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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
S. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Burns, Reid (Stewart 70); Clarke (Rutherford 70), Gracie.
Booked: Gracie, Nicholl, Payne, Kelly