Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1 – 18th February 2017

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

After last week’s disappointing exit out of the West of Scotland Cup, Thistle looked to bounce back and keep their league challenge on track.

As they have done for most of the season, the Jags controlled most of the early part of the game and created a couple of good chances, two David Reid crosses in quick succession from the left almost produced goals – firstly from a Johnstone Burgh player who was lucky to deflect the ball off the post and not into the goal, then from a Hugh Kelly header from point-blank range that keeper Kelly did brilliantly to save.

What should have been the turning point of the game came midway through the half when Brian Jack lunged into a tackle from behind after having just been booked, he was duly sent packing and Thistle had 70+ minutes to try and see out with ten men.

Larkhall were forced into a change shortly after when Gary McStay hobbled off to be replaced by Hugh Kelly, a change that might have been going to take place anyway to cope with the man disadvantage.

Burgh couldn’t take advantage of the extra man though and although there were good chances at both ends, somehow the teams got to half time goalless.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Johnstone Burgh 0

Johnstone were first to show in the second half and they scored within three minutes of the restart with a goal that the Jags players must have been very disappointed to lose. Mark McKeever couldn’t prevent winger Fitzpatrick from getting his cross in after some fancy footwork on the left and it was met with a free header in the middle that keeper Thomson got a hand to but probably would have felt he should have kept out.

The fact that Thistle were a man down didn’t seem to have any effect at all on the game and they kept up the onslaught on the Burgh goal all the way through the second half. The pressure produced an equaliser ten minutes into the half with a cracking strike from Mark Canning that rivals Niall Reynolds overhead kick for goal of the season at Gasworks.

The main criticisms of the team this season have been the failure to convert enough of the chances they create and not being able to hold on to a lead. The first one was certainly true today and it could have easily been five or six before Ryan Innes hit the winner with a low drive across the keeper.

They did however manage to hold on to the lead this time and get the win. Both teams had some great chances with Liam Mushett heading over the bar from six yards and keeper Kelly having a couple of great saves.

As the game drew to a close, Johnstone pressed hard for a winner but some great defending kept them at bay and Thistle held on for the win that they deserved.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1

Website man of the match:
Ryan Innes who dug in brilliantly. His energy made up for the man short in midfield, topped by the winning goal.
Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; McKeever (Doyle 87), Jack, Canning, Innes, Reid; Gracie, McStay (Kelly 27). Subs: Payne, D. Thomson (GK)

Johnstone Burgh:
Kelly; McCormick, Nugent, Perrie, Carson; Usher, McIntyre, McBride Hewitt, Docherty, McGonigal, Fitzpatrick. Subs: Gaddi, Ramsay, McStay, Wilson (GK)

Scorers: Canning, Innes

Booked: Gracie, Sent off: Jack

Video highlights below

Larkhall Thistle 1 Greenock 1 – 17th December 2016

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

 

The cold weather, run up to Christmas and lack of visiting support took its toll on the crowd today as Thistle started with Canning, Innes and Brown all on the bench and McStay and Jack starting in central midfield. The Jags went into the game on a run of three wins as well as having recently won away at Greenock, so it looked like being a home win as long as the attitude and application were right.

For the first 10 minutes the Jags lived up to the pre-match promise and had all of the play, Greenock literally never got our of their own half. However all that changed as they gradually came into the game and their passing football looked much more likely to produce something than the hopeful long balls Thistle were firing up to Gracie and Clarke.

Thistle’s first real attempt at goal was from a Liam Mushett header that went just over the bar from a Josh Payne cross from the right but that was about as close as they came to a goal in the first half.

Greenock thought they had the lead 15 minutes in when a floated ball caught Thomson out of his goal and came down off the bar, it looked like it might have crossed the line but the referee said he wasn’t 100% sure it was in so couldn’t give it. The follow up effort hit the bar and when the got the ball a third time, Donnelly fired well wide wasting a good opportunity.

Thistle weren’t to be outdone though and went right up the park and did the same, a cross from wide right coming off the inside of the post and back into play.

There was another major let off for Larkhall just before the half time whistle when Craig ballooned the ball over the bar from point blank range.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Greenock 0

 

Manager Dunky Sinclair was obviously not entirely pleased with the events of the first half and the way that Greenock had taken control so he replaced McStay and Kelly with Canning and Innes at half time. McStay could count himself a bit unlucky as he showed some great touches in the first half.

 

Thistle turned the game around in the second half and came close with a close range effort from Ryan Innes and a smart shot on the turn from Graham Gracie, followed by a spectacular attempt on the volley from Matty Clarke that would have eclipsed even Niall Reynolds’s effort from last week if it had gone in.

 

Greenock were handed a huge chance to take the lead with just 14 minutes left when Thomson dived at the feet of their striker and was judged to have fouled him, picking up a booking for his troubles. The young keeper had been having a bit of a difficult afternoon at times so it was one of the highlights of the day to see him pull off another save from the resultant penalty, the follow up effort going well past the post.

 

 

Thistle took the lead 10 minutes from time with a goal that came about from a Greenock attack. Niall Reynolds robbed the Greenock substitute with a brilliant last ditch tackle inside the box and set up the move that eventually found Gracie wide on the left. He put in a great cross that was met by Jack who had made a perfectly timed run to meet the ball at the far post and slide it in.

 

 

Gracie almost doubled the lead minutes later with a chip that incredibly also came back off the inside of the woodwork as it looked certain to find the net.

 

It looked like all was going to plan but Greenock pulled back an equaliser that on the day they probably just deserved with a free kick out of the very top drawer, McClune hitting an unstoppable effort into the postage stamp top left corner beyond the flailing Thomson.

 

Thistle pushed hard in the last five minutes for a winner while Greenock looked to have settled for a point and David Reid almost snatched it right at the end with a shot that fizzed across the face of the goal only for keeper McWilliams to get a vital touch.

 

It was a real end to end game that both teams can be reasonably content at not having lost, although the draw brought the Jags run of wins to an end and lost them a bit of ground on the leaders. In a shock turn of events today St Roch’s won at Cambuslang to really stir things up at the top while fourth placed Wishaw also won but stay 6 points behind Thistle.

 

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Greenock 1

 

Website man of the match: The defence were all excellent today but Niall Reynolds just shaded it from Mushett and Nicholl.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack (Innes 45), McStay (Canning 45), Payne, Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle,

 

Greenock:
McWilliams; Orr, Doherty, McLaughlin, Mitchell; Gormley, Donnelly, McBryde, Brown, Craig, McClune

 

Scorer: Jack

 

Booked: Gracie, Innes, Thomson

 

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.

larkhall-thistle-v-bellshill-athletic-1
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.

larkhall-thistle-v-bellshill-athletic-2
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.

larkhall-thistle-v-bellshill-athletic-2
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.

larkhall-thistle-v-bellshill-athletic-4
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.

larkhall-thistle-v-bellshill-athletic-4
Substitute Matty Clarke put the icing on the cake with a tap-in two minutes from time from a cross by Ryan Innes.

larkhall-thistle-v-bellshill-athletic-5
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).

Larkhall Thistle 1 Fauldhouse United 2 – 19th November 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Faulhouse United
Scottish Cup 3rd Round

Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair started the game with an unchanged lineup after last week’s win at Wishaw in the first early kick off of the new season. It was the Jags first official home game since they played Lesmahagow in early September and ended a run of five away fixtures that included the Albert game in the last round of the cup.

larkhall-thistle-v-fauldhouse-united
Fauldhouse started the game on top and for the first ten minutes it looked like Thistle were going to be in for a hard game as a series of early corners put the Larkhall defence under pressure but good handling by keeper Thomson and some solid defending kept the threat at bay.

larkhall-thistle-v-fauldhouse-united-2
The Jags came right back into the game after this early flurry however and were in control for most of the rest of the first half. There was a shout for a penalty from Thistle after David Reid had made a good run down the left and whipped in a headheight cross that was met by Ryan Innes who guided it onto the post, as it came back and fell in the box he tried to play it but went over as a couple of Fauldhouse players lunged in to tackle him.

larkhall-thistle-v-fauldhouse-united-3
Headers from Liam Mushett and Innes went narrowly past the post and a good strike from Innes that went past the same post were the closest the Jags came to going in with a first half lead.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Faulhouse United 0

The second half began much as the first half had with Fauldhouse coming out of the blocks early and having a real go. The Jags defence once again coped admirably though, although there was a real let-off for Thistle early in the half as the visitors had a goal mysteriously disallowed.

Again though just as the first half had played out, the second turned quickly into a largely one way street – heading straight for the Fauldhouse goal. Thistle had the majority of play and chances and the only real surprise was that it took until half an hour into the second half for them to take the lead.

Thistle won a corner on the left side and David Reid crossed the ball deep to the back post, Innes was up highest and headed the ball back acrosss the goal into the top corner giving the keeper no chance.

larkhall-thistle-v-fauldhouse-united-4
Even with the upper hand, it always looked likely that a second goal would be needed and the Jags pressed hard to try and get it, shots from Canning and Gracie went over the bar before Gracie had a real chance to tie the game up as he went clear in the box but couldn’t manage to steer the ball in from a tight wide angle.

It was a miss that Thistle would come to regret as Fauldhouse produced a remarkable late smash and grab act to steal the tie.

As the Jags tried to see out the game, they lost a corner almost right on the end of regulation time which to be honest could have been prevented. Keeper Thomson shouted to claim the ball but Niall Reynolds either didn’t hear the shout or decided on safety first and sliced it back behind himself out for a corner as he tried to clear it.

The corner was played in to the edge of the box where Byrne was lurking completely unmarked and hit a slightly scuffed shot on the half volley that took a deflection and gave Thomson no chance.

larkhall-thistle-v-fauldhouse-united-5
The confidence that the goal had given Thistle seemed to disappear like a burst balloon as they now looked more like the team that was going to have to try and hang on for a draw rather than win the game.

If the first goal had been a bad one to lose, the winner was arguably even worse. As Fauldhouse pressed, Josh Payne played the ball to McKeever on the right wing who lumped it forward into space, it was gathered by the keeper and he sent it high and long down to the other end. Reynolds appeared to mis-time his jump and let it bounce inside the box and as it rose up towards the goal Thomson came flying out to clear but missed the ball entirely leaving the Fauldhouse substitute clear to hook it into the empty net.

larkhall-thistle-v-fauldhouse-united-6
It was a game that Thistle never looked like losing, nor did they deserve to, despite their 3/1 prematch price tag. And although it will be no consolation to those throwing their bookie lines on the terracing, the players can at least take some heart from outplaying a team from the top league in the east.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Faulhouse United 2

Website man of the match: Good performances from Brown and Mushett in the defence, and Reid always looked a threat with Payne and Kelly battling well in midfield but Ryan Innes scored and could have had another two or three as well as putting in a great shift in midfield so he gets it this week.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly, Payne, Innes, Canning, Reid; McKeever, Gracie. Subs: McStay, D Thomson, Nicholl, Jack, Burns

Fauldhouse United:
Connolly; Ward, Nicholl, Watson, Devlin; Black, Stewart, Fallon, Richford, Sally, Byrne, Coogans

Scorer: Innes

Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 4 – 8th October 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Lesmahagow
Central League First Division

Thistle went into the game with Craig Rutherford still injured, Mark Canning not recovered from his warm-up injury at Johnstone, Andy Brown getting married and Liam Mushett doubtful having picked up an injury in training. Mushett did make it into a starting line-up that was unchanged from last week’s win at Johnstone.

larkhall-thistle-v-lesmahagow-1

The Jags had the perfect opportunity to take the lead after 22 seconds when they were awarded a penalty for handball but Graham Gracie’s tame penalty was easily saved by the Lesmahagow keeper.

Gracie looked determined to atone for the miss and less than a minute later got the ball and played a great pass through the defence into Matty Clarke’s path, he took a stride and slotted into the corner for the opener.

Larkhall swiftly followed that up with a second minutes later when Brian Jack played in Gracie in a similar position on the left and he made no mistake this time, firing the ball low into the same spot as Clarke.

Sixteen minutes in and with the home side having literally all of the chances and the vast majority of the ball, they extended their lead further. David Reid had been tormenting the right back and putting in some excellent crosses but this time he rolled it back into the path of the oncoming Clarke who drilled the ball home.

larkhall-thistle-v-lesmahagow-2

At this point Thistle were rampant and in the rest of the half created chance after chance that could and should have seen  the game out of sight, their local rivals were shellshocked at the onslaught and it really did look a question of how many.

There was no indication at that point that Thistle were to go on and finish the game without any further scoring.

Matty Clarke had the perfect chance for a first half hat-trick when he was clean through one on one but his lob came back off the bar with the keeper helpless.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 0

Manager Dunky Sinclair’s message at half time would undoubtedly have included keeping things tight in the early stages of the second half and not losing an early goal but three minutes into the second half Niall Reynolds was caught out by the swerve of a punt through and the ball landed at the feet of the Gow striker whose lob gave Thomson no chance.

Although Thistle were under the cosh after the goal as Lesmahagow dominated the early part of the half and pressed hard to get back into the game, they should surely have scored in the 65th minute when Reid, Clarke, Gracie and Payne all passed up chances to score in an incredible mellee with the keeper stranded outside his goal but enough defenders getting back to make lunging blocks.

The home players took heart from their endeavours and nearly scored minutes later when Payne set up Gracie but he blasted his shot over the bar.

larkhall-thistle-v-lesmahagow-3

Thistle seemed to be coping well with anything that Gow could throw at them but the visitors snatched an unlikely second with fifteen minutes left when the ball bobbled in the box and their striker nipped in to get a flick on it before Thomson could gather.

Thistle made their only substitution in 83 minutes when Gary McStay came on for Clarke and he was involved in their best chance in the closing stages when he picked out Ryan Innes on the edge of the box who slipped it right to Jack, he hit a good shot that looked to be heading for the to corner before the keeper produced a good save.

Larkhall were looking to see the game out and although Gow had a few attempts, few would have predicted how the final couple of minutes were about to unfold.

Lesmahagow won a corner a minute from the end that went straight across the face of the goal and got the slightest of touches to send it into the net then followed that up with a similarly scrappy goal from a fee kick a minute later that dropped to their unmarked striker who swivelled and crashed in the winning goal from six yards.

This was real game of the season stuff for any neutral watching with Thistle producing their best form of the season so far in a first half that should have seen them out of sight and a spirited comeback from Lesmahagow who demonstrated in the most emphatic way that it is only putting the ball in the net that really counts.

Website Man of The Match: The front line of Gracie, Clarke and Reid had a great first half but ultimately the misses cost Thistle the game whilst the defence failed to hold the lead once again so man of the match this week goes to Ryan Innes who battled hard all day and won ball after ball in the middle of the park.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 4

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid; Clarke (McStay 73), Gracie.

Scorers: Clarke (2), Gracie

Booked: Nicholl, Reynolds, Innes

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Benburb 1 – 14th September 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Benburb
Central League First Division

Welcome back to Hugh as he took his seat at the front, it’s been a while but the referees have had it easy for too long.

hugh

Thistle were looking for a win to boost their chances of keeping up with the early season pacesetters, but with Andy Brown out they decided to use Liam Mushett as a makeshift left back although Declan Doyle was available and on the bench.

larkhall-thistle-v-benburb-1
Benburb almost got off to a dream start when they were through on goal in the first minute but the shot went over the bar. The Jags recovered well from that early scare and took control of the early part of the half, taking lead in 12 minutes when Marty Clarke made a good run down the left to the byeline and cut the ball across the face of the goal for Mushett to tap in.

The visitors looked certain to equalise ten minutes later from a scramble inside the box but the shot came back off the post and an even better effort followed a few minutes later with a curled shot that hit the inside of the far post.

The equaliser came ten minutes from half time from a highly dubious penalty award when the referee gave a spot kick for what looked to most to be a normal 50/50 arial challenge. The penalty was converted by Livingston, giving young Thomson no chance in the home goal.

larkhall-thistle-v-benburb-3

Thistle’s best attempts at regaining the lead before half time came through a couple of free kicks, the first saw Mushett get a head to it but without causing any real threat. The second however was a blistering drive from David Reid that produced a very good save from Sommerville after a tremendous run from Josh Payne had brought the foul.

The Bens did have another good chance to score before the break but Thomson pulled off a good double save with his feet to keep the score level.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Benburb 1

Larkhall got out of the blocks early in the second half and looked to regain their lead – shooting towards the gasworks end – and indeed they got the goal in the fifth minute when Matty Clarke lofted a header into the top corner from a Reid corner.

The tails were up now with the Jags pushing to build on the advantage with a third goal that would probably have killed the game. Graham Gracie, Reid and Clarke all had chances in a ten minute spell that the visitors didn’t have much answer to. Clarke was having a lot of joy down the left side and carved out two good chances, both of them saved well by the Bens keeper.

larkhall-thistle-v-benburb-2
Hugh Kelly had picked up a silly booking in the first half for attempting to handball it into the net and inevitably it came back to haunt him with 15 minutes left to play. A couple of minutes before that he had just managed to get away with a tackle in the middle of the park as he flew in but got a clean contact on the ball, this time though he mistimed it and the referee produced a second yellow card.

It was backs to the wall stuff for the rest of the game as Benburb applied the pressure to try and get level again but the team as a whole defended superbly and limited the visitors to only a couple of genuine chances.

Larkhall Thistle v Neilston 3

A good fighting performance by Thistle again to take all three points in what turned out to be a good end to end match that both teams made up for in effort what they might have lacked in terms of quality. The Jags now join Thorniewood, St Rochs, Cambuslang Rangers and Neilston in a 5-way tie for the lead at the top of the table, all on nine points from four games.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Benburb 1

Website Man of the Match: Another fine week for the youngsters with David Thomson producing a string of good saves and Ryan Innes solid in midfield and getting back towards his best, but again it was Josh Payne’s tireless running and sparks of genuine ability that set him apart from the rest on the park.

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Canning, Innes, Reid; Clarke (Jack 78), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, McKeever, S.Thomson (GK), Burns, Doyle

Benburb:
Sommerville; Meechan, Wright, Greer, Collinge; Jackson, Blackwood, Boyle, Livinston, Wright, Jarvie. Subs: McNeil, Mailey, Gallagher, Lewis, McCallum

Scorers: Mushett, Clarke

Booked: Canning

Sent off: Kelly

Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 2 – 3rd September 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Neilston
Central League First Division

Thistle began their home campaign with what looked on paper to be a difficult game, although Neilston finished just above the relegation spots last season they had got off to good start this season with a defeat at Pollok being the only blip in an otherwise 100% record.

Larkhall Thistle v Neilston 3

Thistle got off to a great start after only four minutes when Graham Gracie knocked the ball into the path of David Reid who took a touch and drilled a perfect low drive past the keeper.

The pair linked up well again minutes later to set up a chance for Matty Clarke but he could only blast his shot into the side netting, and although the Jags had the majority of the early play and created some good chances, it always felt that one goal wouldn’t be enough to win the game.

Larkhall Thistle v Neilston 2

The game did indeed turn as the half went on and ten minutes before the interval young David Thomson had to pull off a tremendous save from a point blank header to keep the Jags in front.

The referee came under heavy pressure from the Neilston bench who were screaming for a penalty every time the ball went into the box but he did well to keep his cool and rightly deny the claims.

Larkhall Thistle v Neilston 1

As the half went on though it looked more and more like Thistle should have taken better advantage of their superiority to add more goals and that the visitors would do the inevitable and equalise.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 0

The first chance of the second half came after 6 minutes when Gracie played in Reid on the left and he ran 30 yards before shooting wide, Josh Payne then made a couple of great runs down the right and produced two balls into the danger area that Innes and Reid should have done better with.

Unfortunately that was about as far as it went for Thistle on the day and the remaining 25 minutes or so belonged almost entirely to Neilston.

Larkhall Thistle v Neilston 5

The visitors created chance after chance and it looked only a matter of time before they equalised and the goal did come by way of a soft penalty award, converted after 68 minutes by Kennedy.

Hugh Kelly had surprisingly been left out for Paul Burns who was finding it impossible to keep up with the pace of the game and was taken off after an hour to be replaced by new signing Liam Mushett. The less said about the big defender the better too as he was promptly sent packing for advising the referee to go away in less subtle language.

Shug showed in the reaining 18 minutes why he should have been on from the start but with a man down Thistle were facing an uphill task to even salvage a point.

Larkhall Thistle v Neilston 4

Neilston were also reduced to 10 men late in the game when Clark was sent off for a crunching tackle on Ryan Innes but the visitors adapted better to the loss than Thistle and got the winning goal two minutes from time when a cross from the left went over Thomson and Young slid in at the back post to send the ball crashing into the roof of the net.

A great start for Thistle followed by a massive slump when they failed to build on the lead means they lost their chance to stay up with the early leaders in the league. The team is looking more settled now although there is still a bit of a weakness in defence, if Andy Brown was missing they would struggle badly and it looks like only really Hugh Kelly is capable of playing in front of a back three.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 2

Website Man of the Match: David Reid had a great first half but faded badly, Andy Brown gets it this week.

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Payne, Canning, Burns (Mushett 60), Innes, Reid; Clarke (Kelly 72), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, McKeever, McStay

Neilston:
Digney; McDade, Geddes, Clark, Young; Stevenson, Docherty, Stoney, Cameron, Kennedy, McLachlan. Payne

Scorer: Reid

Booked: Burns, Nicholl, Kelly

Sent off: Mushett

Friendly – Larkhall Thistle 3 Darvel 4

Thistle continued their pre-season friendly programme with another fixture that has become a regular annual event, this year it was the Jags turn to host Darvel.

Darvel took the lead after 6 minutes when a failure to clear the ball allowed their No.5 time to pick his spot for an easy finish from 10 yards.

Thistle made an early first half substitution when Gary McStay came on for the injured Niall Reynolds with Declan Doyle dropping back into the back three. The move was to pay dividends right away as McStay grabbed a quick-fire hat-trick, the first being the pick of the bunch when he took time to compose himself and pick his spot after good work from Doyle on the right.

The visitors got themselves back into the game with a goal before half time, a free header from a corner after the Darvel player had made a good run into the box.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Darvel 2

Darvel equalised just after half time with a breakaway goal that caught the defence out, Thistle were caught remonstrating with the referee after McStay had gone down in the box looking for a penalty.

The two teams were evenly matched and a draw looked to be on the cards until Scott Nicholl got involved with three Darvel players at the stand side touchline and received a second booking, the first had been for a bad tackle that could have been a red on its own.

Thistle brought on a couple of youngsters for the last 15 minutes and both showed up very well, looking like a real threat to the Darvel defence but with the extra man the visitors got the decisive break at the end and wrapped up the win with yet another goal from a corner.

After scoring seven in each of the last two matches, this was a far more difficult test for the Jags and one they will have learned a fair bit from.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Darvel 4

Scorer: McStay (3)

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Doyle, Canning, Innes, McKeever, Reid, Clarke. Subs Moss, McStay, Gracie, Trialists

Friendly – Larkhall Thistle 7 Abbey Vale 1

Optimized-Tommy's father presents trophy to Mark Canning Thistle welcomed Abbey Vale for what has now become a regular fixture in the pre-season calendar, this time though the clubs were playing for the inaugural Tommy Jamieson Memorial Cup, in memory of local man Tommy who had strong ties with both clubs.

With the exception of the goalkeeper – where Lee Moss once again stood in and played very well – Larkhall had what was probably their strongest starting team out so it was a good chance to see how they played together before the start of the competitive fixtures.

Two goals in the first three minutes from Matty Clarke gave Thistle the perfect start and looked to be a sign of things to come. The Jags went 3-0 up in under 10 minutes when Scott Nicholl swung a great cross onto Josh Payne’s head and he fired into the corner.

David Reid then made it four midway through the half with a low drive after the keeper had saved the initial shot and Clarke rounded off the first half scoring to complete his hat trick.

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 5 Abbey Vale 0

Hugh Kelly started the half in place of Ryan Innes in the centre of midfield and despite the big lead there was no letting up and some strong words from the manager at the early missed chances.

McKeever, Doyle and trialist Liam Mushett came on for Payne, Clarke and Reynolds after an hour but it took Thistle nearly 20 minutes of the second half to add to the lead when Reid finished after good work by Gracie on the left.

Mushett made it 7-0 when Brian Jack hit him with a cross from the byeline but Abbey Vale pulled a goal back right away with a free header from a corner.

A good show from Thistle and some very good passing moves and a scoreline that could easily have reached double figures with a bit more clinical finishing, especially in the second half.

Optimized-Thistle and Abbey Vale

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 7 Abbey Vale 1

Scorers: Clarke (3), Payne, Reid (2), Mushett

Larkhall Thistle:
Moss; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Payne, Innes, Jack, Canning, Reid, Gracie, Clarke. Subs: Kelly, McKeever, Doyle, Mushett

Abbey Vale:
Holt; Ruddick, Edgar, Connelly, Love, Cameron, Telfer, Kennedy, Kerr, Thom, Malin. Subs: Mellon, Pirrie, Turner