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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Royal Albert 1 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 22nd October 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Royal Albert v Larkhall Thistle
Scottish Cup 1st Round

Thistle went into today’s game with Andy Brown on honeymoon, Ryan Innes not having trained for two weeks due to illness and David Thomson just back from injury. On the bright side club catain Mark Canning was fit again and took his place in midfield.

Liam Mushett was replaced by Declan Doyle at right back and Matty Clarke was also rested, Gary McStay taking his place up front.

Albert started the game looking like they were determined to have a real go and might well have taken an early lead with a couple of good early moves.

However it was the Jags who got the opener and again it came from a corner on the right taken by David Reid. The ball came out to Mark Canning just outside the box and he swept it forward to Graham Gracie who let the ball run across him then was a bit lucky to get a break off an Albert defender to get the ball back, when he did there was no mistake as he rattled it high into the near corner.

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Albert came back again but it was Thistle who looked to have put themselves through to the next round with a second in the 26th minute. Reid picked up the ball in midfield and played it out to Josh Payne on the left. He continued his run into the box and when he got the return ball he hit it low and hard hard across the face of the goal only for the unfortunate Stobie to deflect it into his own goal.

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The rest of the half petered out without much in the way of incident with Thistle seeming to have done enough, even at this early stage.

Half time: Royal Albert 0 Larkhall Thistle 2

The second half continued where the first had left off with the Jags cruising and they made a substitution after an hour when McStay came off to be replaced by Matty Clarke, followed shortly after by Ryan Innes coming on for Brian Jack.

It seemed that the only thing that could get in the way of a home win was the self destruct button and it was pushed not once but twice in a mad two minute spell. Firstly Scott Nicholl got himself involved with an Albert player when it looked like he had won the foul anyway and saw a straight red, then Reggie Innes flew into a challenge that looked to be at least a booking but probably a red card was a bit harsh.

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With a two man advantage for Albert,  the last fifteen minutes was always going to be backs to the wall for Thistle but the nine men produced the best football of the game with a fast flowing break down the left wing that resulted in Reid setting up Gracie for an easy finish – only for the striker to fluff his lines and hit the ball staight at the keeper.

The game turned in Albert’s favour with a substitution when they brought on Barry Murdoch to give them a much needed steadiness in midfield and they pulled a goal back from one of his excellent balls into the box. Jags keeper Stuart Thomson only managed to parry his free kick right on to the head of former Thistle man Alan Campbell who nodded into the net past him.

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Albert nearly took the game to a replay with an almost identical move minutes later, again Thomson made a great diving save to his left and the ball dropped to an Albert player but this time the keeper got up brilliantly and showed great reflexes to touch the ball over the bar.

Thistle put the game beyond doubt a minute into injury time with a third goal, Gracie made a lung-bursting run down the left past the defence and got a shot in that keeper Smith managed to block but it fell right at the feet of Canning who tapped the ball home.

A great cup tie that had a bit of everything in it, with credit being due to Albert for taking the game all the way to the last seconds. Thistle could have been out of sight but again showed a soft side when holding a lead.

Full time: Royal Albert 1 Larkhall Thistle 3

Website man of the match: Stuart Thomson had a bit of the jitters in the early stages but recovered well to pull off a great save that kept Thistle ahead but Niall Reynolds was solid at the back and dealt with most things well so is this week’s Man of the Match.

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack (Innes 65), Canning, Reid; McStay (Clarke 60 (Burns 77)), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, D.Thomson (GK), Stewart

Royal Albert:
Smith; Howson, M.Anderson, Stobie, Rinn, Hamilton; J.Anderson, Baptie, Campbell, Scott, O’Kane. Subs: Haley, Rennie, Murdoch, Clark, Brennan, Neill

Booked: Reynolds, Reid, Gracie
Sent off: Nicholl, Innes

Video highlights, sorry battery ran out so last goal is missing