Recreation Park, Darvel
Darvel v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division
Thistle made their way to Ayrshire for their first game in the Super League for eight years, after their previous brief visit to the First Division on the way down the leagues. Darvel is a familiar ground in recent years with the Jags playing there in pre-season friendlies and they have just been promoted from the regional division like Thistle. Darvel won the Ayrshire District League last season and were given a round of applause by the Thistle players as they unfurled the league champions flag before the game.
After a bitterly disappointing exit from the Sectional League Cup in midweek, the Jags were looking to get off to a flyer with a game that should have been one in the winnable category. The Thistle squad had been bolstered with some good pre-season signings and the three main ones started the game today, Jonny McStay, Craig Forbes and Billy Robb.
Darvel started the game well and were on the attack early on. There were worrying early signs of what was to come when it got to the five minute point before Thistle even managed out of their own half and the first half was a dour, scrappy affair played in a strong wind that Thistle were shooting into. The game descended almost into farce as rain of biblical proportions battered down halfway through and as the players skidded and slipped around on the wet surface there was little football played at all.
Darvel did hit the bar midway through and had an attempt ruled out for offside, while Thistle’s best effort was a good hit from Graham Gracie that brought out a diving save from the home keeper.
Darvel could have taken the lead just before the break when the came close with a triple effort, the first shot coming off the bar then the rebound bringing out the save of the match from Thomson as he flung himself to his left to keep out a viscious drive, the rebound was fired in once more but flew across the face of the goal and wide.
Half time: Darvel 0 Larkhall Thistle 0
The second half started with a break in the weather that let the players actually play a bit of football but unfortunately for the Jags it was mostly coming from the home team. Darvel took the lead in the 6th minute of the second half when the referee ignored what looked like a blatant free kick to Larkhall, the ball then played across the box to Henderson who gave Jags keeper Thomson no chance with a well placed drive into the top corner.
Three minutes later it went from bad to worse as the lead was doubled when Armour was put clean through and hit a low shot that went under Thomson.
It took until they were two goals behind for Thistle to react and get themselves back into the game and in fairness they battled well and produced their best spell of the game. They could have had a goal back midway through the half when the Darvel defence failed to clear their lines and the ball bobbled about in the box but the Jags just couldn’t get a shot through the crowd.
Darvel should have scored again when the centre was put clean though and just had to pick his spot, unfortunately for him the spot he picked was a yard wide of the goal but they did put a seal on proceedings when they wrapped up the game with a third goal ten minutes from time. A cross in from the right wasn’t defended properly, Davidson found himself in acres of space and rolled the ball into the corner.
Thistle pulled back a consolation goal with a minute of normal time left with what was a very good, if ultimately meaningless goal. Thomson kicked long and the defender’s clearance only went as far as Forbes on the right wing, he charged forward and played the ball into the six yard area where McStay ran onto it and took it in his stride to slot it in at the near post.
A rude awakening for Thistle as they were handed a stark introduction as to what they can expect from life in the Super League. There are no easy games ahead of them and any points won in this division will be hard fought.
Full time: Darvel 3 Larkhall Thistle 1
Larkhall Thistle: Thomson; Robb, Reynolds, Nicholl; Jack; Payne, Forbes, Innes, Reid; J McStay, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Clarke, Mushett, Duncan (GK)
Scorers: J McStay
Booked: Nicholl, Gracie
MoM: Not much to work with today, Scott Nicholl did well apart from one or two rash moments but Josh Payne was always lively and willing and gets MoM this week.
Video highlights below: