Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Dunipace
A good win for Thistle amid a swirling wind put the Larkhall side six points behind second place St Anthony’s with two games in hand and continued their outside chance of promotion. The Jags were down to a reduced squad again and right back Mark Russell who had started the previous two games made way to accommodate midfielder Brian Jack at right back. Ross McGeachie returned to partner Graham Gracie up front and that proved to be a good decision.
Thistle gave Dunipace an idea of what was to follow with a preview of their second goal after 11 minutes. Jack made his best contribution to the game with a through ball to Scott Nicholl on the left edge of the box, the youngster took it on and hit a low shot across the keeper to his left but he saved comfortably.
The home side were well on top in the early stages of the match and it was against the run of play that Dunipace took the lead in the 18th minute. A Dunipace attack was cleared for a corner and when the cross came in it looked like a clear foul on Ross McGeachie before the ball was played out to Kirwin on the edge of the box. The defender curled an unstoppable shot – possibly assisted by the wind – into the top corner of the net. Thistle’s Dean Richardson was booked for protesting too loudly at the apparent foul leading to the goal.
Three minutes later Thistle were almost level when a free kick from JP Grant 40 yards out dropped right in front of the goal but McGeachie just failed to connect with his header and the ball was cleared for a corner. The respite was brief however as two minutes later the Jags were level. Again it was a corner and Alan Fleming won the ball in the box and laid it off to Ross McGeachie at the edge of the six yard box, he struck the ball high into the net and although the keeper got a hand to it he was beaten by the power of the shot.
Thistle were only level for three minutes though before Dunipace found space again down the left, exposing the stand-in right back’s lack of defensive capabilities once more as Wright curled an almost identical shot into the same corner to put the Stirlingshire club back in front.
The chances were coming thick and fast and Thistle nearly drew level a minute later when Mak McKeever got on the end of a McGeachie knock-down to hit a good half-volley which the keeper manged to dive low to smother. Two minutes later Gracie latched on to a great through ball over the top that split the Dunipace defence wide open but his lob from 20 yards sailed over the keeper and over the bar. Just after the half hour mark McGeachie was sent clear with another through ball and although he started his run behind two defenders he was bizarrely blown up for offside.
Thistle equalised in 42 minutes when Scott Nicholl recreated his earlier move and took the ball on the left of the penalty area and drove in before sending a low shot just inside the keeper’s left hand post.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Dunipace 2
The second half saw Thistle playing with the wind and dominating proceedings almost from start to finish. Jags keeper Davie McEwan nearly scored the first goal of the half with a kick out that the wind helped all the way and Pace keeper McGinty had to watch carefully as it bounced over the bar.
Alan Fleming picked up an early second half booking for a professional foul when he took the Dunipace man down as he broke clear just inside the Thistle half but Thistle nearly went in front in the 51st minute when Canning somehow managed to get his diving header over the bar from a Gracie cross. Dunipace showed they still had a bit left in 61 minutes with a great passing move resulting in their striker finding himself in the clear right in front of goal. His low hard shot looked a certain goal until McEwan manged to get down and get a big left hand to it somehow.
Thistle were well on top however and the breakthrough came in the 69th minute when Mark Canning beat the Dunipace high-line offside trap with a perfectly timed run to latch on to a long kick from McEwan and dink the ball over the advancing keeper. Shortly after manager Dunky Sinclair brought on Sandy Strang for Gracie.
Thistle continued to press and always looked the more likely to score again and almost did five minutes from time in a strange replica of a fist half move where a Grant free kick was missed right in front of the goal by McGeachie. This time however there looked to be a strong suspicion of a push on the striker.
The game was tied up in after 87 minutes when McGeachie got the ball on the left and played it into Strang. The striker’s low shot was parried by McGinty but Nicholl was on hand to tap in the rebound and secure the points for the Jags.
A minute from time Canning tried a spectaular lob from halfway that went just past and in the final minute McEwan provided the last action of the day as he dived brilliantly to get a hand to a free header from six yards.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 4 Dunipace 2
Thistle Scorers: Nicholl 2, McGeachie, Canning
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Jack, Brown, Fleming, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Grant, Nicholl; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs: Russell, Strang, McInall
McGinty; Meikle, Kirwin, Mullan, Oates; Batchelor, Brown, Grant, Rodger; Mallon, Wright. Subs: Miller, Gordon, Orr, Walker, Gilcherrie
Best for Thistle on the day were McGeachie, Fleming and McEwan