Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Keanie Park, Johnstone
Johnstone Burgh v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle travelled to Renfrewshire to play Johnstone Burgh for the first time in several years and came away with a hard earned point in a game that in the end could have easily swung either way.
The Jags were quick out of the traps and on top for most of the early stages, they were first to threaten when Graham Gracie spotted the Burgh keeper off his line and lobbed him after eight minutes, his effort going just past the post. Johnstone were only off the hook for a couple of minutes though before Thistle took the lead.
Davie McEwan played a long ball through the middle and Ross McGeachie got up well to flick the ball into Gracie’s path, just inside the JB half. The striker took the ball and ran with it to the right edge of the box, then cut inside two defenders and hit a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Johnstone Burgh struck back right away with their first real attack of the game and forced McEwan into a fine save, tipping the ball over for a corner which was eventually scrambled clear. Thistle replied when midfield starlet Ryan Innes played in McGeachie with a slide rule pass down the right side but the striker shot wide.
Burgh came back again in 21 minutes, an attempted headed clearance by Jags defender Adam Cassidy fell at the feet of a Johnstone striker who came close, hitting the corner of the post and bar with his shot.
The home side were on the front foot now and the equaliser came after 33 minutes when the Jags defence failed to close down the opposition and left Burgh’s Dinnen with far too much space to arrow a shot high into the top right of the goal.
Half Time: Johnstone Burgh 1 Larkhall Thistle 1
The second half saw Larkhall shooting down the slope and although the big park and slope should have suited their quick break counter attacking, it didn’t quite work out that way and both teams seemed to play better shooting uphill. Johnstone had the first attempt nine minutes into the half with a break on the left side and a low drive across the face of the goal which went past the post.
Thistle’s first efforts of the half were from McGeachie – a stooping header into the keeper’s arms from an Innes cross then minutes later a nice bit of control to turn and hit a shot from 15 yards although the keeper saved it after an initial fumble.
Midway through the second half Scott McLachlan – who had been having a quiet game in the centre of midfield – picked up an injury and was replaced by JP Grant. Jai was called into action right away to take the resultant free kick and swung a good ball to the back post that Adam Cassidy headed just past.
Most of the rest second half was stretched out into a game of long ball tennis but with 15 minutes left Thistle did produce the one moment of genuine quality in the game with a move that really deserved a goal. Mark Canning got the ball in the middle of the park and played it to Grant who slid it forward to McGeachie. He laid it back into the path of Innes who hit a tremendous first-time drive that left the bar shaking.
As had happened throughout the game, the other team replied straight away and McEwan had to produce the best save of the game, diving low to his right to prevent a certain goal. The danger still wasn’t clear though but fortunately the follow up shot hit the side netting.
Gracie was substituted with seven minutes of normal time left and Stephen Wedlock came on to make his first appearance. He was only on the park two minutes when he picked up a booking for appearing to ask the referee how far when the home side had moved a free kick forward a bit. Grant was also booked for arguing with the referee late on.
Johnstone were looking the side to be most likely to snatch a winner and McEwan was called into action on several occasions in the closing stages to keep the score level. The game ended on a sour note for Thistle though when Wedlock was shown a straight red card for a coming together at a late Jags corner.
Full Time: Johnstone Burgh 1 Larkhall Thistle 1
Thistle Scorer: Gracie
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy,Kelly; Innes, McLachlan, Canning, McKeever; Gracie, McGeachie Subs: Moss, Grant, Wedlock, Jack
Booked: Wedlock, Grant. Red card: Wedlock
Best for Thistle on the day were Ryan Innes who was at the heart of most of the Jags positive play and Davie McEwan who pulled off a string of great saves.