Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
John Cumming Park, Carluke
Carluke Rovers v Larkhall Thistle
A bad day at the office for Larkhall Thistle saw them lose on their first visit to Carluke’s new John Cumming Stadium facility. The advantages of the all weather surface – meaning the games are always on – and the multi purpose nature of the stadium have to be weighed with the view, it’s a long way away due to the running track.
To be honest it was a result that wasn’t entirely undeserved and Thistle looked a shadow of the team that had beaten league leaders Greenock so convincingly on their last outing.
The first real chance of the game fell early on to the home team, a dangerous ball from the right was fizzed across the goal and was missed by everybody. It looked to be heading in until Hugh Kelly slid in and cleared off the line. The ball broke up the park and this time it was the Jags who nearly scored through a fierce Mark Canning drive that the keeper could only parry. Canning was involved again after ten minutes when he played a 1-2 with Ross McGeachie before shooting, the keeper only managed to deflect the ball high into the air and in the resultant scramble as the ball dropped the Carluke defence reacted quickest to get the ball clear.
In the 18th minute the Carluke left winger – who was getting a lot of space down the left wing – made a run from just inside the Thistle half and cut inside before hitting a shot just over the bar.
Midway through the first half Scott McLachlan clashed with one of the Carluke players in an incident that led indirectly to the opening goal. Play restarted and next it was Alan Fleming who got involved with an opponent in what appeared to be a case of afters from the previous incident. The referee booked both players and awarded a free kick to Rovers but the Jags lost their concentration and a quick pass through the middle caught the Thistle defence cold but found an attacking player who kept his composure to slot the ball low past Davie McEwan.
Thistle nearly got back on terms in the 32nd minute when Dean Richardson picked up a loose ball in midfield before feeding Ross McGeachie. The big target man played the ball square to Canning who shot narrowly over the bar from the edge of the box.
The hosts should have doubled their lead five minutes later however when they sprung the Jags offside trap leaving the Carluke player in the clear. He cut back inside but his weak shot was easily saved by McEwan. The Jags failed to heed the warning signs and two minutes later Carluke nearly scored again with an identical move, this time hitting the post.
Half Time: Carluke Rovers 1 Larkhall Thistle 0
Thistle came out for the second half looking like a team that was fired up and ready to cancel out the memory of a poor first half and the first to threaten the Rovers goal was JP Grant who collected the ball 20 yards out and shot just over. Then a minute later Graham Gracie – who was having a very quiet game by his standards – got involved in earnest for the first time in the game. He picked up the ball on the left and ran with it into the box, taking on two Carluke defenders before cutting the ball back for Mark McKeever who shot over the bar.
The second half had been all Thistle up till the 62nd minute when Carluke again should have scored. A cross from the left was misjudged by Jags defender Hugh Kelly and fell to the Carluke man who was clear in on goal but managed to scuff his shot past the post. Thistle defender Dean Richardson was then booked for what appeared to be little more than a tackle but he collided with the Carluke player in the process and the referee thought he saw enough to produce the yellow card.
Deano then started a move that nearly brought the equaliser, he drifted past a couple of Carluke players before switching the ball to the opposite wing. McLachlan headed the ball into the path of the overlapping Andy Brown who took it in his stride and drove in on the goal before firing a great shot just wide of the left hand post. A minute later however the Jags were level, again it was Richardson’s cross field ball this time finding Canning ten yards out who hit a first time volley past the helpless keeper.
Thistle were now firmly on top of the game and there looked to be only one winner. JP Grant’s cross on 70 minutes found Canning and he produced an almost carbon copy volley from the same position that nearly gave them the lead. The Jags were now playing some decent football on the deck in contrast to the long ball game of the first half and it was no surprise that this led to the best move of the game. Richardson again picked the ball up and strolled past three opponents before passing to Graham Gracie. The defender continued his run and Gracie slipped the ball through the middle for Richardson to run on to and shoot, unfortunately the keeper pushed it past the post for a corner.
Despite all the Thistle pressure though it was the home team who got the decisive goal on 75 minutes. Again it was a ball through the middle that caught out the Jags defence and despite Andy Brown’s efforts the striker got his shot away from ten yards and it flew past McEwan into the corner.
Thistle made a couple of substitutions, McFarlane for Gracie and Jack for McLachlan and could have equalised two minutes into injury time. JP Grant got the ball on the left side of the box and crossed for McGeachie who turned and volleyed it over the bar. The last action of the day saw Davie McEwan preventing Carluke from extending their lead when he produced a brilliant diving save at the feet of the Carluke attacker.
All in all a disappointing day for Larkhall after the highs of the last performance and there is still a lot of work to be done if the Jags are to be in the running for a promotion place.
Full Time: Carluke Rovers 2 Larkhall Thistle 1
Thistle Scorer: Canning
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Brown, Kelly, Fleming, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Grant, McLachlan; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs Russell, Jack, Weir, Moss, McFarlane
Booked: Fleming, Richardson, Grant
Best for Thistle on the day were Richardson, and McEwan who had no chance with the goals and made some great saves. Canning and McGeachie also did well.