Euro Eng Central League Cup Round 1
Dunterlie Park, Barrhead
Arthurlie v Larkhall Thistle
The horrendous weather conditions that were predicted didn’t quite materialise in Barrhead although heavy rain had made the park heavy and slippy. Thistle started once again with Lee Moss in goals with Davie McEwan still out injured and Stuart McIntosh kept his place at centre half despite Adam Cassidy and Robert Borg both returning to fitness. Mark McKeever dropped to the bench.
Thistle started brightly and had most of the early play despite Arthurlie being two leagues above them. Mark Canning had the Jags first attempt at goal when the ball broke to him at the penalty spot, and if it had been either side of the keeper it would surely have been a goal.
Six minutes had gone before Arthurlie had managed over the halfway line in earnest and Lee Moss was called into action to punch away a cross but Thistle replied right away when Ryan Innes found space on the right and cut in for the first of his many shots on goal, this one going wide.
Jordan Marshall picked up an early booking for a lunging tackle just inside his half as Arthurlie threatened to break away but it didn’t hold him back as he returned to form in the middle of the park. Graham Gracie also showed some excellent footwork in flashes and he did well to control the ball before sending Innes clear on goal in the 16 minute. The midfielder couldn’t take advantage though and his shot was too close to the Arthurlie keeper, who saved with his feet.
Two minutes later Gracie was involved again as he went clear on the right wing, only to be cynically chopped down. Hugh Kelly’s free kick was swung in to the most dangerous area across the six yard box and was narrowly missed by both Innes and Gracie.
Gracie was having his best spell of the match and he created another good chance in the 25th minute when he picked up the ball on halfway and knocked it past two Arthurlie players before running on to it and hitting the byeline. He cut the ball back across the six yard area and it found Innes at the back post, who shot past.
Three minutes later the breakthrough did come though, but very much against the run of play it was Arthurlie who took the lead. They won a free kick and when it came back out to the halfway line, a long cross field pass was met on the volley by Dymock who sent it into the far corner of the goal past the helpless Lee Moss.
Thistle replied immediately when Innes skipped past a challenge on the right and set up Mark Canning who took a good touch and placed the ball inside the post for the equaliser. The Jags had chances to go in to the interval ahead when Niall Reynolds played Innes in but he shot past, then a neat one-two with Ross McGeachie set up Gracie but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet in time and the keeper managed to clear.
Half Time: Arthurlie 1 Larkhall Thistle 1
As the teams went off for the break the rain came on and threatened to possibly put the game in jeopardy but it never got bad enough to cause a serious problem, although how the stand side linesman managed to call the ball in or out was a bit of a mystery as the line had disappeared.
The second half brought about a bit of a transformation for the Super Premier League side and they had Thistle under pressure seven minutes in when their midfielder was allowed to run straight through the middle of the Jags defence unchallenged before hitting a shot that Moss did well to save.
Arthurlie took the lead two minutes later after a move down the left wing ended in a cross to the near post, Marshall and Moss both went for the ball and neither got it, instead they got in each others way and it squirmed across the line for an agonising moment for Larkhall. The Jags nearly drew level in the 63rd minute when a free kick dropped back out to Marshall and he sent a curling shot towards the top corner but it hit the head of Stuart McIntosh and cannoned off the bar. A minute later Thistle won a corner on the right and Hugh Kelly’s ball found Innes who had his shot cleared off the line.
The game was effectively over in the 75th minute when Arthurlie scored the decisive third goal. They won a corner on the left and Stewart got in front of the defence to send his header past Moss from close range.
Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair made a double substitution just after the goal, bringing on Mark McKeever and Matthew Clarke for Innes an McLachlan and five minutes later made the final change when David Garcia replaced Jordan Marshall. None of the subs really had any effect on the game though as it petered out towards a Thistle exit.
Arthurlie finally sealed the tie a couple of minutes from time – after Moss had produced a couple of great saves – with a speculative effort from Rafferty on the left that the Jags keeper could only stand by and watch.
In the end it wa s a convincing looking score for the Barrhead side but one which wasn’t really merited, Thistle themselves could have been two or three up at half time if they had taken their chances and will take heart from a good performance against a team from the top flight.
Full Time: Arthurlie 4 Larkhall Thistle 1
Thistle scorer: Canning
Larkhall Thistle Team:
Moss; Reynolds, Brown, McIntosh, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, McLachlan; Gracie, McGeachie. Subs: Jack, Clarke, McKeever, Garcia, Cassidy
Best on the day for Thistle – Jordan Marshall was back to close to his best, hardly wasted a ball and on another day might have had a goal or two.