New Coin Holdings West of Scotland Cup Round 2
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Shotts Bon Accord
Thistle fielded an unchanged lineup against their Super League First Division opponents, with keeper Davie McEwan still injured and striker Graham Gracie carrying a niggle. Centre half Stuart McIntosh again kept his place ahead of Adam Cassidy who was on the bench.
The game was in danger of once again not going ahead due to the heavy rain that fell during the week, but credit to the Thistle committee who patched up the park and swept the lying water off to do enough to get the game on.
The game started with both sides looking to gain an early advantage and on the balance of play Thistle could be happy with their opening 15 minutes, having the majority of the ball and belying their lower league status. However just as the Jags were beginning to settle, Shotts nealy took the lead when a cross to the back post was headed back across the goal by White and the ball went just over the bar with Lee Moss stranded in the Jags goal.
Larkhall replied immediately, first Mark McKeever laid the ball back into the path of David Garcia whose shot went just over the bar, then McKeever himself went close with a volley from 10 yards after a Ross McGeachie head flick on from some good football on the right between Garcia and Ryan Innes.
Shotts took the lead in the 24th minute and it was against the run of play, the ball was played into the Thistle box and was cleared but only as far as McSorley who hit a cracking drive from 20 yards high into the roof of the net. The goal appeared to settle the visitors and they had their best spell of the game in the next 20 minutes and doubled their lead in the 31st minute.
It looked like it might have been Thistle who scored though when David Garcia did brilliantly to win the ball in the middle of the park and sent Innes clear with only keeper Gary Whyte between him and the goal, but the ball was slightly too heavy and Whyte got down to the ball and set up a Shotts breakaway, a good passing move that almost resulted in a goal but Moss dived superbly at the feet of the onrushing striker to block As the ball broke though, Shotts defender Paul Burns reacted first and scooped the ball high into the net.
Thistle almost pulled a goal back four minutes later with their best chance of the first half when Hugh Kelly swung a free kick in from a deep position on the right and McGeachie got a strong head to it but the ball went just over the bar.
Shotts were looking to see out the half with their two goal advantage intact but there was fury on the visitors bench as they allowed Thistle back into the game right on half time. The Jags produced an excellent move on the right with some tremendous control by Garcia who linked up with Canning and Innes to set up Marshall at the edge of the box and the young Jags midfielder struck a great low drive into the bottom corner of the net.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Shotts Bon Accord 2
It took Thistle only three minutes of the second half to show that they were still a serious threat in this game when they almost equalised with a well placed lob from Canning, after White had failed to get distance on his clearance. Unfortunately for the Jags the ball was headed off the line.
Six minutes later Mark McKeever had a great opportunity to level when he was rolled in by Garcia after some excellent ball control on the left, the shot however was weak and easily saved. The Jags sensed a comeback was on though and three minutes later won a corner on the right that was pefectly placed by Kelly for McGeachie to bullet a diving header. There was only one place that he could have put it that would give the keeper any chance – right at him – and he managed to do just that.
Just after the hour mark came a moment of real controversy that eventually decided the game. Thistle broke and were convinced that they should have been awarded a free kick just outside the box, instead the referee waved play on and Shotts broke up the park with their second good passing move of the game. The ball broke to Ciaran Summers on the left and he looked more than a little bit sheepish as his attempted cross fell in at the top corner for the flukiest of goals.
Larkhall once again showed their battling qualities though when they refused to let the goal dampen their spirits and came straight back a minute later to once again reduce the deficit toonly one goal. Garcia did well to close down the keeper and the ball broke out to McGeachie on the edge of the box. The big striker still had it all to do but showed that he is more than just a target man with a cultured left foot finish that found a way through the crowd of players in front of him and curled just inside the left hand post.
Midway through the second half manager Dunky Sinclair made his first substitution of the afternoon when he took off the tiring Innes and replaced him with fresh legs in Scott McLachlan.
Thistle went close again in 74 minutes as they chased the equaliser when right back Niall Reynolds found himself in acres of space and managed to get a good shot on target, only for the keeper to dive full length to scramble it away and the Shotts right back Finnigan was first to react to complete the clearance.
That was to be Reynolds’s last contribution and he was substituted for Graham Gracie as the Jags went all out to level the game. Gracie made an immediate impact with a throw on the left that the Shotts defender only succeeded in playing back to him, he swung in a tremendous cross that found Garcia unmarked in the middle of the goal but his header went just past the left hand post.
As the time drifted away and Thistle looked to be heading out of the cup, Gracie again took a long throw that was cleared only as far as Jordan Marshall who shot from 25 yards, but unlike last week’s almost identical effort, this one went past the post and the tie was gone.
All in all a tremendous effort by Thistle and in the second half especially it would have been hard to tell which one was the higher league team. Good performances throughout the team and no real bad mistakes by anybody as the goals came from two long range efforts and a fluke.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Shotts Bon Accord 3
Best on the day for Thistle: Really difficult this week with not a bad performance from anybody, Andy Brown was solid at the back but was just pipped by Hugh Kelly who had a tremendous game and David Garcia who was far and away the most talented player on the park.
Thistle scorers: Marshall, McGeachie
Moss; Reynolds, Brown, McIntosh, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, McKeever; McGeachie, Garcia. Subs: Clarke, McLachlan, Jack, Gracie, Cassidy
Shotts Bon Accord:
Whyte, Finnigan, Burns, McMahon, Wallker, Marriot, Hanlon, McSorley, McKenna, White, Summers. Subs: Cross, Rankin, Canning