Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
McKenna Park, Cardonald, Glasgow
St Anthony’s v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle travelled to McKenna Park to take on the well fancied Ants in their third league fixture. The Jags started the game shooting towards the M8 end and fielded an unchanged team from last week’s home draw with Carluke.
Thistle had the home side under pressure in the 8th minute when a Mark McKeever shot hit the corner of the bar and post and was an early sign of things to come. St Anthonys retaliated with a break four minutes later that saw their dangerous looking striker Chris Mackie unmarked in the centre of the box, his free header going over the bar.
Ross McGeachie headed narrowly wide from a free kick in the 18th minute, the home side broke and were unlucky not to take the lead with a shot that went just past the post. A minute later a Larkhall break led to a corner on the right, Hugh Kelly swung it in and the Ants keeper somehow managed to reach up and scramble it into his own net for the opening goal.
A couple of minutes later Thistle were denied the chance to double the lead when the referee denied a strong looking claim for a penalty after Kelly was upended in the box following good work from Grant on the right. St Anthonys replied shortly afterwards when a quick break sprung the Jags offside trap and left three home players clear but fortunately for Thistle they squandered the chance. The lead didn’t last much longer however, on the half hour mark St Anthonys won a corner which was headed in at close range by Mackie.
Larkhall bounced back almost immediately though, regaining the lead in the 32nd minute. Grant played a great ball through to Canning that caught the home defence out leaving the midfielder one on one with the keeper. He kept his composure and slipped the ball just inside the left hand post.
Half Time: St Anthony’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 2
The second half started with a strong swirling wind which was to prove telling.
Three minutes after the restart Grant hit the bar with a header from a McLachlan cross, then a home attack resulted in a curling shot from the edge of the box being tipped over by Thomson. A minute later Mark McKeever had a great chance to put Larkhall further ahead but a heavy touch allowed the keeper to dive at his feet and smother the ball. McKeever was adjudged to have gone in too aggressively to the challenge and was booked with the home fans calling for a red card.
Just before the hour point defender Mark Weir picked up an injury and was replaced by Graham Gracie. In the resultant reshuffle Hugh Kelly moved to centre half and JP Grant dropped back into midfield. Next to threaten the Ants goal was Mark Canning who found himself one on one with the keeper on 65 minutes but failed to convert. Ants then made a double substitution, one of the subs being ex-Larkhall Thistle player Bonner.
70 minutes in and Gracie chased down a lost cause, winning the ball and creating a chance for himself. By now the big striker was getting involved in the game and after some superb defending by Kelly had kept the Jags lead intact, he worked his way down the wing and set up Canning in front of goal. Only a last gasp tackle prevented Thistle from extending the lead.
With ten minutes to go Gracie again found himself in on the keeper but passed when he could have shot, Ants broke right back up the park and Mackie should have equalised but fired over. Four minutes from time the game was over as a contest, a high ball forward got caught in the wind and dropped behind the St Anthonys defender 25 yards out. The keeper raced out but Graham Gracie was always favourite to get there first and the ball rolled into the empty net.
Thistle brought on newcomers Mark Bradley and Ryan Moore for Canning and McLachlan with a couple of minutes left on the clock and with the game looking to be won.
However there was a late scare when St Anthony’s pulled a goal back and the visiting supporters had visions of another two goal lead being squandered.
The final action of the game saw Graham Gracie in yet another one on one with the Ants keeper, his attempted lob not being high enough to clear the goalie’s outstretched hands.
So a great result for the Jags and a great start to the league campaign in what looked like a very difficult opening set of fixtures.
Best on the day for Thistle were Thomson, Brown, Kelly and Grant. The improving Mark Russell also deserves a mention.
Full Time: St Anthony’s 2 Larkhall Thistle 3
Thistle Scorers: Kelly, Canning, Gracie
Larkhall Thistle Team:
Thomson; Russell, Weir, Brown, Richardson; McKeever, Canning, Kelly, McLachlan; McGeachie, Grant. Subs: Gracie, Bradley, Moore