Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v St Anthony’s
Larkhall Thistle began the game shooting against a swirling wind on a chilly day without striker Ross McGeachie who was on holiday as well as keeper Davie McEwan and David Garcia who were still injured. Graham Gracie shook off a niggling injury to lead the line with Scott McLachlan supporting him up front.
The Jags started the game on the back foot with St Anthony’s doing all the early pressing. McKay fired an early warning shot over the bar two minutes into the game and the pressure led to them taking the lead in the sixth minute. They won a corner on the right side and in what looked to be a well drilled move, crossed to the near post for a head flick on and a tap-in on the goal line from Kane. It looked like Thistle had a claim for offside but there were no real protests and the goal stood.
A minute later St Anthony’s had a loud claim for a penalty which was turned down by the referee much to the visitors continued protests.
Thistle in contrast got their heads up and got on with the business of getting the goal back. Jordan Marshall produced the Jags’s first real effort on goal with a tremendous dipping shot from 25 yards which came down just enough to rattle the bar, then McLachlan did well to pressure the defence and get to a hanging ball in front of the Ants keeper, but his header went just past.
Halfway through the first half Marshall again let rip with a fierce low drive, this time from even further out, that caught the keeper off guard and he fumbled the save but with nobody following in had time to gather the ball.
Thistle did level the game though in 26 minutes when the Ants keeper came out of his area for a long high ball and was challenged by McLachlan – who won the ball – and found himself clear with the whole box to run into and the easiest of tap-ins.
Five minutes later the visitors nearly got lucky when a break found Holmes on the right wing and his cross almost dipped into the net, coming off the bar. In the 40th minute Hugh Kelly went in to what appeared to be a genuine 50-50 challenge and although he got a knock, was penalised and booked for the incident.
From the resultant free kick the ball was cleared but played back in towards Miller who met it on the volley with a scissors kick and put it away out of the reach of Moss to give the Ants a half time lead against the run of play.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 St Anthony’s 2
It has become a feature of the Jags play this season that they never give a game up and with the wind at their back in the second half, they still looked to have every chance of getting the equaliser – and so it proved five minutes into the second half.
Graham Gracie took a throw-in on the right and got the ball back and as he drifted intot he box he feinted to cross and dragged the ball back onto his right foot towards the byeline. He got clear of his marker and cut the ball back into the six yard area where it eventually fell for Niall Reynolds who drilled the ball home.
Two minutes later and Thistle should have been in front when Adam Cassidy found himself on an overlapping run down the left, he played a neat one-two and carried on into the box where he just had the keeper to beat but put his shot past the post.
Larkhall had a penalty claim of their own in the 57th minute when Gracie crossed for Marshall who flicked on to McLachlan. The striker looked to have been clattered by the Ants keeper but the Jags claims were waved away.
Thistle scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the 66th minute. Mark Canning was fouled as he made his way out of his own half and got forward to try and pick up the scraps from the free kick. The ball was launched forward and as it was knocked back out of defence, it fell perfectly for Canning and his left foot volley into the roof of the net gave the keeper no chance.
It was no more than Thistle deserved on the balance of play and chances created but as the wind increased the Jags could have extended their lead with seven minutes left.
A long clearance saw Gracie in a 50-50 ariel battle with the last St Anthony’s defender and as he won the ball he broke clear, but was caught by an Ants defender for pace although he managed to slip the ball left to McLachlan who should have scored but shot wide as the keeper closed him down.
Manager Dunky Sinclair made three late substitutions, firstly replacing McLachlan and Ryan Innes with Brian Jack and Matty Clarke then two minutes from time bringing Neil Schoneville on for his debut in place of Gracie. Schoneville almost got off to the best possible start when he found himself clean through on the keeper with his first touch but couldn’t finish the game off.
The let-off almost allowed St Anthony’s back in for an equaliser in the dying seconds, Lee Moss having to dive brilliantly to save in the top corner from a great drive from the edge of the box.
In the last action of the game, the referee sent off St Anthony’s McCuish for what seemed to be dissent.
A fantastic comeback from the Jags and nice to see Mark Canning chipping in with a fantastic strike as it gets towards the business end of the season. Next week it’s possibly Thistle’s hardest fixture they have left as they travel to face league favourites Neilston at Brig O’ Lea.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 3 St Anthony’s 2
Thistle scorers: McLachlan, Reynolds, Canning,
Moss; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Innes (Jack 83), Marshall, Canning, McKeever; Gracie (Schoneville 88), McLachlan (Clarke 83). Subs: McLaughlin
Best on the day for Thistle: Mark Canning made his best contribution for a while and Niall Reynolds had another solid display against his old team but Scott McLachlan gave everything once again and could have had another couple of goals so he gets the verdict this week.