New Western Park, Renfrew
Renfrew v Larkhall Thistle
West of Scotland Cup 1st Round
Thistle have had a miserable time of it in recent years in the West of Scotland Cup having only a win at Ardeer to show for their efforts and after an idle week in competitive fixtures they were looking to bounce back from their slightly unlucky Scottish Cup exit at Kilwinning. Manager Dunky Sinclair named an unchanged side for the first time this season.
In a change to the advertised programme, the Jags didn’t go two goals down and instead went two goals up, a welcome change that set them up for their best performance and result of the season so far.
Renfrew came out looking very lively and Thistle survived a couple of very early scares before taking a surprise lead in the third minute. A long ball up the park from keeper Johnny Duncan caught the home defence flat footed and Gary McStay nipped in to lob keeper McLeay with a classy finish.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 to the Jags from a move that started with a free kick, the ball was blocked and went out for a throw, when it was played back into the box Craig Forbes was the quickest to react and ran from deep to get to the ball and stick it away.
Larkhall looked fairly comfortable for the rest of the half and although both teams had chances it looked more and more likely as the half went on that they would see it out with the two goal lead intact. Renfrew however produced a goal out of nothing to upset the applecart and change the half time talk, a Jamie Benton cross that gave Johnny Duncan no chance as it dropped in over his head at the back post.
Half time: Renfrew 1 Larkhall Thistle 2
Like the first half, Thistle got off to a flyer in the second with a goal after seven minutes, Graham Gracie ran on to a through ball leaving a couple of home defenders standing before rounding the keeper and rolling the ball into the empty net. The goal effectively won the game for Larkhall as it never looked like Renfrew would recover from going two goals behind again.
The only question left seemed to be how many Thistle would score as they set about destroying the home defence with great interplay between the front three of Gracie McStay and Reid. Chances from Innes, Jack, Gracie and Reid all failed to add to the tally but they kept coming in wave after wave with Renfrew unable to provide much resistance.
Johnny Duncan had a quiet day but was called upon to make one good save as he dived low to his right to keep out a low drive. That was about it for Renfrew though and Gracie completed the scoring four minutes from the end when he outjumped two Renfrew defenders on the half way line and ran clear to smash the ball into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
There was an incredible double let off for Renfrew moments later when Forbes missed a chance to make it five when he was one on one with the keeper then substitute Johnny McStay missed a tap-in from five yards but although the final score could have been seven or eight there were no more goals.
Great performances all over the park today, the defence coped with everything Renfrew threw at it, Forbes and Innes battled hard in midfield, Gracie and Gary McStay linked up well up front and look like they’re developing a real understanding and Reid had his best game for a while, Hopefully the team can keep this form going into the second half of the double-header next week when Renfrew come to Gasworks Park.
Full time: Renfrew 1 Larkhall Thistle 4
Duncan; Robb, Brown, Reynolds; Canning; Forbes, Innes, Jack, Reid (Clarke 85); G McStay (J McStay 75), Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Mushett, Doyle, Thomson (GK)
McLeay; Barbour, Miller, Lyden, Healy, McGuinness, Wylie, O’Keefe, Cochrane, Benton, Quinn. Subs: Gordon, Maxwell
Booked: Robb, Reid
MoM: Andy Brown who was almost at his Banks O’ Dee best.