Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Forth Wanderers
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1
Thistle once again failed to beat lower-league opposition at home and missed out on a money-spinning home quarter final tie with Pollok by one goal. Although the Jags went through the section unbeaten, Forth also managed the same set of results and their goal difference was one better so they qualify from the section for the first time.
Despite hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions, Thistle just couldn’t get the win that the 1-1 draw with Royal Albert had left them needing.
Thistle went into this decisive game where only a win would be good enough. Craig Forbes was missing due to work commitments and Mark Canning and Ryan Innes were still on holiday. The Jags starting line up surprised some of the home supporters with Graham Gracie and Div Reid starting on the bench.
The match had an explosive start with Forth opening the scoring inside two minutes when their No 9 scored with a header. Not to be outdone, shortly after the restart Thistle were back on level terms when Jonny McStay latched on to a pass from Billy Robb and lobbed the ball over the advancing Forth keeper into the net.
Forth at this stage though still looked the more likely to score and it was no surprise when their No 10 picked up the ball and from the edge of the penalty area netted in Stewart Thomson’s left hand corner. This goal stung the home team and Matty Clarke should have done better when put clear on the left hand side of the box but his effort on goal did not trouble the keeper. Thistle were struggling to compete in midfield with Forth controlling this area of the pitch.
Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Forth Wanderers 2
Thistle started the second half in determined fashion and equalised with a goal that had more than a hint of offside about it. Jonny McStay taking the ball to the bye-line and crossing for Matty Clarke to knock the ball home. The Forth keeper then had tremendous save from a Matty Clarke free-kick and also saved well from Scott Nicol. Thistle finally went ahead when Brian Jack played in Scott Nicol who controlled the ball well and shot past Cherrie in the Forth goal.
Shortly after taking the lead Jonny McStay who was limping was replaced by Graham Gracie and Scott Nicol was replaced by Div Reid. Before the changes had any time to take effect Forth equalised when Hugh Kelly lost the ball and the Forth No 11 latched on to the ball and outstripped Liam Mushett to score the equaliser.
Thistle went on the offensive to try and get the winner with the woodwork saving Forth on three occasions and Liam Mushett missing at the back post. Graham Gracie then was desperately unlucky when his netbound shot was scrambled clear by a Forth Defender but Stewart Thomson had to tip over a great effort from the Forth No 9 to keep the Jags on level terms. Thistle continued to push forward but the Forth defence stood firm until the final whistle.
Forth therefore qualify for a lucrative home quarter final against Pollok by virtue of a superior goal difference of just one goal. Bit of deja vu as this happened to the Jags at this stage last season. A bitterly disappointing end to a good run with the big Super League kick-off just three days away, hopefully the team will pick themselves up and start off the league campaign with a win at Darvel on Saturday.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Forth Wanderers 3
Larkhall Thistle: Stewart Thomson; Andy Brown, Niall Reynolds, Liam Mushett; Josh Payne, Billy Robb, Hugh Kelly, Brian Jack (Gary McStay), Scott Nicol (Div Reid), Jonny McStay (Graham Gracie), Matty Clarke.
Booked; Billy Robb, Hugh Kelly.
On a night when the majority of the team looked off the pace the Man of the Match award goes to Niall Reynolds who once again was his usual competent self.