Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Cambuslang Rangers
Thistle returned to league business today for the first time since the big win against Glasgow Perthshire in late February but showed none of the flair or goal threat that they did then and went down to possibly one of the worst teams to have won at Gasworks Park in recent memory.
The team started without arguably the Jags three most influential players – Davie McEwan still carrying an injury was replaced again by Lee Moss in goals, David Garcia had to sit an exam and Graham Gracie was out with a niggle.
Larkhall started the game playing against the high wind that all but killed off any hopes of any decent football being played before the game had started, and so it proved to be in a dour struggle.
Cambuslang were first to threaten the goal when Moss had to tip a header from a ball swung in from a free kick over the bar in the fourth minute, but four minutes later the Jags took the lead.
Scott McLachlan started as he intended to go on by closing keeper Treacy down when Welsh played a back pass short, the keeper managed to clear but only for it to come to Mark McKeever who crossed for Ross McGeachie to head in from the middle of the six yard box.
Thistle looked to be well in command of the game and it was a shock six minutes later when the Lang equalised. Moss hesitated when a long punt out of defence dropped just outside the box, he looked to be able to come and clear it comfortably but decided to stay and Ferguson was first to the loose ball, taking it past the stranded keeper and tapping into the empty net – albeit off the post.
The teams spent the next 20 odd minutes struggling badly to cope with the blustery conditions and although Thistle had the bulk of the possession they were creating few if any real goal scoring chances with Ryan Innes looking to be the only one capable of threatening.
The visitors managed their first actual shot at goal in the 37th minute, the ball going just past the left hand post but this inspired them to have another effort six minutes later when Miles did well to work an opening before hitting a right foot shot past the post.
As half time approached, Thistle seemed to kick up a gear and produced their best spell of attacking football of the game. First Mark McKeever collected the ball from Hugh Kelly on the left and drove at the defence, cutting inside before hitting a net bound drive that unluckily rebounded off a defender for a corner kick. The ball was played back in to the middle and McLachlan for once found himself in the middle of the six-yard box with no defenders near, two yards out and with the goal at his mercy. Somehow he managed to turn and hit it off the post for a grateful Treacy to dive on and smother.
In between this Jags pressure Cambuslang managed a break themselves and were unfortunate to see a shot come off the bar and rebound just the right side of the line. There was still time for one more incident though as Thistle won a corner on the right, which was swung in by Kelly for McGeachie to head back over the ruck of players into the far corner of the net.
For some reason however the referee took it upon himself to disallow the goal, an unexplained and frankly shocking decision as there was no foul from any Thistle player in the move.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Cambuslang Rangers 1
The second half began tamely with neither side really imposing themselves on the game and the home bench in particular growing impatient at the lack of chances that the team were creating. Thistle still had the majority of the ball but Cambuslang broke in the 56th minute and went close with a shot that just slipped past the post with Moss beaten.
This gave them some belief that they might take even more than a point from the game and two minutes later they took the lead when a corner was fired in from the left and although Moss did well to parry the header, Miles was first to the ball to stoop and nod in from close range.
From that point onwards Cambuslang spent the remaining 35 minutes trying to kill off the game with spoiling tactics – nine and ten men behind the ball, time wasting and constant appeals for offside from Welsh and assistant manager Shields.
Thistle made a double substitution in the aftermath of the goal with Niall Reynolds and Jordan Marshall being replaced by Brian Jack and Graham Gracie. Jack could have made an instant impact a minute after coming on when a great through ball from McLachlan put him in on goal but for some reason he chose to try and set up McGeachie when a shot would have been the better option.
The game’s next controversial incident was in the 66th minute when McLachlan again played a good through ball, this time putting McKeever in the clear. The Jags winger was unceremoniously hauled down as he bore in on the box with a clear sight of goal but incredibly the referee again chose to wave play on. An obvious red card and possible penalty but again no decision for Larkhall.
Thistle made their final substitution with 20 minutes left with Matty Clarke replacing Scott McLachlan. Clarke brought some much needed craft to the Jags play with his ability to drift past players seemingly at will and created a couple of good opportunities in the time left.
Nine minutes from the end of the game came the final incident that riled the home support when a Cambuslang defender hauled Ross McGeachie to the ground with his arms round the neck of the Jags striker. A clear-cut penalty in the eyes of most but the referee again waved play on.
It looked like one of these days for Thistle and although they had almost all of the pressure they were well below par on the day. Two late attempts by Canning, who latched on to a poor kick out from the goalkeeper, and Innes who sent an overhead kick just past the post were all that the home team had to offer and the points were gone.
Possibly the poorest performance of the season from the Jags then and certainly the worst game of the season from a spectator point of view, although the wind did play a big part in that.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Cambuslang Rangers 2
Thistle scorer: McGeachie
Moss; Reynolds, Brown, McIntosh, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, McKeever; McGeachie, McLachlan. Subs: Clarke, Jack, Gracie, Cassidy
Treacy; Boyle, McKee, Welsh, Heffron, Kelsall, McGrath, Kelly, Crawford, Ferguson, Miles. Subs: O’Donnell, Griffin, B Kelly, Thomson (GK)
Booked: Canning, Clarke
Best on the day for Thistle: Ryan Innes for his work rate and determination