Central League First Division
Westfield Park, Denny
Dunipace v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle drew a blank for the second week in a row in a game that all but finished off their outside chances of promotion. In a game that had shades of Thistle’s visit two years ago, the Jags were on top for almost all of the game but failed once again to find their scoring touch in front of goal.
Jordan Marshall was still injured from last week so Scott McLachlan started in right midfield with Graham Gracie and Ross McGeachie up front. David Garcia was back from injury and started on the bench but otherwise the team was unchanged with Hugh Kelly’s two match suspension not starting till Monday.
The Jags began shooting down the slope and should have taken the lead in the second minute when Scott McLachlan slipped a perfect ball through for Ross McGeachie to run on to but the Dunipace keeper won the one on one battle and came out well to save, parrying for a corner. Hugh Kelly swung the ball in and McGeachie was first to it with a good header but it came back off the bar. It was to turn out to be the best chance Thistle had in the game and if it had come 10 minutes later it would probably been a goal.
Thistle had started the game well on top and after eight minutes McLachlan made a run down the left and won a free kick which Graham Gracie took and went close, the ball glancing off the base off the post.
Mark Canning then made a good run through the middle of the Pace defence before scuffing his shot from the edge of the box. The Jags continued to pile on the pressure and McGeachie was fouled as he went up for a header, Canning’s free kick finding McGeachie at the back post but his header went wide.
It took the home side until the 18th minute to make a serious attempt at the Jags goal when a cross from the right found the Dunipace striker in a dangerous position in the middle but his shot wide wouldn’t have counted anyway as he had been judged offside.
Five minutes later Larkhall passed up another great chance to go in front. Canning put in another cross from the right and McGeachie got his head to it first but the keeper pulled off another save, the ball landing at the feet of Gracie who dragged it left past a defender before shooting wide from 10 yards.
Thistle were dominating play but it was one of these games where they needed a goal while they were on top and they just couldn’t manage to get one. Almost inevitably Dunipace did start to come back into the game and had a better spell just before half time but never came close to scoring or even created any real chances.
The Jags produced the best move of the half just two minutes from the interval when Adam Cassidy won the ball in his own half and sent Niall Reynolds clear with a great crossfield ball. The full back slid a pass down the line to McLachlan, who cut inside the edge of the box on his left foot and left the defender on the ground but his shot was high and wide.
Half Time: Dunipace 0 Larkhall Thistle 0
Dunipace were the first to show in the second half when the left back made a good run forward before cutting across the edge of the box and shooting high over the bar. Thistle came back a minute later with Gracie forcing the Pace defender into a mistake on the right, the ball falling for Mark McKeever who slid it inside to Ryan Innes. Young Reggie took a touch then found Mark Canning, the ball sitting up nicely for him to hit but his effort didn’t test the goalie and flew over the bar.
Graham Gracie was once again presented with a great chance in the 53rd minute when the defender lost his footing on the greasy surface as a few others had done all afternoon. Gracie looked to have the run on the last man but couldn’t outpace him and was squeezed out wide although he did well to win a free kick. Minutes later another free kick on the other side was fired across the face of the goal by Kelly and just needed a tap in but nobody could get on the end of it.
The travelling support were starting to wonder if the goal was ever going to come and it nearly did once again in the 66th minute when a corner from Kelly looked to have played a defender’s arm but fell perfectly for Innes who missed a great chance from 10 yards.
Two minutes later Dunipace had penalty claim turned down as their player skipped past a Thistle challenge in the box at full flight but went down from the second tackle, hard to tell but any contact at that speed would have taken him down whether legal or not. They also had a goal chalked off minutes later but the referee definitely got that decision right as the Dunipace man was well offside.
Thistle then made a couple of substitutions in quick succession, firstly David Garcia returning in place of McGeachie then Matty Clarke coming on for McKeever but neither made the hoped-for impact to turn the game Thistle’s way. Clarke showed a few nice touches and had a couple of shots on goal but neither really fell for him and Carcia was restricted to a few flicks and some link up play in midfield.
Ten minutes from time the roof caved in on Thistle’s game and probably their season as well. Despite all the domination and chances created, it was Dunipace who broke and got the game’s only goal when they found far too much space on the right and a simple cross into the middle of the area was met by their No10 who bulleted a header high into the roof of the net past a helpless Lee Moss.
A minute later the Jags had their own penalty claim waved away when a ball from a corner appeared to be handled twice before Canning picked up the scraps and crossed to the back post, Gracie then drifted inside and laid it off to Clarke whose wide effort was Thistle’s last real chance of the game.
A good team performance despite the final score today then, but although there have been big improvements recently in defence with only one goal conceded in the last two games, it isn’t hard to pinpoint why the promotion push has faltered going into the last few games. No goals in two games despite numerous chances being created in both tells its own tale.
Full Time: Dunipace 1 Larkhall Thistle 0
Moss; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; McLachlan, Innes, Canning, McKeever (Clarke 76); Gracie, McGeachie (Garcia 73) Subs: Schoneville, Jack, McLaughlin
Best on the day for Thistle: Mark Canning is having a good end to the season and Scott McLachlan was Thistle’s best player going forward but once again Niall Reynolds just gets the vote.