Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Moor Park, Lanark
Lanark v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle slumped to their fifth successive defeat in the biting cold at Moor Park despite having the lion’s share of possession throughout. The Jags again started without midfielder JP Grant who was sitting out the second game of his two match suspension and his drive and determination were badly missed in the middle of the park.
The game started quietly and the best effort in the early part was an Alan Fleming header from a Mark McKeever corner that went over the bar. Thistle then fell behind in the 13th minute against the run of play, a high ball cleared the Jags defence and fell to Lanark’s Burns, who beat Andy Brown before firing a low shot past keeper Davie McEwan.
Larkhall came back and again saw most of the ball with Mark McKeever causing a constant problem to the Lanark defence with his running on the left and his crosses. In the 22nd minute the Jags came close to levelling the game when Graham Gracie fought hard to win back a ball just outside the box and laid it off to McKeever, whose cross was met by Mark Canning on the volley but his effort flew over the bar.
A couple of minutes later Brian Jack was booked for a tackle in the middle of the park that was judged too forceful by the referee. He was followed quickly into the book by Ross McGeachie.
Thistle continued to dominate with Lanark being reduced to defending and counter attacks and ten minutes from half time a high ball into the Lanark goal was fumbled by the keeper. It broke to McKeever who had an open goal in front of him but was foiled by a home defender, who made an excellent lunging block to keep his side on top. Two minutes later the Lanark defence again performed heroics to keep out a triple effort from Thistle, the ball finally being cleared for a corner. McKeever took the corner and Brian Jack met it on the volley but shot wide.
Half Time Lanark 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
The second half had only just started when Thistle made their first substitution, Mark Weir replacing Mark Russell. Andy Brown switched to right back with Weir taking his place at centre half. The Jags went close to reducing the deficit in 55 minutes when a McKeever corner was met by Jack who managed to get a shot away while falling but the shot was off target.
Five minutes later an audacious 35 yard chip from Graham Gracie was tipped wide by the Lanark keeper at full stretch for a corner. Dean Richardson was then booked for a tackle before Gracie produced another moment of quality with a tremendous cross from the left that was headed just over by McKeever.
Gracie was involved again moments later with another great cross, this time from the right that fell temptingly for Scott McLachlan but just evaded his stretching effort. The big striker then had a mazy dribble and shot but the keeper saved well, before Ryan Moore was brought on to replace McLachlan who had been carrying a shoulder injury for most of the game.
Larkhall were in control of most of the play and it took until fifteen minutes to go for Lanark to produce their first real threat of the second half. The ball was worked down the right side and a whipped low cross was met by a smart shot that McEwan did well to produce a reaction save to.
With ten minutes to play Jack produced his best moment of the match when he played a slide rule pass inside the Lanark defender to find McKeever whose low cross into the middle was fired over the bar. The Jags last real attempt came five minutes before the end, again involving Graham Gracie who beat two men before shooting over the bar. Mark Canning was booked just before the end for a tackle.
Whilst the recent run of form is disappointing Thistle are by no means out of contention and still have everything to play for in the league, the result today leaves them three points behind third placed Lanark with a game in hand. So still all to play for, hopefully starting next week at Bellshill.
Full Time Lanark 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
McEwan; Russell, Fleming, Brown, Richardson; McLachlan, Canning, Jack, McKeever; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs Moore, Weir, McNab, MacKay, Moss
Best for Thistle on the day were McKeever for the first half and Gracie for the second.