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

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

 

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 2 Rossvale 1 – 10th December 2016

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

After last week’s rout of Bellshill, Thistle faced what looked like it would be a far sterner test today in what was effectively a battle for third place in the league. Rossvale have been on a good run and had only lost once in their last eight games.

Thistle started the game without three big players; Mark Canning and Ryan Innes who were injured and Andy Brown who dropped out in favour of Scott Nicholl who came back in at left back. Missing their influential captain, half their regular midfield and their best defender meant it looked like being an uphill task and so it proved to be. Gary McStay and Brian Jack were recalled to midfield while David Thomson started in goals again.

larkhall-thistle-v-rossvale-1

The game started in a familiar pattern with the Jags having the majority of possession, but although they pressed the visitors defence there were no real chances to speak of in the early part of the game. Rossvale had less of the ball but when they did break, the twin threat of Osadolar and Trussler up front gave the Thistle defence plenty to contend with as they produced more clear chances and looked more like scoring.

As the half wore on Rossvale took command of the game and Thistle would have been happy to go into the interval on level terms but the referee did his best to try and change it with one of the worst penalty awards you’ll see anywhere. Osadolar found himself one on one with the young Jags keeper and as he went round him, appeared to have been hit by a sniper as he went down with nobody near him. Justice was done though as the striker took the penalty himself but his tame effort was easily stopped by Thomson.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Rossvale 0

Once again there was an early goal at the start of the half and this time it was the Jags who appeared a bit sluggish after the break. Holmes produced a moment of real quality for his team as he turned Josh Payne out in the right back position and cut inside, drilling a low shot through a clump of players into the bottom corner.

Rossvale looked to be happy with their lead and their coaching staff were encouraging time wasting tactics with half an hour still to play. In the end it came back to bite them severely as they might well have been able to build on their lead rather than try and kill the game as instructed.

larkhall-thistle-v-rossvale-2

Scott Nicholl had taken his time getting back up to speed and he would admit the first half wasn’t his best but the second period was a different story altogether with some tremendous efforts at goal including a rasping free kick that rattled the post and a tremendous 25 yard drive that drew the best save of the day from keeper Donnelly.

The game looked like it might be drifting away from Thistle until the most unlikely of equalisers with three minutes left to play. Graham Gracie took a long throw on the right and although the tactic has come in for criticism over the years, this time it produced a goal when it mattered. The ball bounced once just past the penalty spot and Niall Reynolds watched it go over his head then swung and hit a brilliant overhead kick over the keeper and into the net.

The Jags now had the momentum and pushed for the winner which came a minute into stoppage time. Gracie drove forward on the other wing this time and picked out Jack at the back of the box, he took a touch inside the defender and scrambled the ball to substitute Matty Clarke who rolled it into the corner.

After the late losses to Fauldhouse and Lesmahagow the Jags supporters were delighted to see the tables turned this time in what was a significant result as it took them six points clear of Rossvale in fourth with a game in hand. It also took them level on points with St Roch’s who lost today, but leaders Cambuslang Rangers emphasised that they mean business with an incredible 9-1 win at Benburb.

league-table

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Rossvale 1

Website man of the match: Good displays from Kelly in midfield and the Gracie/McKeever partnership up front but Liam Mushett gets the virtual bottle of champagne this week with a commanding performance in the middle of the defence.

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack, McStay (Clarke 70), Payne, Reid; McKeever, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle, Burns

Rossvale:
Donnelly; Tart, McDowell, Doherty, Leadbetter; Holmes, O’Brien, McGrath, Dickie; Osadolar, Trussler

Scorers: Reynolds, Clarke

Booked: Gracie, Kelly

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).

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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