Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Bellshill Athletic
Central League First Division
The Thistle players limbered up for their big night out in Newcastle with a routine win against a frankly poor Bellshill side.
There was almost a full squad to pick from with only regular keeper Stuart Thomson out (holiday). Scott Niicholl was available again after suspension but Liam Mushett kept his place in the back three in what was Larkhall’s first home league game since Lesmahagow in early October.
The visitors got off to a lead against the early run of play with a swirling hit that dropped in over keeper David Thomson but that was almost the entire sum of their threat on the day.
The Jags for their part made heavy weather of the first half and although they bombarded the Bellshill with chance after chance, couldn’t manage to get the breakthrough that their play deserved as Bellshill clung gamely to their lead.
The game turned around five minutes before half time when Josh Payne scored directly from a corner with an effort that keeper Grant must have been disappointed with. Thistle managed to take a lead into the break with a second goal just before the whistle when Gracie latched on to a loose ball in a goalmouth scramble and slammed it into the roof of the net.
It was no more than Thistle deserved and there couldn’t have been too many complaints if the score had been four or five.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Bellshill Athletic 1
The second half was a bit better for Bellshill in terms of pressure and possession, but unfortunately for them worse in terms of goals. They looked to have come out as if they were on a mission but Larkhall increased the lead seven minutes into the half following a good team move when David Reid got on the end of a Mark Canning cross and planted a great header into the bottom corner.
Although the Jags were two goals up, memories of recent home defeats to ‘Gow and Fauldhouse from winning positions made the lead less comfortable and the pressure was added to by Bellshill having the bulk of the rest of the second half play.
Indeed it wasn’t until seven minutes from the end that Thistle put the game out of sight when they went further ahead from the penalty spot, following another sweeping move down the left side. Mark Canning stepped up and sent Grant the wrong way to make sure of the points.
Substitute Matty Clarke put the icing on the cake with a tap-in two minutes from time from a cross by Ryan Innes.
Another good result that keeps the chase for promotion on track although the team never really hit the heights they are capable of. And Although the scoreline didn’t flatter Thistle at all, it was probably as much down to the level of opposition who will surely struggle to stay in the league at this rate.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 5 Bellshill Athletic 1
Website man of the match: As picked by recovering Thistle stalwart Hugh Kerr – Josh Payne
D. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly (Jack 63), Payne, Innes, Canning, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 78), Gracie (McStay). Subs: Nicholl, Burns
Grant; McDonald, Jeffrey, Jushkowiak, Simon; Smith, Howarth, McCormack, Brunton, Nichol, Simpson
Scorers: Payne, Gracie, Reid, Canning, Clarke
Booked: Reynolds, Kelly
Video of the highlights below, unfortunately due to (cough…) technical reasons, the Bellshill goal is missing (and also Levi’s prediction that Thistle would go on and win).