Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Provanmill Park, Glasgow
St Roch’s v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle got back to winning ways in Provanmill in a match that threatened to be overshadowed by off field events but fortunately passed off peacefully both on and off the park. The presence of a couple of police at the game was enough to quell any possible unrest and it was left to the players to provide the talking points.
Due to a combination of suspensions, injuries and holidays Thistle were left with a squad that was down to the bare bones, missing first team regulars McGeachie, McKeever, Grant, Jack and McLachlan and with only two outfield subs. Veteran defender Mark Weir replaced Hugh Kelly at centre half with Shug moving back to his more familiar midfield role. Mark Russell started again on the right side and the left midfield berth was filled by John Bulloch, returning for a third spell with the club. Sandy Strang started up front for the first time alongside Graham Gracie.
Thistle started well and had nearly all of the early possession, resulting in an opening goal after 8 minutes. Bulloch pressed on the left side of midfield and played a ball right across the park to the opposite corner of the box where Mark Russell met it and headed it down into the ground, the ball bouncing back up and past the stranded keeper into the corner of the net. Graham Gracie followed up but the ball looked to be already over the line before he got a touch.
A couple of minutes later St Roch’s produced their best attacking move of the half when their number 7 (Belgie?) went on a mazy dribble past three Jags defenders before unselfishly laying the ball off for a colleague who shot wide. That was about as good as it got for the home side though as after 12 minutes Thistle doubled their lead when Bulloch latched on to a loose ball bobbing around in the box and hammered it into the far corner from 10 yards.
Five minutes later St Roch’s took a free kick which they claimed had hit a Larkhall defender, the referee waved their protests aside though and played on. Thistle broke up the park right away with the ball being played up to Sandy Strang who controlled it well on his chest before laying it off for Gracie, the striker however showed a glimpse of what was to follow by being unable to get his shot away.
It was all Thistle for most of the first half and it was nearly 3-0 in the 22nd minute when the St Roch’s keeper came way out of his goal and lost the ball, Canning had the chance to lob into the empty goal from 30 yards but his effort went over the bar. Canning was involved again a minute later when he set up Gracie with a great ball through the middle of the defence but the big striker uncharacteristically lashed it wide of the target.
The Jags did manage to extend their lead before the interval however when they won a free kick in the 37th minute. Hugh Kelly pinged the ball into the box and it was laid off by Strang for Canning to fire low into the middle of the goal. Five minutes before the break St Roch’s had their best chance to score when the Thistle defence was posted missing at a corner, leaving a free header at the back post for the St Roch’s striker which went just past the post.
Half Time: St Roch’s 0 Larkhall Thistle 3
St Roch’s looked like a diferent team at the start of the second half and set about trying to restore some pride with a couple of good attacks. Only two minutes had gone when they were awarded a free kick just outside the box which just brushed the side netting on the way past and a minute later their striker Shields was sent clear and found himself one on one with Jags keeper Davie McEwan, his tame shot however produced a comfortable save for big Davie.
Six minutes into the second half the game was over when Thistle completed the scoring. Gracie took the ball on the left and cut inside before playing Mark Russell in, he unselfishly laid it back for Bulloch to fire in his second of the game. Alan Fleming picked up a needless booking for not giving the ball back a few minutes later, although the St Roch’s player got away without any punishment for swinging a kick at him!
The rest of the game passed without too much to report, the best efforts on goal being a shot from Strang that went just past after good build up play from Russell and Gracie and a last attempt by Gracie to get on the scoresheet, flicking the ball over a defender’s head before volleying just past the post. Thistle made a substitution in the 75th minute when Steven McInall came on to replace Dean Richardson.
After today’s round of games Thistle stay in fourth place in the table but move to within a point of third place Lanark, with a game in hand.
Full Time: St Roch’s 0 Larkhall Thistle 4
Thistle Scorers: Bulloch (2), Canning, Russell
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Brown, Weir, Fleming, Richardson; Bulloch, Kelly, Canning, Russell; Strang, Gracie. Subs: Moss, McInall, trialist
Best for Thistle on the day were Canning and Bulloch with a good showing from Strang, especially in the first half.