Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Vale of Clyde
Central League First Division
Thistle went into today’s game looking to maintain their good recent record that has seen them put themselves into a realistic title challenging position. With Cambslang Rangers losing again today, it now looks like a genuine three-way title race with St Roch’s only a point behind in second and Thistle six points behind with four games in hand.
Manager Dunky Sinclair rested Mark McKeever and replaced him with Matty Clarke in a front pairing with Graham Gracie in the only change from last week’s win.
The Jags got off to the best possible start with a goal after just three minutes, Graham Gracie following up to pounce on the rebound when a shot from Clarke hit the post after good work from Josh Payne on the right.
Thistle extended their lead in the thirteenth minute after a defensive mix up saw the ball fall into the path of Matty Clarke who lobbed it back into the empty net.
Brian Jack had to go off with a head knock midway through the half but it looked to be more of a precaution than a forced move, he was replaced by Hugh Kelly.
At 2-0 up the game should have been all but done but to their credit Vale rolled up their sleeves and battled back into the game, which settled into a dour physical midfield tussle.
Thistle were having most luck when they got the ball out wide to Reid and Payne but despite good work from both there wasn’t much of an end product and the score stayed the same till the half time break.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Vale of Clyde 0
The second half was more of the same until Thistle got the breakthrough twenty minutes in, Nicholl and Gracie exchanged passes on the left before the striker whipped in a low cross that struck a Vale of Clyde defender three yards out and left the keeper with no chance.
The third goal effectively killed off any hopes of a revival from the visitors and for the remainder of the game it looked like a case of how many Thistle would get. As has happened on several occasions this season though, a few good chances went unconverted especially in light of Vale having to play the game with an outfield player in goals. This season especially given how tight the top of the league is, let’s just hope that the missed chances don’t come back to haunt them.
The Jags did go further ahead six minutes from time with a move that was started from a long pass out wide from substitute Scott Nicholl, the other substitute Gary McStay received the ball and put in a great pass across the six yard box for Gracie who rolled in past the helpless keeper.
Thistle rounded off the scoring with a goal from Gracie to complete his hat-trick with what turned out to be the last kick of the game.
A good win and a few goals to boost the goal difference, but the Thistle management will be just as pleased with the rare clean sheet.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 5 Vale of Clyde 0
Scorers: Gracie 3, Clarke, o.g.
Website Man of the Match: Great to see Graham Gracie looking more like his old self and showing that he still has the ability to be the best striker in the league with a hat trick and the assist for the o.g.
D.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl 54); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack (Kelly 24), Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Doyle, McKeever, S.Thomson (GK)