Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Larkhall Thistle v St Anthony’s
Thistle made hard work of beating a good St Anthony’s team in the heavy going, despite the visitors being down to ten men for most of the game. On a great day for football, this was one of the few games in the West Central area to survive the week’s rain and only made it due to the touchline being brought in by two yards on each side to cut out the worst of the damage caused by the weather.
St Anthony’s started well and Davie McEwan had to look sharp to bring off a diving save to his left from a free kick in the seventh minute, after Hugh Kelly had conceded the foul for a shove just outside the box. It took until the sixteenth minute before the Jags made any impact, Ross McGeachie curling a shot just past the post from 15 yards.
Larkhall were pressing well now and eight minutes later a free kick from Graham Gracie fell nicely for JP Grant, who made a lung bursting run to get on the end of it and hit the ball on the half-volley from the edge of the box straight into the goalkeeper’s stomach.
The incident that turned the game however came in the 28th minute. Gracie took a throw on the left and as McGeachie went up for the header, the Ant’s defender was judged to have pushed him down and the referee awarded a penalty. Ant’s McDonald was booked and continued protesting until the referee lost patience and sent him off with another yellow card. Grant stepped up and scored low to the left to keep up his fine record with penalties this season.
The lead was only to last three minutes, St Anthony’s struck back right away with a ball swept from right to left finding O’Donnell on the corner of the box who smashed it high into the net. Thistle came back immediately and produced the best moment of football in the game, Grant played a defence splitting pass through the middle to McKeever who’s clever back-heel took out the whole St Anthony’s defence and set up a shot for Gracie who blasted over the bar. A minute later the big striker appeared to be clean through again but decided to check his run and the chance was lost.
Thistle’s pressure finally paid off though three minutes from the interval. A sweeping Jags move put Gracie in the clear and he tried to lob the keeper but it was scrambled clear for a corner. From the corner Dean Richardson picked up the ball and cut across the byeline past a defender, before catching out the Ant’s defence with a high cross to the back post for Grant to head into the empty net.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 St Anthony’s 1
Thistle started the second half fired up looking as if they wanted to take advantage of the extra man and kill the game off. A long clearance from keeper McEwan found the run of McGeachie who took the ball in his stride past a defender and past the keeper, unfortunately he had gone too wide and couldn’t roll the ball in from the tight angle. The Jags kept up the pressure though and a knock down from McGeachie set up a shooting opportunity for Richardson but he fired over from just outside the box.
In 55 minutes Larkhall did extend their lead when Andy Brown drove down the right wing before sending a looping cross to the back post for McGeachie to head back across the goal into the far corner. 3-1.
St Anthony’s squeezed the play up the park in an attempt to get the goals back but this left their defence vulnerable to long through balls and time after time Thistle caught them out but couldn’t add to their goals tally. The best of the chances fell to McKeever in 77 minutes after Gracie had done well to get the ball across and Canning had swiped at the ball and missed. The winger though couldn’t put the ball away and shot wide.
The Jags had a late let off five minutes later after a great block from Brown rebounded and was smashed off the bar with McEwan helpless. Brown then picked up an injury and was replaced by Scott McLachlan with McKeever filling in at full back.
Five minutes from time the visitors did pull a goal back when an innocuous looking ball appeared to be misjudged by Davie McEwan, the ball landed at O’Donnell’s feet and he stuck it in the net.
McGeachie was booked late on for heading the ball into the net after the whistle had gone, McKeever followed him into the book for a tackle and Kelly was booked for dissent.
Thistle survived a nervous last five minutes to hold out for the win that on balance of play and chances created they probably deserved, but credit to the Ants who made them fight all the way even with only ten men on the park.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 3 St Anthony’s 2
Thistle Scorers: Grant 2, McGeachie
McEwan; Brown, Fleming, Kelly, Richardson, McKeever, Grant, Canning, Jack, McGeachie, Gracie. Subs: McLachlan, Brady, Russell, Duris, Moss
Booked: McGeachie, McKeever, Kelly
Best for Thistle on the day was Grant, although there were good performances too from Brown, Kelly and McKeever