Scottish Cup First Round
Nicol-Togneri Park, Elgin
Fochabers v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle ran out comfortable winners in this rearranged tie at Elgin but despite being red hot favourites the game was not without it’s scares. Fochabers had moved the venue due to their park being unplayable and the game kicked off in bright sunshine.
Just three minutes into the game a cross from the left by JP Grant was mysteriously handled by a Fochabers defender for a penalty, Grant took the kick himself and scored low to the keeper’s right.
Two minutes later the Fochabers captain was booked for a foul on Mark McKeever, but in the tenth minute the highlanders were level through a low strike from the right by their number 9. The lead was restored less than a minute later however when the Fochabers keeper fumbled a seemingly harmless ball onto the bar and Scott McLachlan headed in from three yards.
The game settled down for a spell before the Jags extended their lead when Mark Russell crossed only to see the Fochabers defender scuff his clearance, the ball landing at Ross McGeachie’s feet. The striker took the ball past the keeper but apparently went too wide only to score from what seemed an impossible angle.
Fochabers then had another two players booked, their No. 11 for dissent and No. 3 for a foul on McLachlan.
Six minutes from the interval Graham Gracie made his first telling contribution, a good through ball from Mark McKeever found him in acres of space and he finished with a lob to the back corner of the goal for 4-1.
A minute later Gracie got his second after good work from Mark Canning saw the ball fall at his feet and he scored from close range. Fochabers struck back a couple of minutes later with a good drive from their number 8 which went just over the bar. It was to be his last contribution to the game as he limped off injured straight after.
Just on half time Larkhall made it six when Gracie worked his way down the left wing before unleashing a ferocious shot that the keeper could only parry. It fell to him again and he unselfishly cut the ball back for Scott McLachlan to tap in.
Half Time Fochabers 1 Larkhall Thistle 6
As the teams ran out for the second half, the temperature dropped noticably and with it so did Thistle’s performance. Mark Russell was replaced by Ryan Moore at the break although it was no reflection on the full back’s contribution as the youngster had a good first half.
The first action of the second half saw a 20 yard free kick from Gracie sail just over before the hosts went on a shock 13 minute scoring spree. The Fochabers centre half was totally unmarked in the middle of the goal for a simple header from a corner to make it 6-2. Then the Fochabers number 9 who was causing a lot of trouble down the right side put in a cross which Thomson in the Thistle goal didn’t deal with and left a tap in for the lurking striker.
In the 69th minute the men from the north closed the gap even further when they broke up a passage of Jags passing and after good work again from their No.9 found an unmarked colleague who headed in for 6-4.
Thistle at this point this point looked ragged und were maybe starting to think the unthinkable could happen. However the Jags managed to consolidate their lead for the next ten minutes and on the 79th minute Ross McGeachie slipped the ball through to Gracie who completed his hat-trick with a low drive to the right.
Mark McKeeever was replaced by Mark Brady just after the goal and a minute later the game was over as a contest when we saw the best goal of the game. After a flowing move through the centre of the park McGeachie back heeled the ball perfectly into the path of Gracie who ran on and slammed the ball into the identical right hand spot as his third.
Alan Fleming then replaced stand-in centre half Hugh Kelly for the final few minutes.
Mark Canning has been on good scoring form recently and after some encouragement from the travelling fans to get on the scoresheet, won the ball 30 yards out with two minutes left, stepped inside a flailing defender and crashed in a great shot to round off the scoring.
So a win in the end for the Jags but full credit to the lads from Fochabers who kept going – even when the game looked well beyond them – and made a good game of it.
Full Time Fochabers 4 Larkhall Thistle 9
Thistle Scorers: Gracie 4, McLachlan 2, Grant, McGeachie and Canning
Larkhall Thistle Team:
Thomson; Russell, Kelly, Brown, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Grant, McLachlan; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs Fleming, Brady, Moore, Moss
Best for Thistle on the day were Gracie, Grant and McGeachie