Sectional League Cup – Match 2
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Royal Albert
Thistle started their second game in the Sectional League Cup without several of their first team regulars – Graham Gracie, Scott McLachlan, Brian Jack, Mark McKeever and Andy Brown all started the game on the bench – but still managed to run out comfortable winners against town rivals Albert. A win today and a draw between Lesmahagow and Lanark in the other game in the section would have seen the Jags through to the knock-out stages.
JP Grant returned to his original position up front with Ross McGeachie and the midfield was as youthful as Thistle has fielded for a long time with Jordan Marshall, Ryan Innes and Scott Nicholl alongside the only real experience in Mark Canning.
The visitors, who have now relocated to a new temporary home at Tileworks in Stonehouse, had picked up a very creditable point in their first game at home to Super League Lesmahagow and by all accounts were very unlucky not to take all three points against the team two leagues above them. But the Albert suffered an early blow after only 7 minutes when keeper Smith went down off the ball clutching his thigh and had to be replaced, as it turned out there was no real advantage to Thistle as the stand-in goalie had a great game and kept the score down to only 2-0.
The Jags tried to test the new keeper after he had only been on for three minutes but Canning’s shot was deflected wide for a corner. Canning did however keep up his excellent early season scoring run when he got on to the end of a good move to slam the ball high into the net from twelve yards to open the scoring for Thistle.
The rest of the first half passed off relatively quietly with nothing much to note and not much in the way of chances created by either team.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Royal Albert 0
Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair might have had a word in a few ears at half time to try and raise the performance of the team as the second half started with the Jags looking in much more determined mood. Only two minutes had gone when they doubled the lead, a free kick on the right was swung in towards the back post by Canning and JP Grant knocked it back into the path of Nicholl who finished well from six yards. The young midfielder was injured in a collision with the Albert keeper as he scored and had to come off with Scott McLachlan replacing him.
A couple of minutes later Thistle nearly added to their lead after another good move, Canning and Grant again involved and laying the ball into the path of Ryan Innes but he didn’t manage to finish. The game looked to be all over in the 52nd minute when Grant burst into the box and was tackled clumsily although the resultant penalty decision did look on the soft side. The Albert stand-in keeper though produced a magnificent one handed diving save high to his right side to keep the visitors’s slim hopes of a revival alive.
Graham Gracie replaced McGeachie up front midway throught the second half and almost immediately the Jags created a tremendous scoring opportunity for young Innes but somehow he managed to put his shot past the post instead of score. Royal Albert took a bit of inspiration from the let off and produced their best spell of the match, McGill bringing out a great diving save from Davie McEwan after a turn and shot from 20 yards. Moments later he had the Jags defence in trouble again but couldn’t quite get his shot away and this was followed up three minutes later with a decent strike from ex-Thistle player Jack Baptie from 25 yards that flew just over the bar.
Mark McKeever replaced Canning for the last fifteen minutes but the midfielder had already done enough to be given the nod as the best of the bunch for Thistle on the day in an all round solid team performance.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Royal Albert 0
Thistle Scorers: Canning, Nicholl
McEwan; Russell, McMinn, Cassidy, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, Nicholl; Grant, McGeachie, Subs: McKeever, McLachlan, Gracie, Jack, Brown
Smith, Stokoe, Biscuit, Jaffrey, Nelson, Campbell, Baptie, Hamilton, McGill, Dickson, Ward. Subs: Blaney, Brennan, Neill, Wark, Stevenson