Central League First Division
Fullarton Park Glasgow
Bellshill Athletic v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle kept up their unwanted run of defeats today at Fullarton Park, though a much improved performance should have seen them get at least a share of the points. In the end however the result again swung on several contentious refereeing decisions rather than being outplayed by the opposition.
Thistle started the game with a couple of changes from the defeat at Lanark, Mark Weir was recalled to centre half with Andy Brown switching to right back and Mark Russell dropping to the bench. JP Grant was also back in the team after suspension and he slotted into centre midfield, with Jack moving to the right and Scott McLachlan making way.
Bellshill started the game looking in the mood and their early pressure brought them a free kick on the right inside three minutes. Bellshill’s number 6, who had a hand in most things, swung a cross into the six yard box and it was met with a glancing header that dropped inside the left post of Davie McEwan’s goal leaving him helpless and the Jags a goal down.
Thistle fought back and a good run down the right side by Graham Gracie took him right to the byline, he cut the ball back but Canning’s shot was wide. JP Grant – back in the team after his two match ban – then played a great reverse pass across the park to Mark McKeever who got his cross in well but Jack’s effort was put out for a corner.
The game then settled for a ten minute spell where most of the action took place in the middle of the park and neither team created much in the way of real chances. It was to prove to be the calm before the storm of the frantic five minutes that followed.
On 28 minutes Larkhall pushed up and a Ross McGeachie flicked header landed perfectly in the path of Mark Canning who found himself clear with just the keeper to beat but unfortunately scuffed his shot. The ball went out for a throw in to Thistle and Gracie’s long effort managed to find it’s way to Grant at the far post who slid in to equalise.
Thistle had the bit between their teeth now and looked to take the lead, Grant’s cross found Jack in perfect position but his shot was saved. Just after the half hour point of the game the referee awarded a free kick to Bellshill inside the halfway line, it looked an innocuous challenge and manager Duncan Sinclair was spoken to for his protests. The free kick was taken quickly and the ball fell to a Bellshill player on the left who looked blatantly offside to everyone except the referee and he scored with a low shot.
Two minutes later Alan Flaming rose above his opponent to clear a high ball into the box but for some inexplicable reason the referee awarded Bellshill a penalty for the challenge. The penalty was scored and Bellshill were 3-1 up. The visitors pushed hard to get back into the game before the interval, in 39 minutes Mark McKeever fired in a cross which was headed just over the bar by Canning and another long throw from Gracie was headed over by Fleming.
Dean Richardson was booked for arguing about a free kick given against Fleming for handball.
Half Time: Bellshill 3 Larkhall Thistle 1
Thistle started the second half looking determined to get back into the game and right away a long pass from Grant out to the right landed perfectly in McGeachie’s path but his snap shot went wide. Bellshill then almost extended their lead when their best passage of play saw the ball being moved down the right and a cross met with a strong header that rattled the bar. It was deja vu five minutes later when they should have scored with a free header in the middle of the goals.
The Jags heeded the warning and on 57 minutes Gracie cut in from the left and his cross was handled by a Bellshill defender. JP Grant stepped up to pull it back to 3-2. Two minutes later Larkhall had the ball in the net for what looked like the equaliser only for the celebrations to be cut short when the referee disallowed the goal for offside. There was to be no respite for the home side though as Gracie sprinted clear on the left side of the box and was upended by a lunge from the Bellshill defender.Grant again took responsibility for the spot kick and levelled the game at 3-3.
Mark Weir was booked for a tackle from behind shortly after that and in the 67th minute came the Bellshill winner. The Larkhall defence was caught out by a through ball that left the number 10 in the clear with another Bellshill player in support and no Thistle defenders back. The player took the ball in towards Davie McEwan and as the keeper came out, rolled the ball to his team mate who slid it into the empty net.
The ball looked to have been played forward and as there were no defenders near, it’s hard to see why offside wasn’t given. Thistle fought hard to get another equaliser with Fleming again going close with a header from a Gracie throw and Weir’s header producing a great save in the dying stages of the game.
Fleming and Grant were both booked for dissent towards the end of the game.
A better performance on the day then from the Jags and a game which they didn’t deserve to lose. It was also good to see them scoring goals again after a three game barren spell. We will be looking to get back to winning ways on Saturday when we face bottom club East Kilbride Thistle at Gaworks Park.
Full Time: Bellshill 4 Larkhall Thistle 3
Thistle Scorers: Grant (3)
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Brown, Fleming, Weir, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Grant, Jack; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs Russell, McKay, McLachlan, Kelly, Moss
Booked: Richardson, Weir, Fleming, Grant
Best for Thistle on the day was Grant who made a big difference in the middle of the park and Gracie who had a hand in all Thistle’s goals.