Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Benburb
Central League First Division
Welcome back to Hugh as he took his seat at the front, it’s been a while but the referees have had it easy for too long.
Thistle were looking for a win to boost their chances of keeping up with the early season pacesetters, but with Andy Brown out they decided to use Liam Mushett as a makeshift left back although Declan Doyle was available and on the bench.
Benburb almost got off to a dream start when they were through on goal in the first minute but the shot went over the bar. The Jags recovered well from that early scare and took control of the early part of the half, taking lead in 12 minutes when Marty Clarke made a good run down the left to the byeline and cut the ball across the face of the goal for Mushett to tap in.
The visitors looked certain to equalise ten minutes later from a scramble inside the box but the shot came back off the post and an even better effort followed a few minutes later with a curled shot that hit the inside of the far post.
The equaliser came ten minutes from half time from a highly dubious penalty award when the referee gave a spot kick for what looked to most to be a normal 50/50 arial challenge. The penalty was converted by Livingston, giving young Thomson no chance in the home goal.
Thistle’s best attempts at regaining the lead before half time came through a couple of free kicks, the first saw Mushett get a head to it but without causing any real threat. The second however was a blistering drive from David Reid that produced a very good save from Sommerville after a tremendous run from Josh Payne had brought the foul.
The Bens did have another good chance to score before the break but Thomson pulled off a good double save with his feet to keep the score level.
Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Benburb 1
Larkhall got out of the blocks early in the second half and looked to regain their lead – shooting towards the gasworks end – and indeed they got the goal in the fifth minute when Matty Clarke lofted a header into the top corner from a Reid corner.
The tails were up now with the Jags pushing to build on the advantage with a third goal that would probably have killed the game. Graham Gracie, Reid and Clarke all had chances in a ten minute spell that the visitors didn’t have much answer to. Clarke was having a lot of joy down the left side and carved out two good chances, both of them saved well by the Bens keeper.
Hugh Kelly had picked up a silly booking in the first half for attempting to handball it into the net and inevitably it came back to haunt him with 15 minutes left to play. A couple of minutes before that he had just managed to get away with a tackle in the middle of the park as he flew in but got a clean contact on the ball, this time though he mistimed it and the referee produced a second yellow card.
It was backs to the wall stuff for the rest of the game as Benburb applied the pressure to try and get level again but the team as a whole defended superbly and limited the visitors to only a couple of genuine chances.
A good fighting performance by Thistle again to take all three points in what turned out to be a good end to end match that both teams made up for in effort what they might have lacked in terms of quality. The Jags now join Thorniewood, St Rochs, Cambuslang Rangers and Neilston in a 5-way tie for the lead at the top of the table, all on nine points from four games.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Benburb 1
Website Man of the Match: Another fine week for the youngsters with David Thomson producing a string of good saves and Ryan Innes solid in midfield and getting back towards his best, but again it was Josh Payne’s tireless running and sparks of genuine ability that set him apart from the rest on the park.
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Canning, Innes, Reid; Clarke (Jack 78), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, McKeever, S.Thomson (GK), Burns, Doyle
Sommerville; Meechan, Wright, Greer, Collinge; Jackson, Blackwood, Boyle, Livinston, Wright, Jarvie. Subs: McNeil, Mailey, Gallagher, Lewis, McCallum
Scorers: Mushett, Clarke
Sent off: Kelly