got his head onto a free kick which was partly cleared by a defender but fell back to him, his follow-up shot was well saved and fell to Clarke but he couldn’t adjust his feet in time to tap it into the empty net.

 

Thistle got their equaliser from the penalty spot ten minutes into the half after a Gracie throw-in had again only been cleared as far as Canning on the edge of the box. His shot hit a defender who was going to ground but left his arm up, the referee deciding there was enough in it for a penalty. Canning took the kick himself and beat Stark to the keeper’s right. Shortly after the goal the skipper was taken off due to what looked like an injury to his ribs he’d picked up earlier in the game and was replaced by Brian Jack.

 

 

It would have been a bold referee who awarded Larkhall a second penalty just five minutes later in front of the 700 fans who might just have thought it wasn’t – Jack hit the post and Gracie seemed to be impeded by two defenders who threw themselves down and bowled him over but in the circumstances anything short of catching the ball with both hands was never going to be given.

 

Going into the last quarter of a pulsating match, St Roch’s pressed again and went close with a free header that just cleared the bar when it should have hit the target at least, then even closer with a ball right across the face of the goal just two yards out that had no takers for an easy tap-in. Thomson was then called into action to get a vital touch on a point-blank shot after a corner had been headed back across the goal.

 

Thistle finished the game with the best chances to sneak a win, Mushett helped the ball on towards goal and Ryan Innes nipped in front of the keeper but sent his header just wide, then a St Roch’s defender mysteriously tried to dribble out from his own goal line and got caught out but the ball trundled across the face of the goal and past. In their last effort, keeper Stark and one of his defenders between them managed to hand the ball to Gracie who tried to lob it back into the empty net but didn’t get enough height on it.

 

This was Thistle – and St Roch’s – biggest league game for many a year. The league positions and crowd made it a real big match occasion and it required big players to step up and perform. The Thistle back three and keeper were outstanding other than the blip for the goal and Hugh Kelly and Canning put everything into midfield, Gracie got through a lot of work and led the line well but the real driving force behind what was a tremendous point was Ryan Innes. A magnificent fighting display in the middle of the park that set the marker that Thistle weren’t going to be intimidated by the occasion and were here to scrap and battle for everything that was going.

 

A word about St Roch’s, they have had their problems with some of their supporters recently but manager Andy Cameron and the committee pulled out all the stops to make this as safe as they could for the travelling Thistle support. In the event it all passed off peacefully and in what has to be said was a great atmosphere, and although there is an intense rivalry between the two clubs it was settled where it should be settled, on the park.

 

Full Time: St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

Website man of the match: Ryan Innes

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly; Payne, Innes, Canning (Jack 56), Reid (Nicholl 78); Clarke (McStay 68), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Doyle, D. Thomson

Scorers: Canning

Booked: Innes, Mushett, Payne, McStay

 

 

Benburb 2 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 7th January 2017

New Tinto Park, Glasgow
Benburb v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

Thistle made their first visit to the new Tinto Park hoping to keep their recent good run going after the Christmas break. The management duo of Tam McLaughin (still on holiday) and Dunky Sinclair (hospitalised with an infected toe) were both missing so the Jags turned to their own three wise men in senior players Mark McKeever, Mark Canning and Hugh Kelly to take charge for the day.

 

On the playing side, Matty Clarke was out as he is still on holiday.

 

The game started with Benburb on the attack and the early pressure paid off for them with a goal inside two minutes. The Thistle defence was caught napping as a ball was delivered to the back post on the right and the Bens player had time to bring it down and slot it past Thomson in the Jags goal.

 

 

After a shaky first fifteen minutes where the home side looked like they might add to the lead, Larkhall came back into the game and started to dominate the midfield with acting co-manager/player/skipper Mark Canning pulling most of the strings.

The referee had denied Thistle a penalty earlier and booked Graham Gracie for simulation but the Jags did get a spot kick for handball in the 30th minute which Canning put away into the bottom corner.

 

 

Graham Gracie nearly put Thistle ahead when he nipped in and intercepted a poor pass-back but his effort didn’t have enough on it to get it over the line. As the half drew to a close, it was Thistle who were well on top and looking most likely to get a lead but that almost went the other way with a slip-up from Andy Brown who sold a back-pass short and let the Benburb player in on goal, fortunately the effort was wide.

 

 

Just before the break, Gracie cut in on his left foot to hit a shot that the home keeper saved but failed to hold, the rebound fell right to Ryan Innes who slotted the ball home low into the corner.

 

Half Time: Benburb 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

The second half changed with Benburb belying their bottom-half position by coming out and attacking strongly looking for an equaliser and they nearly got one early on with a header that went just past the post. Thistle replied with a good run and shot from David Reid that the keeper got down well to save.

 

The Jags did however convert one of their chances and extended their lead after 65 minutes when Ryan Innes stuck out a foot and poked a loose ball in from six yards.

 

 

Four minutes later Innes had a golden opportunity grab a rare hat-trick when he was put clean through on goal but the keeper managed to stick out a hand and block his effort and as often happens when a team has the chance to kill the game and doesn’t take it, Benburb went straight up the park and scored.

 

It was a tremendous goal and definitely the best moment of football in the game, a long crossfield pass was swept from left to right and the Bens player did brilliantly to stretch and keep the ball in play while delivering a perfect cross all in one movement, the ball was met with a full-on header that gave Thomson absolutely no chance.

 

 

The goal gave Benburb around 25 minutes to try and get an equaliser and they did press hard to try and get one but the Thistle defence held out well. Liam Mushett came on to replace Gary McStay who once again had shown some excellent hold up play and touches.

 

Both teams did have a few chances each in the closing stages and the home team might just have nicked a point with a penalty claim that was the last incident of the game. The referee waved it away but safe to say Paul Lovering in the home dugout possibly saw it differently.

 

 

Another great win for the Jags that puts them up into second place in the league with St Roch’s having lost to Rossvale today and given the difficult circumstances with the manager and his assistant both being out it was a fantastic performance all round.

 

Full Time: Benburb 2 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Website man of the match: A hard one with everybody getting at least pass marks but no real outstanding performances, it was all about the team today and MoM goes to Ryan Innes whose goals made the difference.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Reynolds, Brown, Nicholl (Doyle); Canning, Innes, Jack (McKeever 89), Payne, Reid; Gracie, McStay (Mushett 76). Subs: D. Thomson, Rutherford

 

Scorers: Canning, Innes (2)

 

Booked: Gracie, Innes

 

Wishaw 1 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 12th November 2016

The Beltane, Wishaw
Wishaw v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

Thistle recalled Andy Brown to right back and moved Niall Reynolds to left back, Liam Mushett started at centre half. Ryan Innes was recalled to midfield and Mark McKeever started up front with Graham Gracie. Brian Jack and Matty Clarke dropped to the bench.

Wishaw made the brighter start to the game and it wasn’t till after five minutes that Thistle even got out off their own half but the early efforts didn’t result in any chances being created.

wishaw-v-larkhall-thistle-1
The Jags did come into the game as the half went on but apart from a couple of long range efforts from Mark Canning there wasn’t really much of a threat to the home goal, meanwhile Wishaw had one good chance to take the lead but ex-Thistle player Ross McGeachie squandered a free header from close range.

wishaw-v-larkhall-thistle-2
The half was saved from mediocrity though with a great goal just before half time, David Reid firing a tremendous shot on the volley that gave the home keeper no chance.

Half time: Wishaw 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

Thistle increased their lead eight minutes into the second half when McKeever did well to play the ball out of defence to Graham Gracie on the left, he switched the ball across the park to Josh Payne on the right who took a fantastic touch to control the ball and leave the first defender, he then cut inside past another and drilled the ball low into the bottom corner.

Wishaw hardly had time to recover from this blow when Ryan Innes nearly added a third goal, Reid drove a free kick across the area and Reggie stooped to glance the ball goalwards and only the face of the bar stopped it from being a goal. The ball dropped back down into the box three yards out but there were no takers and the home defence scrambled it clear.

wishaw-v-larkhall-thistle-3

Wishaw pressed looking to get back into the game and got a lifeline through a penalty award for handball by Innes. As Thomson dived to his left the ball was calmly rolled into the opposite side of the goal.

The home fightback only lasted a few minutes though as Larkhall went right back up the park and set McKeever clear, the last home defender having no option but to pull him down to save what would probably have been a goal. The referee awarded a free kick on the edge of the box and sent the defender off and to add to their misery Reid slammed the free kick low into the net through the wall.

wishaw-v-larkhall-thistle-4

The drama continued to unfold as next Ryan Innes completed an eventful return by getting a second yellow card for a mistimed tackle. This gave Wishaw fresh hope and they were on top for most of the rest of the game, bringing out two cracking saves from Thomson to preserve the lead as well as missing a few good chances – McGeachie being the culprit on more than one occasion.

Dunky Sinclair made two late substitutions, bringing on Matty Clarke and Brian Jack for Mark McKeever and Hugh Kelly, both having put in tremendous shifts.

It was a win Thistle needed to keep pace with leaders Cambuslang Rangers and St Roch’s who both also won today and keeps the Jags well in the hunt for the promotion places.

league-table-12-11-16

Full time: Wishaw 1 Larkhall Thistle 3

Website man of the match: Very difficult today with the whole defence looking solid and only spoiling the clean sheet with a soft penalty, Canning and Kelly controlling the centre of the park and Gracie and McKeever battling all day up front, but MoM this week goes to David Reid for the extra bit of quality he brought with two fine goals.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly (Jack 85), Payne, Innes, Canning, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 80), Gracie.

Scorers: Reid (2) Payne

Booked: Mushett, Kelly

Sent off: Innes

Cambuslang Rangers 4 Larkhall Thistle 1 – 5th November 2016

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.

cambuslang-v-larkhall-thistle-4
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.

cambuslang-v-larkhall-thistle-5

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.

cambuslang-v-larkhall-thistle-penalty
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-v-larkhall-thistle-6
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.

league-table-5-11-16

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack (Innes 76), Canning, Reid (McKeever 81); Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, McStay, Doyle

Scorer: Canning

Booked: Kelly

 

Greenock 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 29th October 2016

Ravenscraig Park, Greenock
Greenock v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

Andy Brown returned from honeymoon but started today’s game on the bench while Declan Doyle retained his place at right back and Scott Nicholl began his suspension, leaving a makeshift looking defence but fortunately Niall Reynolds has come into some good form and held it together well at the back.

Matty Clarke returned to partner Graham Gracie up front as Gary McStay dropped to the bench.

Thistle started with the majority  of possession on the huge playing surface but there was hardly an incident of note for the first half hour of this game, the rest of the first half was a different story though as both teams made several good chances each.

Greenock brought the game to life with a mazy run that resulted in a shot that blazed well over the bar then Thistle replied with a drive from Reid cutting in from the left that was followed by a quick move that sent Gracie clear only for him to shoot weakly straight at the home keeper.

greenock-v-thistle-1
Stuart Thomson brought off a magnificent save just before half time to keep the Jags level, a ball was swept in from the left back position and found a Greenock player in space on the edge of the six yard box. It looked like he couldn’t miss but Tommo stretched brilliantly to palm it clear.

greenock-v-thistle-2

Thistle had hardly had time to let the relief set in before they ran straight up the park and took the lead. Reid and Gracie played the ball about on the left then Div swung in a great cross that Matty Clarke rose and met and lifted over the home keeper.

Half time: Greenock 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

Greenock had been out of the game for most of the first half but the second period was a different story. They began in search of an equaliser and their early early pressure paid off. Another run down Thistle’s left resulted in a perfect ball into the six yard box that was finished well by McClure.

greenock-v-thistle-3

Thomson had to get down well twice to keep the Jags level in this shaky early period as it looked like the home side were going to build on their momentum and get a lead and it stayed that way until midway through the half. Larkhall broke and Brian Jack fed Reid on the left, he drove on and hit a good shot that the keeper saved well and that was swiftly followed by Jack himself having a go with a curling effort that the keeper kept out of the top corner.

greenock-v-thistle-4

Thistle were on top again now and had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Reid again broke down the left and as he homed in on goal unselfishly squared it for Gracie but he shot straight at the keeper from eight yards. Reid had the ball in the net minutes later with a close-range header but was ruled offside then Hugh Kelly had to react quickly to cover up for some defensive slackness as he dived in to head the ball back to Thomson and keep the Jags level.

The Jags got the winner with three minutes to go with a route one special, Thomson booted the ball long and it was flicked on by Reid into the path of Grcie who lobbed it over the advancing keeper.

greenock-v-thistle-5

Matty Clarke gave his usual tireless performance and was replaced by Liam Mushett for the last few minutes as the manager looked to solidify the defence and hold on for the win.

On balance it was a win that Thistle just deserved although Greenock did very well to come back into it after a bad start and it keeps the Jags on the tails of joint leaders Cambuslang Rangers and St Roch’s who both also won today.

There were good performances throughout the team – Niall Reynolds had another good game and helped young Doyle who recovered from a few shaky moments. Kelly gave good protection to the back three and Reid also covered well at left back when required as well as bombing forward, Canning and Jack saw plenty of the ball in midfield and Josh Payne had his moments despite never hitting the highs of last month while Gracie took his goal well.

Full time: Greenock 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

Website man of the match: Thomson pulled off some great saves and was a close contender but David Reid was outstanding and used the pitch to full advantage as he constantly stretched the home defence and set up both goals.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Canning, Reid; Clarke (Mushett 87), Gracie. Subs: Brown, McKeever, McStay

Royal Albert 1 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 22nd October 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Royal Albert v Larkhall Thistle
Scottish Cup 1st Round

Thistle went into today’s game with Andy Brown on honeymoon, Ryan Innes not having trained for two weeks due to illness and David Thomson just back from injury. On the bright side club catain Mark Canning was fit again and took his place in midfield.

Liam Mushett was replaced by Declan Doyle at right back and Matty Clarke was also rested, Gary McStay taking his place up front.

Albert started the game looking like they were determined to have a real go and might well have taken an early lead with a couple of good early moves.

However it was the Jags who got the opener and again it came from a corner on the right taken by David Reid. The ball came out to Mark Canning just outside the box and he swept it forward to Graham Gracie who let the ball run across him then was a bit lucky to get a break off an Albert defender to get the ball back, when he did there was no mistake as he rattled it high into the near corner.

royal-albert-v-larkhall-thistle-1

Albert came back again but it was Thistle who looked to have put themselves through to the next round with a second in the 26th minute. Reid picked up the ball in midfield and played it out to Josh Payne on the left. He continued his run into the box and when he got the return ball he hit it low and hard hard across the face of the goal only for the unfortunate Stobie to deflect it into his own goal.

royal-albert-v-larkhall-thistle-2

The rest of the half petered out without much in the way of incident with Thistle seeming to have done enough, even at this early stage.

Half time: Royal Albert 0 Larkhall Thistle 2

The second half continued where the first had left off with the Jags cruising and they made a substitution after an hour when McStay came off to be replaced by Matty Clarke, followed shortly after by Ryan Innes coming on for Brian Jack.

It seemed that the only thing that could get in the way of a home win was the self destruct button and it was pushed not once but twice in a mad two minute spell. Firstly Scott Nicholl got himself involved with an Albert player when it looked like he had won the foul anyway and saw a straight red, then Reggie Innes flew into a challenge that looked to be at least a booking but probably a red card was a bit harsh.

royal-albert-v-larkhall-thistle-3

With a two man advantage for Albert,  the last fifteen minutes was always going to be backs to the wall for Thistle but the nine men produced the best football of the game with a fast flowing break down the left wing that resulted in Reid setting up Gracie for an easy finish – only for the striker to fluff his lines and hit the ball staight at the keeper.

The game turned in Albert’s favour with a substitution when they brought on Barry Murdoch to give them a much needed steadiness in midfield and they pulled a goal back from one of his excellent balls into the box. Jags keeper Stuart Thomson only managed to parry his free kick right on to the head of former Thistle man Alan Campbell who nodded into the net past him.

royal-albert-v-larkhall-thistle-4

Albert nearly took the game to a replay with an almost identical move minutes later, again Thomson made a great diving save to his left and the ball dropped to an Albert player but this time the keeper got up brilliantly and showed great reflexes to touch the ball over the bar.

Thistle put the game beyond doubt a minute into injury time with a third goal, Gracie made a lung-bursting run down the left past the defence and got a shot in that keeper Smith managed to block but it fell right at the feet of Canning who tapped the ball home.

A great cup tie that had a bit of everything in it, with credit being due to Albert for taking the game all the way to the last seconds. Thistle could have been out of sight but again showed a soft side when holding a lead.

Full time: Royal Albert 1 Larkhall Thistle 3

Website man of the match: Stuart Thomson had a bit of the jitters in the early stages but recovered well to pull off a great save that kept Thistle ahead but Niall Reynolds was solid at the back and dealt with most things well so is this week’s Man of the Match.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack (Innes 65), Canning, Reid; McStay (Clarke 60 (Burns 77)), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, D.Thomson (GK), Stewart

Royal Albert:
Smith; Howson, M.Anderson, Stobie, Rinn, Hamilton; J.Anderson, Baptie, Campbell, Scott, O’Kane. Subs: Haley, Rennie, Murdoch, Clark, Brennan, Neill

Booked: Reynolds, Reid, Gracie
Sent off: Nicholl, Innes

Video highlights, sorry battery ran out so last goal is missing

Ashfield 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 15th October 2016

Peugeot Ashfield Stadium, Glasgow
Ashfield v Larkhall Thistle
West of Scotland Cup 1st Round

Thistle went in to the first of two weeks of cup ties with Mark Canning still not recovered from his warm-up injury at Johnstone Burgh, Ryan Innes also out, Liam Mushett (groin injury), David Thomson (knee injury), Craig Rutherford (calf injury) all doubtful and Andy Brown away on honeymoon.

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With Innes injured the manager looked to Paul Burns to fill the gap and the level of opposition probably suited his game a bit more, getting time on the ball before he was closed down.

As expected against their struggling lower league opponents, Thistle took control of the early part of the game but their only real attempts at goal were a header from Graham Gracie and a shot from Josh Payne past the post, niether of which really troubled the Ashfield defence. At the other end however Stuart Thomson had to get down well to block with his feet when a goal looked on the cards.

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The first half petered out with nothing much more from either side although just before half time Larkhall had a claim for a penalty when a home defender went to ground to block and the ball hit his hand, it would have been a fairly soft award though and there were no real complaints.

Half time: Ashfield 0 Larkhall Thistle 0

Thistle got off to a flyer with a goal a minute into the second half. Scott Nicholl started the move on the left and played a one-two with David Reid then played the ball forward to Gracie who got the break of the ball and chipped the stranded keeper from the edge of the box.

Brian Jack nearly repeated the feat ten minutes later when he hit the woodwork with an even more spectacular attempt at a lob after a knock down from Gracie and Matty Clarke tried yet another chip after being put clear from a ball out of defence from Nicholl but his attempt landed on the roof of the net.

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Ashfield got themselves level after 61 minutes when Thomson who had looked a bit jittery, again failed to hold a shot and the striker was left with an easy tap-in. Once again the Jags had failed to hold and build on a lead despite the vast majority of the play and most of the chances. It was nearly even worse when a close-range finish was ruled out for offside and a toe poke from six yards flew over the bar after Thomson had again spilled the ball.

Burns then inexplicably played the ball straight across the back to an Ashfield player who squared inside to his team mate but he shot wide, a real let off for the Jags and they were now under a bit of pressure for the first time in the game. It wasn’t until 15 minutes from time that Thistle threatened again, when Gracie tried to take on the whole defence when a lay-off might have been the better option.

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The game looked to be heading towards penalties when Gracie struck again for Thistle with four minutes left. Substitute Connor Stewart got the ball on the right wing and played it inside to big Graham who cut in and hit a low drive from 25 yards that sneaked low inside the post.

As with any cup tie it is all about the result and getting to the next round but Thistle will face much sterner tests than this and will need to start taking their chances if they have any hope of a run in either this cup or the Scottish.

Full time: Ashfield 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

Website man of the match: Graham Gracie took his goals well and Hugh Kelly had a fine battling performance in midfield but as well as his Maradona turn in the box and setting up the first goal, Scott Nicholl was solid in defence so he is this week’s MoM.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Burns, Reid (Stewart 70); Clarke (Rutherford 70), Gracie.

Booked: Gracie, Nicholl, Payne, Kelly

Johnstone Burgh 2 Larkhall Thistle 4 – 1st October 2016

Keanie Park, Johnstone
Johnstone Burgh v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

Thistle captain Mark Canning was withdrawn from the starting line-up after suffering an injury in the pre-match warm up, so Brian Jack returned to the team in midfield.

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The Jags took the lead after 15 minutes following a great run by Josh Payne down the right. Shots by Graham Gracie and Matty Clarke were blocked before the ball dropped to Jack four yards out for the easiest of finishes. There was a suspicion of offside and the claims from the home team went on loud and long but the referee allowed the goal to stand.

The Jags almost added to the lead shortly after when Ryan Innes stooped to bullet a close range header off the bar from a corner.

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Johnstone Burgh equalised minutes before half time with a goal that came out of the blue, completely against the run of play in a first half Larkhall had dominated. They won a corner on Thistle’s right and found an unmarked head on the edge of the box, he directed it towards goal and Burgh’s Stephen Fitzpatrick nipped in to get a second header on it and divert it past the helpless David Thomson in the Jags goal.

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Right on the half time whistle Thistle passed up another great chance to go in ahead when Gracie did well to hold the ball up and lay it off to Clarke whose shot was saved.

Half time: Johnstone Burgh 1 Larkhall Thistle 1

The Jags started the second half looking determined to get back in front and took the lead again after five minutes when Clarke did well to control and turn and fire a shot low into the corner.

The third goal came a few minutes later, Gracie picked up the ball in the wide right position and cut inside across the edge of the box, leaving several defenders trailing before back-heeling the ball into Paynes path – the youngster making no mistake with a great drive into the corner.

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Burgh to their credit didn’t take the setback lying down and came back into it, creating a couple of good chances in what was their best spell of the game.

The home side did pull a goal back in 65 minutes when Scott Nicholl deflected a cross into his own net, although he might have played it with his hand and could have been lucky to stay on if it hadn’t been a goal.

Thistle made their only substitution in 73 minutes when Mark McKeever came on for Clarke.

Five minutes from time Jack got his second goal of the game to make it 4-2 when Payne took a ball from the right that swung over the keeper and set him up for an easy finish from 10 yards.

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David Reid got a second booking for dissent in the dying minutes and spoiled what had been a good performance up till then.

The result sees the Jags go level on points at the top of the league with Cambuslang Rangers and St Roch’s.

Website Man of The Match: A good performance from Liam Mushett at right back, solid in everything he did and also from Jack and Innes in the middle of the park but this week again it goes to Josh Payne who tore the right back apart in the second half and contributed to three of the goals.

Full time: Johnstone Burgh 2 Larkhall Thistle 4

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid; Clarke (McKeever 73), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, Brown, S.Thomson (GK), Burns, Doyle

Scorers: Jack (2), Clarke, Payne

Sent off: Reid

Forth Wanderers 2 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 10th September 2016

Kingshill Park Forth,
Forth Wanderers v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Central District First Division

Stewart Thomson (wedding) and Brian Jack (holiday) both  returned to the squad after missing the game against Neilston. However Paul Burns (wedding), Liam Mushett (work commitments) and Craig Rutherford (calf injury) were all missing. David Thomson retained his place in goal with Hugh Kelly starting in midfield. Thistle started brightly and Graham Gracie opened the scoring in 13 minutes after a fine move involving Ryan Innes and David Reid. As in previous games the Jags then proceeded to dominate the game but once again failed to take the chances they created with the home keeper having an outstanding game. Forth equalised 10 minutes before the interval despite the visitors having the majority of the play.

Half Time: Forth Wanderers 1 Larkhall Thistle 1

Worse was to follow at the start of the second half when Forth took the lead inside 50 seconds after a mix up in the Thistle defence. Credit to the Thistle they immediately took the game to Forth and equalised within two minutes through a well struck shot inside the penalty box by Ryan Innes. Thistle were now in control creating  chances which again they did not convert. However they took the lead with a well struck free kick from Reid giving the keeper no chance.

The game was now getting a bit tousy and the referee quite clearly was not in control of the game with players in both teams committing fouls which should have been punished. With  two minutes remaining the referee awarded Forth a penalty which to say the least was a mystery to most people in the ground Niall Reynolds tackling a Forth player in the box with both players ending up on the ground, the ball being cleared and play continuing. The referee then stopped the game, went back to the Thistle penalty box, booked Reynolds and awarded a penalty. Young David Thomson however had a magnificent save down to his right .

Three good points when we again missed numerous chances with credit to the players for fighting back from a 2-1 deficit.

On a day when everyone played their part the man of the match award goes to Graham Gracie for his outstanding work rate and involvement in the goals.

Full Time: Forth Wanderers 2 Larkhall Thistle 3

Larkhall Thistle:
D.Thomson  Reynolds, Brown, Nicholl; Payne, Kelly, Innes, Canning, Reid, Clarke, Gracie.

Subs. McKeever, Doyle, Jack, McStay, S. Thomson first game for a while when no substitutions were made.