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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Canning, Reid; Clarke (Mushett 87), Gracie. Subs: Brown, McKeever, McStay