Sectional League Cup – Match 3
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Lesmahagow
Larkhall Thistle drew a good crowd for this the deciding match of Section 1 of the Sectional League Cup and for the Jags it was the first chance to make up for losing out on promotion to Lesmahagow on the final day of last season. The Gow were also just as keen to show that they deserved the promotion slot but Thistle went in to this game only needing a point to qualify for the quarter finals so a highly competitive game was in prospect.
Thistle made five changes from the win against Royal Albert at the weekend with Ross McGeachie unavailable due to work commitments and Scott Nicol injured and out of action for up to 6 weeks with ligament damage after his goalscoring heroics on Saturday. Mark Russell, Ryan Innes and Jordan Marshall all reverted to the bench so Mark McKeever, Graham Gracie, Andy Brown, Niall Reynolds and Scott McLachlan all returned to the team.
Thistle started strongly and ex Jags keeper Derek Barnes was soon tested by a JP Grant effort and they continued to press, forcing Barnes into a marvellous save from a Mark Canning effort. The Gow had not really been seen as an attacking force before they took the lead in 19 minutes with to say the least a controversial decision by the referee. After Adam Cassidy had tried to usher a long ball out on the touchline the referee deemed that he had kicked the Gow player. It would be fair to say that the players of both teams and the crowd were surprised by the award. Ex Thistle player Chris Jarvie duly converted the spot kick.
The game then returned to the same pattern as before with Barnes having to pull off a stunning stop from a Graham Gracie piledriver. The Gow then had a remarkable escape with Barnes and two defenders somehow managing to keep the ball out in a real melee inside the six-yard box when Grant, Canning and Scott McLachlan all had efforts blocked before the ball was scrambled clear. Thistle though were not to be denied and drew level before half-time, Graham Gracie supplying the pass after beating his man and JP Grant finding the bottom corner with his shot.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Lesmahagow 1
The second half stated with Lesmahagow more on the offensive but without really troubling Davie McEwan in the Thistle goal, while at the other end Grant had a good headed chance but could not keep the ball down. Gow then went ahead, Jarvie scoring again after poor defending by Thistle.
The Jags passed up a great chance to bag a second equaliser when Barnes pushed a net bound Mark Canning effort out and the ball bobbled about before Mark, following the shot up himself, hit the crossbar. The ball dropped between Grant and McKeever but neither managed to finish.
The Gow took heed of the warning though and almost immediately broke up the park and netted again to extend their lead after a free kick into the box allowed Coffey to knock the ball into the net after he was left unmarked. This further blow upset Thistle’s rhythm and for a spell the game went quiet. Kevin McMinn limped off injured and was replaced by Hugh Kelly, then Jordan Marshall replaced Niall Reynolds and finally Ryan Innes replaced Brian Jack.
Thistle never gave up and again showed their fighting qualities by pulling a goal back in the dying stages of the match. A disputed throw on the left wing led to the ball going right across the goal to the back post where Jags starlet Ryan Innes met the ball perfectly on the half volley to give the keeper no chance.
Unfortunately it proved to be a case of too little too late for the Jags as the goal proved to be just about the last action of the game and so it is Lesmahagow who go through to the knock out rounds unbeaten on 7 points, just ahead of Thistle on 6.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Lesmahagow 3
Thistle Scorers: Grant, Innes
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Brown, McMinn, Cassidy, Reynolds; McLachlan, Jack, Canning, McKeever; Gracie, Grant; Subs: Kelly, Marshall, Russell, Innes, Moss