Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Larkhall Thistle v St Roch’s
Thistle ran out winners today after a second half struggle against a decent looking St Roch’s side. This was an important game for both teams, the Jags badly needed to get back on a winning track after six straight losses and their opponents were hoping to get out of the relegation places.
The game was in danger of not going ahead at all, the ground staff had covers down to prevent more waterlogging and had worked hard to get the game on and it is great credit to them that Thistle picked up full points.
Larkhall took the lead in emphatic style in the seventh minute when Mark McKeever played a ball through the defence to Graham Gracie who smashed a first time shot into the top left corner of the net. Thistle should have extended their lead minutes later when McKeever was played in after good work from Canning but somehow he managed to miscue and the chance was gone.
Gracie then saw a 20 yard effort spin off a defender’s foot and drop just over the bar and a free kick from JP Grant after 32 minutes appeared to be tipped past by the St Roch’s keeper but the referee awarded a goal kick. St Roch’s best attempt on goal in a first half dominated by Thistle was a free kick ten minutes from half time which Davie McEwan in the Jags goal did well to get down to and hold in the slippery conditions.
The best move of the game came in the 38th minute, Gracie ran down the right midfield and whipped a cross to the far post which was met on the volley by McKeever who made no mistake this time and fired his shot low into the right corner.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 St Roch’s 0
St Roch’s were sent out early for the second half and looked fired up to mount a comeback but the hald had barely begun when Thistle extended their lead to 3-0. Mark Canning picked up the ball just inside the St Roch’s half and played a great ball over the top towards Gracie, the St Roch’s defender looked favourite to win the ball but he slipped and the Thistle striked controlled the ball instantly, strode forward and slipped the ball past the keeper.
There looked to be no real danger at this point and really it seemed more of a question of how many, but the referee stepped in and awarded the visitors a penalty when he judged Alan Fleming to have obstructed an attacker in the box. A soft looking penalty for most on the home side, made worse by Fleming being booked. Cryans, who had been on the receiving end of some stick from the home shed, stepped up and sent McEwan the wrong way to make it 3-1. The goal gave St Roch’s a lift and they were now going into their best spell of the game.
On 62 minutes they should have reduced the deficit further when a free header from six yards looked easier to score but they continued to press and six minutes later were awarded a second penalty when the ball hit Hugh Kelly’s arm at the edge of the box. Kelly was booked in the incident and Cryans found the net for a second time.
The game was now in the balance and at this point either side could have won it, the park was slippy and becoming worse as the heavy rain showers took their toll. Thistle took the initiative and had a spell of corners, the best of which saw Fleming going close on the 75 minute mark.
Scott McLachlan replaced Ross McGeachie 15 minutes from time and got involved with five minutes left, when his good work on the right led to a chance for Jack who shot past. Gracie was booked for a challenge late on but had the final say in the game when he whipped in a fierce shot which the St Roch’s keeper manager to get down and parry, only for McKeever to be on the spot to prod home.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 4 St Roch’s 2
Thistle Scorers: Gracie 2, McKeever 2
McEwan; Brown, Fleming, Kelly, Richardson; Jack, Canning, Grant, McKeever; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs: McLachlan, McNab, Duris, Weir, Moss
Booked: Fleming, Kelly, Gracie
Best for Thistle on the day were Gracie, Kelly and Brown, while Canning was much improved.