Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Greenfield Park, Shettleston
Shettleston v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle got off to a bad start today in the first game of their league campaign, going down to pre-season title favourites Shettleston. Although the Town ran out worthy winners of a niggly match in the end, Thistle’s depleted squad were far from outclassed and dominated for a good part of the game. The Jags started with Jordan Marshall playing in front of a back three of Brown, Cassidy and McMinn with Mark McKeever and Ryan Innes in wing-back roles.
The home side started the game well and were on top throughout most of the early exchanges, without producing any real clear-cut scoring chances but they took the lead in the 10th minute when a ball was fizzed in from the left and somehow managed to get past two defenders before landing at the feet of new Shettleston signing Anson who seemingly had all the time in the world to control the ball and pick his spot in the bottom right corner. Thistle almost replied straight away with a quick break but Scott McLachlan’s shot was blocked by a defender.
Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair decided to revert to four at the back after twenty minutes and the change seemed to have a positive effect as Thistle started to take control of the match, Ryan Innes almost had a perfect opportunity to equalise minutes later as he got on to a long ball from Davie McEwan but he collided with the onrushing keeper before he could get a shot away. The Shettleston man needed treatment but he was able to carry on. Thistle again went close moments later from a corner on the left, Adam Cassidy reaching highest but he glanced his header just over the bar.
Shettleston still looked dangerous in spells though and Anson fired a warning that more might be to come with a shot from the edge of the box eight minutes from the interval, and Town did indeed increase their lead in first half injury time. Again the Jags defence were favourites to clear, but Anson managed to hook his foot around the loose ball from a corner on the left and prodded home from three yards.
Half Time: Shettleston 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
Mark McKeever picked up an early booking in the second half for a mistimed sliding tackle but the Jags had started the half well and got back into the game on 56 minutes when Graham Gracie produced a goal out of nothing. The big striker picked up the ball near the right touchline and took it past a couple of defenders before hitting what appeared to be a very speculative shot, but the keeper misjudged it and the ball found its way into the net off the right hand post. Shettleston struck back immediately and could have restored their two goal lead with a powerful free header inside the box but it was hit down into the ground and flew up over the bar.
Thistle were on top now again and hungry for the equaliser, but the game turned a bit more physical as Shettleston seemed content to try and hold their lead for the rest of the match, using any delaying tactics they could to use up time. The visitors suffered another blow when defender Andy Brown had to come off injured and was replaced at right back by Niall Reynolds.
Shettleston went close again in 74 minutes when once again they were given far too much time and space right in front of the goal just inside the box but the shot went straight into a grateful McEwan’s arms. Two minutes later the game looked all over as a contest when Town’s Martin won the ball from a Thistle throw-in just inside the half and ran 30 yards almost unchallenged through the heart of the Jags defence before shooting low across Davie McEwan into the corner of the net.
The game then got even more scruffy and Mark Canning picked up a booking for dissent, whilst a Shettleston player got a straight red card for showing his studs, although to most watching the punishment seemed a bit harsh and it looked to be a booking at worst.
So the Jags off to a bad start, losing a game which they had won on the first day of last season and on this performance there is still work to be done, especially in the defence. On the positive side though this was the hardest looking fixture on paper and it’s out of the way now. Some decent Thistle performances despite the defeat from youngsters Innes and Marshall but best on the day was the player at the other end of the age range, Mark McKeever.
Full Time: Shettleston 3 Larkhall Thistle 1
Larkhall Thistle: (3-1-4-2)
McEwan; Brown, Cassidy, McMinn; Marshall; McLachlan, Canning, Innes, McKeever; Gracie, McGeachie Subs: Reynolds, Russell, Moss
Thistle Scorer: Gracie
Booked, McKeever, Canning