Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Shettleston
After Gasworks Park taking a bit of a battering from the rain during the week and being flooded as late as Wednesday, the ground staff did very well to get this game on but the icy weather probably played a part in the disappointing turn out.
Larkhall Thistle made a couple of changes for the visit of the pre-season favourites with Adam Cassidy returning to the centre half slot and Stuart McIntosh moving to right back to replace Niall Reynolds. Brian Jack who came on as a substitute last week against Cambuslang started at right midfield with Scott McLachlan dropping to the bench. There was no place however for last week’s other sub, Matthew Clarke who was one of the Jags few success stories. David Garcia was back to partner Ross McGeachie up front.
Thistle started the game well and could have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute when Ryan Innes headed down for Garcia inside the area but the striker had too much to do with three defenders surrounding him and although he did well to get a shot away, the keeper saved for a corner. Mark McKeever took the corner on the left and picked out Hugh Kelly who drove a ball towards goal, Garcia cleverly stepped over it deceiving the keeper but was judged offside.
The Jags continued to have the bulk of possession and looked the better team in the early stages, in the twelfth minute threatened again with a good break down the right wing. Brian Jack won possession and played the ball forward to Ross McGeachie who then cut it inside for Garcia, but his shot was high.
Thistle had the Town defence under pressure again a few minutes later when David Garcia – who was at the centre of most of the Jags attacking play – took the ball down in the centre of the park and played it out to Mark McKeever, the winger cut it back to Hugh Kelly whose first time cross was cleared desperately by the visitors defence for a corner kick.
All of the football was coming from the home team and the Shettleston bench was becoming increasingly agitated at their team’s lack of chances being created and the performance in general.
In 22 minutes Larkhall nearly took the lead when the ball was cut back to Garcia who scooped a shot up but unfortunately it rebounded back off the bar. A minute later Shettleston also hit the bar with a similar effort.
Shettleston took the lead in 25 minutes though, against the run of play when a loose ball fell to their number 10 and he hit a pot shot from just outside the box past Lee Moss. The goal gave Town a lift and they finished the half the stronger team and could have added to their lead ten minutes later when a shot from the edge of the box was heading for the bottom corner but Moss brought off a good diving save to hold the ball.
Three minutes from the interval Shettleston did get their second goal through a disputed penalty. Their number 10 broke clear again and was heading for goal when Andy Brown got across him with a tackle. The big forward went down and although the Jags defenders argued feircely that the ball was won cleanly, the referee awarded the spot kick.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Shettleston 2
The second half was a different story as Thistle produced one of their best fightbacks for a while to get themselves back into the game. One of the best qualities about the present team is their never say die attitude and that proved to be the case again today, starting in the second minute of the half when they pulled a goal back.
Ross McGeachie produced a top quality moment when the Jags won a free kick 25 yards out, he got the ball up and over the wall and found the far bottom corner in tremendous style. Five minutes later the Jags were almost level when Hugh Kelly swung a free kick in and McGeachie rose highest, only to send his header over the bar.
66 minutes into the game Thistle suffered a real blow when Garcia went into a 50-50 challenge in the middle of the park and came off worst. He had to limp off with the injury and was replaced by Graham Gracie – who made an immediate impact with his ability to run at the defence.
The Jags were coming into the game and looking like getting an equaliser but Mark McKeever was struggling to make an impact and was replaced by Matty Clarke in 75 minutes. Two minutes later Clarke was at the centre of a move that saw Thistle getting the ball in the net when he found an unmarked Canning at the back of the box and he took a touch before driving it home, but it was disallowed for offside – although the suspicion from the home side was that the shouts from the visitors influenced the decision.
Thistle made their last throw of the dice with 10 minutes left when McIntosh was replaced by Scott McLachlan and the Jags went with three at the back. It looked like it might have been a managerial masterstroke though when Gracie set up Ryan Innes only two minutes later but the midfielder’s drive swerved in just the wrong direction at the last minute with the keeper looking beaten.
The relief was only temporary for Shettleston though as Thistle drew level a minute later with a great left footed finish into the back corner of the net from Gracie.
It was to be heartache for the Jags though as Shettleston snatched a somewhat undeserved winner two minutes later in the cruellest of circumstances . Andy Brown looked to have the ball under control and have an easy pass on to Moss but delayed and was robbed by the Town 9, who rounded a diving Moss and rolled the ball into the empty net.
A much improved display today from the Jags but back to back home defeats and with some very difficult looking away fixtures to come it looks more likely to be a mid table finish than a genuine promotion challenge this season.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Shettleston 3
Thistle scorers: McGeachie, Gracie
Moss; McIntosh, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Innes, Jack, Canning, McKeever; McGeachie, Garcia. Subs: Clarke, McLachlan, Gracie, Marshall
Best on the day for Thistle: Adam Cassidy returned to the defence and had a good game but the best for Jags today was Hugh Kelly who hardly put a foot wrong all day.