Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Westfield Park, Denny
Dunipace v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle sufferered a defeat again today at Denny after another controversial refereeing decision cost them dear. The Jags were more than holding their own in the heavy rain in Stirlingshire until the referee sent off JP Grant for what looked like a bookable offence at worst.
Thistle had the first chances of the match when first Mark McKeeever was put in the clear from a Scott McLachlan cross but couldn’t get a shot away, then new signing Brian Jack played in Mark Canning who shot over.
The home team replied with a shot just over the bar when the Dunipace man was clean through and should have scored. After 15 minutes Canning was again heavily involved in the action when he hit a long range effort over the bar then choked a shot to the left of the goal when he might have done a bit better.
Dunipace replied with a sweeping move on the left but Thistle keeper Lee Moss dived btilliantly to his right to tip away the goal-bound effort. In 26 minutes Thistle came clsest to opening their account in the first half when Canning won the ball in midfield and played an excellent lobbed pass through the middle for Graham Gracie to beat the offside trap only to head narrowly wide. Five minutes later the roles were reversed as Gracie played in Canning whose low shot was saved at the near post, the rebound fell back to the midfielder and his second shot was again saved.
Ten minutes before the interval Hugh Kelly who had been playing at left back, was substituted for youn g Mark Russell who went to right back with Jack switching to left back.
The 39th minute saw the incident that was to change the game and cost the Jags the points. JP Grant slid on the wet surface into a tackle, the Dunipace player went down but to his credit got straight back up again. There were no protests from any of the Dunipace players and when the referee pulled Grant over the travelling fans in the crowd were disappointed at what the thought was going to be a somewhat harsh yellow card. To their astonishment and anger however the ref produced a red and sent the Jags man straight off. Mark McKeever was also booked in the ensuing protests.
Half Time: Dunipace 0 Larkhall Thistle 0
The second half started with Dunipace shooting down the hill in the rain with the extra man and they used the advantages to the full after only a minute, McAvoy gliding past two Larkhall defenders before shooting, the ball rebounded back to him and he drove a shot high into the net past the helpless Moss. Two minutes later however the Jags keeper performed heroics – diving at the feet of a Dunipace man who looked certain to score.
Thistle almost got straight back into the game five minutes later, McLachlan slipped a ball though to Gracie whose low shot rattled off the base of the post with the keeper beaten. The ball rebounded to Canning but his shot was saved.
Just before the hour mark Dunipace made it 2-0, a cross from the left wasn’t defended and the Rodger’s free header in the middle of the goal sailed over Moss. A minute later Alan Fleming was booked for a deliberate foul and Russell came off to be replaced by Mark Brady. Dunipace’s No.5 was then booked when he went in with his studs up, an offence that looked every bit as bad if not worse than JP Grant’s sending off.
Thistle then produced a spell of sustained pressure in an attempt to get back into the game and they had had their best chance of the half when a good move found Mark McKeever totally in the clear in front of goal. The winger however froze and cut back inside instead of getting his shot away and the chance was lost. Gracie then put McKeever in again three minutes later and this time he managed to get a shot in but it struck a defender’s hand and despite the protests from visiting players and fans the referee said no penalty.
68 minutes gone and Dunipace’s Mallon drove down the right past Jack – who in fairness was out of position at left back – and hit a low shot which Moss saved. Unfortunately for the Jags though the ball broke back to the same player who found the net at the second attempt.
Thistle showed the kind of fighting spirit that they have done all season and refused to lie down even at 3-0 down and a minute later they produced a great move when McKeever played a ball down the left wing for Gracie to run on to. The big striker took the ball forward to the byeline before cutting back past a couple of defenders and playing a superb ball across to Canning who missed his shot.
With fifteen minutes left the home side completed the scoring when the right winger again got clear and put in a cross for Mallon to finish from 12 yards with a low shot.
Mark McKeever was replaced by Ross McNabb for his debut ten minutes from the end.
Full Time: Dunipace 4 Larkhall Thistle 0
Larkhall Thistle Team:
Moss; Jack, Brown, Fleming, Kelly: McKeever, Canning, Grant, McLachlan; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs Brady, Moore, McNabb, Weir
Booked: McKeever, Fleming. Sent off: Grant
Best for Thistle on the day were Canning who looked back to his best and did everything except score, Gracie who worked hard and always looked dangerous and Moss who made some excellent saves despite the four goals.