Larkhall Thistle 1 Shettleston 2 – 16th February, 2013

Euroscot Eng Central League Cup Round 1
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Shettleston

Larkhall Thistle went out of the last cup tournament of the season at home to Shettleston today, but if this was a tournament that nobody was really interested in somebody forgot to tell the Jags players as they gave everything to try and rescue the tie. The game hinged on two refereeing decisions that went against Thistle, once again the referee who sent off JP Grant at Dunipace for a sliding tackle in the pouring rain saw fit to dismiss a Thistle player for the same “offence”. The other decision that swung the game Shettleston’s way was the award of a highly dubious penalty, from which they scored the winning goal.

Mark McKeever and Graham Gracie watch Dean Richardson's cross
Mark McKeever and Graham Gracie watch Dean Richardson’s cross

Thistle started with coach Tam McLaughlin in charge, manager Duncan Sinclair being on silver wedding anniversary duty and with the team showing a couple of changes from the settled side that had played over the last few months. Stuart McFarlane made his full debut at centre half alongside Alan Fleming, with Hugh Kelly resuming his more familiar central midfield role. Brian Jack was recalled to right midfield and JP Grant dropped to the bench along with Scott McLachlan.

After an even matched opening spell, Thistle were the first to create a real chance in 13 minutes when Mark Canning won the ball and found Graham Gracie in the box, he did well to shuffle his feet and make space for a shot that went just past the left post. Shettleston replied with a through ball which left their left winger in the clear and only a great double save by Davie McEwan kept the scoresheet blank.

Thistle line up a first half free kick against Shettleston
Thistle line up a first half free kick against Shettleston

Shettleston did take the lead though in the 17th minute when a high looping ball into the box looked to be McEwan’s all the way, the big keeper made a rare mistake though and fumbled the catch for an easy tap-in. The Jags looked to get back on terms right away but when a long clearance from McEwan was knocked down, the volley opportunity fell to the wrong man and Jack’s effort cleared the houses behind the goal.

Shettleston had a goal disallowed in the 23rd minute when McEwan came out to claim a speculative ball in from the right and was fouled, the ball rolling into the net without touching anybody. Immediately after having the goal chalked off the visitors felt further aggrieved when they had a claim for a penalty turned down when Dean Richardson fell on the ball, the defender couldn’t do anything about making contact though and the referee got this one right. Shettleston were the team on top at this stage and looked likely to extend their lead when their striker was sent clear on the half hour mark, Andy Brown threw himself in for a diving block to prevent the goal. The Jags survived further efforts in quick succession, a volley that went narrowly over the bar and a free header from a free kick that really should have produced a goal.

Dean Richardson produced what turned out to be Thistle’s best bit of football of the game in the 38th minute. He picked up the ball deep in his own half and took it forward, playing a nice one-two with Kelly before setting off on a dribble down the right wing and producing a great cross, unfortunately nobody could get on the end of it but that was as good as it got for the Jags on the day.

Larkhall Thistle line up to defend a first half Shettleston free kick
Larkhall Thistle line up to defend a first half Shettleston free kick

The incident that changed the game came in the 42nd minute when Stuart McFarlane – who was having an excellent game – slid into a tackle on the edge of the box. The only concern seemed to be that the referee might have missed the fact that the tackle was outside the box and given a penalty but to everyone’s astonishment he reached straight for the red card and sent the defender off. Kelly led the protests and was booked in the aftermath.

Larkhall had one last chance to draw level before half time, a long throw from Gracie on the right was headed narrowly past by Alan Fleming.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Shettleston 1

Thistle made a change at half time to try and compensate for the loss of McFarlane, Ross McGeachie was replaced by JP Grant and Gracie was left to play up front on his own. The sense of injustice seemed to fire the Jags up right from the restart as they went all out for an equaliser.

Scott McLachlan faces the outrushing Shettleston defence
Scott McLachlan faces the outrushing Shettleston defence

The Jags drew level six minutes into the half. Mark Canning hit a scuffed shot that went wide to the right of the goal, the ball was played back into the middle of the six yard box and in the resultant scramble Canning managed to drag the ball clear of the pack just enough to poke it home.

The game was only level for five minutes however before the referee again stepped up to play a major part in the proceedings. A shot was blasted straight at JP Grant standing just inside the box from five yards away and how anybody could judge it as deliberate handball is a mystery. The referee did though and awarded Shettleston a penalty which they converted.

Thistle's Mark Canning, Graham Gracie and Alan Fleming take their places for a Jags free kick
Thistle’s Mark Canning, Graham Gracie and Alan Fleming take their places for a Jags free kick

Thistle never looked beaten though and were given a double boost with the arrival of manager Dunky Sinclair and the substitution of Scott McLachlan for Jack. McLachlan made an immediate impact, chasing and harrying for every loose ball and never giving the Shettleston left side a minute’s peace.

The Jags best chance of the second half came in the 71st minute. Grant picked up the ball in the centre of the park and played it out to Canning on the left, the midfielder fed Gracie who ran in and took on the keeper only to be foiled by a very good diving save. Shettleston should have put the game beyond doubt with ten minutes left, a Thistle attack was intercepted and they broke forward and played a crossfield pass right onto the head of the incoming striker who really should have scored.

Alan Fleming gets in a late header for Thistle
Alan Fleming gets in a late header for Thistle

Six minutes from time Thistle were reduced to nine men when Hugh Kelly was judged to have elbowed his opponent when climbing for a header and he was given his second yellow card of the game.

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Shettleston 2

Thistle Scorer: Canning

Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Brown, McFarlane, Fleming, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Kelly, Jack; McGeachie, Gracie.
Subs Russell, McLachlan, Grant, Moss

Booked: McKeever, Grant.  Sent off: Kelly, McFarlane

Best for Thistle on the day were the back four who all defended very well and weren’t at fault for the goals.

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