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

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

Pollok 4 Larkhall Thistle 0 – 8th June 2016

Newlandsfield Park, Glasgow
Pollok v Larkhall Thistle
Euroscot Eng Central League Cup semi-final

Thistle were bidding to reach their first cup final since they played Bellshill in the 2001 Sectional League Cup and it looked on paper to be a monumental task, against the Scottish Cup finalists and Superleague Premier Division fifth-place finishers. The Jags lined up with no changes from last week’s win in Rutherglen – although Paul Burns was available and started on the bench.

Pollok v Larkhall Thistle 8th June -3

The game started at a fast pace with both sides looking to get forward but it was Pollok who took the lead with what was the game’s first effort on goal.  A simple cross from the right found Winters unmarked six yards out in the middle of the goal and he swept the ball in with ease.

Thistle had a hopeful penalty claim turned down a minute later when Gracie went down too easily and Pollok went right up the park and nearly doubled their lead with a shot across goal that went just past the post.

Pollok v Larkhall Thistle 8th June -1

Thistle got their first shot away after 13 minutes when Matty Clarke fired wide from a Graham Gracie lay-off and three minutes later Gracie ran on to a return from Brian Jack and sprinted in on goal, only to turn back when closed down rather than try the early shot.

There was no sign of the early pace letting up but the pressure was nearly all in the direction of the Jags goal with only the occasional breakaway providing some relief in the heat. Twenty five minutes into the game Thistle could have considered themselves lucky to still be in the game when Pollok went close after an intricate piece of play.

The Jags however showed they weren’t going to go quietly when David Reid got himself into the game, first forcing keeper Longmuir to scramble the ball off the line, then to get down and make a good reflex save at his near post from a whipped-in shot.

Stewart Thomson in the Jags goal produced a brilliant save 10 minutes before half-time from a curled effort that was struck from the edge of the box – it was the home side’s last chance of the half and Thistle forced a couple of corners just before the interval as they fought hard to get back on level terms but couldn’t capitalise on them.

Half time: Pollok 1 Larkhall Thistle 0

Larkhall began the second half brightly, with early efforts from Scott Nicholl and Reid which were off target, however Jordan Marshall was lucky when a misjudged attempt to beat an opponent on the halfway line left him exposed. The referee saw the tackle as a foul with the Pollok man clear with a run on goal.

Pollok v Larkhall Thistle 8th June -2

As it was in the first half though, it was Pollok who got the early goal. This time it was through Hepburn from an overhead kick eight yards out after the Thistle defence had failed to clear.

Fifteen minutes into the half it was all over for the Jags as Pollok produced the best move of the game.  A ball down the right channel was met and swept across the six yard area leaving McCabe with an easy tap in at the back post for 3-0.

Midway through the second half Thistle won a free kick 25 yards out when Gracie was brought down but his effort was well over the bar. It was a rare break though as Pollok continued to force the game and they went straight up the park and brought out another great save from Thomson.

The keeper looked to be struggling with a knock five minutes later but he stayed on before eventually being replaced by namesake David who managed one excellent save himself.

Pollok v Larkhall Thistle 8th June -4

Substitutes Burns and Doyle replaced Nicholl and Payne after 75 minutes and moments later Gracie combined well with Reid on the left before hitting a shot that the keeper could only parry on to the goal line, unfortunately there was nobody following up for what would have been a certain goal.

With five minutes left Pollok made it 4-0 – a precise curled effort into the top left corner from Monti. Thistle nearly got a late consolation when Reid set up Gracie but his low effort hit the post.

A resolute first half performance by the Jags kept the score down to 1-0 but in truth it could easily have been 4-0 at half time and the final score more or less reflected the gulf between the teams – Pollok were fitter, faster and trickier as could be expected from a team challenging at the top end of the junior game.

Full time: Pollok 4 Larkhall Thistle 0

Booked: Nicholl

Larkhall Thistle: S Thomson; Reynolds, Marshall, Brown, Nicholl; Jack, Innes, Payne, Reid; Gracie, Clarke Subs: D Thomson GK, McKeever, Doyle

Pollok: Longmuir, Hanlon, McCabe, McLennan, Sideserf; MacKenzie, Frye, Bradley, Winters, Hepburn, Winters

Website MoM: Almost as difficult as last week but sadly for the opposite reason, the team never got going as a whole although nobody could have been faulted for effort and commitment. Keeper Stewart Thomson though made several very good saves and couldn’t have been faulted for any of the goals so he gets the final MoM of the season.

Rutherglen Glencairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 1st June 2016

Clyde Gateway Stadium, Rutherglen
Rutherglen Glencairn v Larkhall Thistle
Euroscot Eng Central League Cup

Rutherglen Glengairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 - 2

Thistle made their second visit to the Clyde Gateway Stadium in Rutherglen in what might have been their last game of the season. The stadium is probably the pick of the new built junior parks as it at least is a grass playing surface but it does have a slope and the Jags started the game kicking up it.

Only Ryan Innes was missing from what would probably have been the first choice team, Hugh Kelly started in his place in centre midfield. Glencairn had former Thistle player Brian Eadie at left back and it was good to see him back fit and well.

Rutherglen Glengairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 - 4

The game started with Glencairn pressing the Jags goal and the first chance of the game came after seven minutes when David Reid sliced the ball high into the air and it was met on the volley, the shot going wide. Larkhall should have taken the lead in 11 minutes when Matty Clarke squared to Brian Jack in acres of space only 8 yards out but he over-deliberated and curled his shot wide. Clarke was involved again when he laid the ball right onto Josh Payne’s head in the same spot but again the chance went begging.

Rutherglen Glengairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 - 1

Thistle took the lead in 31 minutes when Graham Gracie latched on to a knock-on and broke free. The striker, on a great scoring run, never looked in danger of missing and slotted easily inside the left post from 10 yards. Just before half time Jack sent Gracie away again and after some nice footwork he played it back to Jacko who again shot wide from the same spot as he had earlier.

Half time: Glencairn 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

Glencairn got off to a quick start and a break in the first minute nearly caught the Thistle defence out, only desperate defending resulting in strong penalty claims prevented the goal. The Jags replied immediately, Payne ran on to a pinpoint lobbed pass from Clarke and played the ball across the box just too close to the keeper for Gracie to reach.

Thistle’s next real attempt at goal came after 62 minutes when Scott Nicholl almost caught the keeper out from a free kick with a cheeky lob and that was followed up by Payne hitting a decent effort across the keeper from the edge of the box.

Rutherglen Glengairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 - 5

The Jags had a let-off midway through the half when an attempted clearance came back off the bar, then the Glens No 6 had a great run through the middle with a shot that went just past the post.

Reid picked up another needless booking to cap a disappointing evening for him and could well have got himself sent off for a petulant foul moments later.

Glencairn equalised from a disputed free kick ten minutes from the end, Thomson made a good stop but the rebound was poked home by Dunnachie. It looked like it was game on and with the distinct possibility of penalties looming, Thistle were awarded a penalty for handball that the referee spotted though a clump of players.

Rutherglen Glengairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2 - 3

Gracie stepped up and coolly rolled the ball into the net to put the Jags back in front. Matty Clarke had a golden opportunity to seal the tie when he got possession with the keeper stranded out of his goal, however he decided not to take the shot on and the chance was lost.

A great win for Thistle that puts them into a semi-final for the first time in a long while, on the back of a long unbeaten end to the season. They will now travel to Pollok in what looks to be a real test but hopefully the Jags can carry on the good work.

Full time: Glencairn 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

Scorer: Gracie 2

Booked: Nicholl, Reid, Clarke, Gracie

S Thomson; Reynolds, Marshall, Brown, Nicholl; Jack, Innes, Payne, Reid; Gracie,  Clarke. Subs: D Thomson (GK), McKeever, Doyle

Website MoM:A very difficult task tonight with seven or eight players at or near their best, the whole defence was excellent and Josh Payne impressed again but Matty Clarke did a great job all night of holding the ball up and playing his team mates in, as well as delivering all Thistle’s best balls in an attacking sense.

Wishaw Juniors v Larkhall Thistle, Central League First Division

Wishaw Juniors v Larkhall Thistle 0

Thistle made the short trip across the Clyde to play high-flying neighbours Wishaw. In a week of remarkable turnarounds in the big football, Wishaw followed in the steps of Rangers Liverpool and Germany as they blew a two goal lead.

Read the match report of Wishaw Juniors v Thistle here

Larkhall Thistle v Shotts Bon Accord 1st March 2014

Larkhall Thistle v Shotts Bon Accord
Larkhall Thistle produced a performance of real heart and determination against their higher league rivals today and lost out by the narrowest of margins. The Jags were cheered off the park for their efforts by a crowd who appreciated that every one of them had given everything.

See full match report of Thistle v Shotts here