Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Lanark
Thistle can count themselves extremely unlucky to come away from this hard fought derby with nothing, the difference in the sides at the end being an unfortunate JP Grant own goal and a dubious penalty.
A combination of goal line clearances bad misses and poor refereeing decisions prevented the Jags from taking at least a share of the points. Lanark started the game brightly and were on top for the first ten minutes until Graham Gracie picked up the ball on the left and set off on a run before playing the ball across the face of the goal, Ross McGeachie just failing to make contact. Gracie was involved in Thistle’s next attempt too as his long throw found Mark Canning in the clear on the penalty spot, the midfielder’s shot flying past the post.
Larkhall were having a good spell of pressure but were denied by two successive bad offside calls when first McGeachie and then Gracie were through on goal with the defence beaten. Larnark went ahead in 13 minutes against the run of play with their two best players on the day combining. Ex-Thistle winger Alan McFadden – who caused problems for the Jags all day down the left wing – crossed low into the six yard box and Jack Marriott nicked in first to get the touch and score.
Two minutes later Lanark almost made it two from a free kick that Davie McEwan just managed to scramble the ball onto the corner of post and bar. Dean Richardson was booked for the foul that led to the free kick. Half way through the first half Thistle nearly equalised when another Gracie throw set up a great chance that was cleared off the line. That was quickly followed up by a Canning shot that was miraculously saved at point blank range by the Lanark keeper.
Thistle’s pressure did pay off however on the half hour mark when Gracie again did well on the left wing before crossing the ball for McGeachie to head in at the near post.
The home team were only level for nine minutes though before McFadden again tormented the defence before playing an identical ball into the box for another close range finish.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Lanark 2
Thistle started the second half in somewhat bizarre fashion, with two Jags players leaving the ball from the kick off to each other, allowing Lanark to snatch possession and break up the park and only a great diving save at the feet of the striker by McEwan stopped the Jags going further behind. This spurred Thistle into action and they replied with a series of corners but the visitors defence stood firm. Next up on 53 minutes was the move of the day from Thistle, Gracie drifting past his man on the left before crossing for Canning to hit a tremendous volley just past the post. A minute later the same two players combined as Gracie crossed from the left for Canning to head just over and he will have felt that he should have scored. Canning was booked a couple of minutes later for arguing about a free kick given against JP Grant.
Lanark were under the cosh and the only outcome looked to be a Larkhall equaliser but as they did in the first half they produced a smash and grab act against the run of play. Thistle should have heeded the warning when again the low ball into the centre of the defence had to be dealt with brilliantly by McEwan but on the hour mark yet another ball down the left caught the Jags out, Grant tried to clear it but could only steer it past the helpless McEwan to make it 1-3. A few minutes later Gracie picked up a booking and Scott McLachlan replaced Brian Jack.
McLachlan made an immediate impact on the game and did more in his first couple of minutes than Thistle had shown all day on the right side of midfield. His direct play produced a great cross into the middle of the goal for Gracie to take the ball on his chest before turning and volleying home. The Jags were once again piling on the pressure and on the 67th minute Grant was furious with himself as he missed a golden opportunity to level the scores, his header going just over the bar.
That was to prove costly five minutes later when Lanark were awarded a hotly contested penalty, Hugh Kelly was booked for his protests and Marriott made the score 2-4. Thistle weren’t done yet though and their tremendous fighting spirit got them back into the game a couple of minutes later when McGeachie tapped in after keeper Tobin failed to hold.
Spurred on by the goal, it was all out attack now and the Jags produced corner after corner and bombarded the Lanark defence in their attempts to get the equaliser but despite some heroic efforts the visitors held on for the win.
JP Grant was booked in the 83rd minute and Richardson was sent off for a second booking in time added on.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lanark 4
Thistle Scorers: McGeachie 2, Gracie
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Brown, Kelly, Fleming, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Grant, Jack; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs Russell, McLachlan, Weir, Strang, Moss
Best for Thistle on the day were Gracie and McEwan and McGeachie with Kelly and Canning also making good contributions.