Larkhall Thistle kept up their promotion push with the win they needed today at the new Parklea sports complex and with Lesmahagow losing it turned out to be a very good day for the Jags. The situation at the top of the league is now more clear-cut, St Anthony’s have finished their programme and are on 49 points and only Thistle and Lesmahagow can overtake them. If Thistle win their last game – also against Port Glasgow – they will finish on 50 points, Lesmahagow need to win their remaining four games to reach 52 points so if the Gow drop any points and we win our last game then we will be promoted.
It’s all ifs and buts and the only thing Thistle can do is concentrate on winning the last game, whenever that is scheduled. There will need to be a bit of an improvement from today’s second half performance though because if Port Glasgow carry on where they left off today they could cause an upset.
The Jags started looking determined to get the job done and the points tied up and were four goals up in a devastating 11 minute spell before Port knew what had hit them. Ross McGeachie had served an early warning of what was to come, after only six minutes Mark McKeever took the ball on the right wing after a well worked move and put in a great cross for McGeachie to see his header fly past the left post. Port Glasgow’s only real threatening move of the early stages came a couple of minutes later when a high ball over the top caught out the Thistle defence and as the Port striker raced clear with Hugh Kelly, the Jags man fell over and took him down as well inside the box but the home side’s loud penalty claims were waved aside.
JP Grant opened the scoring for Thistle after 13 minutes, a free kick on the right of the goal was swung in by Scott Nicholl and his header flew into the top left hand corner of the net.
Two minutes later the Jags doubled their lead, a long ball out of defence was flicked on by McGeachie for Graham Gracie to run on to, the big striker sprinted past the defence from 40 yards and took the ball in on the keeper before slotting it low into the net. The home side were claiming offside but he had clearly started his run from between two Port Glasgow defenders.
Three minutes later it was 3-0 and still only 18 minutes played. Grant looked to have lost the ball in midfield but did well to recover and collect it before playing it out wide to the right, McKeever took on the defender but the ball went out and again the home side were up in arms as they felt it was their throw. Canning managed to get the ball across into the box and McGeachie found a yard of space to get his head to it and score.
Thistle were enjoying themselves now and Dean Richardson set off on a great run after 24 minutes, playing a neat one-two before bursting into the box and to be honest running into the back of a home defender. This time the Port Glasgow players and fans were entitled to their protests as the referee awarded a penalty which was converted by the reliable Grant who kept up his excellent scoring record from the spot this season.
Port Glasgow had a couple of chances just after the fourth goal, the first through a long ball which found a Port striker and as he was bearing down on goal only a fantastic last gasp tackle from Richardson kept the clean sheet intact. Richardson was forced into another similar challenge ony two minutes later and again won the ball cleanly to avert any danger.
Thistle looked content to see out the rest of the first half with their four goal lead and the only other time they came close was ten minutes from the interval when a good interchange between Richardson, Grant and Mark Canning set up Richardson for a shot which went just over the bar.
Half Time: Port Glasgow 0 Larkhall Thistle 4
The second half began with news that Lesmahagow were two goals down and whether or not that had an effect on the performance, it was low-key to say the least. It was a half that was best forgotten for the Jags as they lost a goal and were under pressure throughout, and could have lost even more on another day.
Port Glasgow got on the scoresheet after 61 minutes and it was a goal their play had deserved. A ball down the right wing wasn’t closed down and from the cross a straightforward header in the middle gave keeper McEwan no chance.
Thistle hit back quickly and Ross McGeachie reacted first to take a quick free kick which he played to Canning, the midfielder looked up and hit a long shot from 25 yards just over the bar.
Port Glasgow pushed again looking to close the gap further but in the 70th minute Jags manager Dunky Sinclair knew that the game was won, bringing on Brian Jack for Mark Canning. Andy Brown, who had been out with a hamstring injury, also got a run out in place of Mark Russell.
Richardson got involved in the opposition half again three minutes later when he played another one-two and went down in the box in a carbon-copy of the first half penalty incident. This time however there was no penalty claim and the referee didn’t see it as a foul.
Thistle were under the cosh again 11 minutes from time when Port Glasgow won a series of corners that were defended a bit desperately, eventually the ball was scrambled clear and broke out to Jack in the middle of the park but his scooped pass out wide under no real pressure went out of the park and the move broke down.
Larkhall made a final substitution bringing on Stuart McFarlane for Scott Nicholl nine minutes from the end and were lucky to escape again two minutes later when Kelly made a desperate last gasp tackle with the Port Glasgow striker through on goal. The Jags had one more attempt at goal left with three minutes to go when McKeever set up Gracie for a run into the box and low left foot shot but the keeper saved comfortably.
So a bit of an anti-climax in the end as far as the actual game went but a great result that keeps Thistle firmly in the hunt for the other promotion spot, Port Glasgow can escape relegation mathematically but look to have too much to do, Dunipace only need three points from their remaining six games to send them down.
Full Time: Port Glasgow 1 Larkhall Thistle 4
Thistle Scorers: Gracie, Grant 2, McGeachie
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Russell, Fleming, Kelly, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Grant, Nicholl; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs McFarlane, Weir, Jack, Brown, Moss
Best for Thistle on the day was Dean Richardson, but Ross McGeachie also put in a great performance topped with a well-taken goal