Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Benburb
Thistle started the first of their must-win double header with Benburb without regular left back Hugh Kelly who was beginning a two match suspension. He was replaced at left back by Niall Reynolds with Andy Brown filling in at right back and Neil Schoneville making his full debut at centre half. Brian Jack came into the right midfield with Scott McLachlan missing.
Both teams were still chasing promotion and needed a result today to keep up with pace setters Shettleston, but in the end the Bens took full revenge for the heavy defeat they suffered last season at Gasworks Park as Thistle were on the wrong end of the worst home result for a long time.
It looked like the Bens were fired up for the game and started quickly, with most of the early pressure coming from them but they couldn’t convert their positive play into a goal and it was Thistle who took the lead after 18 minutes.
After surviving a penalty claim when Benburb’s Shane Jackson seemed to have his legs whipped away from him in the box, Thistle took full advantage and got the early goal. Mark Canning did well to intercept the ball in the middle of the park and sent Graham Gracie clear with a great through ball that had the visitors defence floundering but the Jags striker had his left footed shot deflected past the post for a corner.
Mark McKeever took the corner on the left and whipped in a tremendous cross that beat keeper Tiropoulos and might have been going in anyway but was helped across the line by Schoneville. The lead only lasted for six minutes though as the Jags defence totally switched off from a Benburb corner on the right and Lovering stole in at the back post to poke the ball in from six yards.
Benburb had their tails up and looked the more likely team to take the lead, and so it proved in the 33rd minute when a free kick on the left wing was fired across by McQuade over the head of Lee Moss and Schoneville on the line could do nothing to keep the ball out of the net despite his efforts to head it clear.
Two minutes later and it looked like it was all over as a contest as Benburb extended their lead after another defensive horror show. A free kick just inside the Bens half was punted into the home box and found Wright totally unmarked and with a free header that gave Moss no chance.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Benburb 3
The second half started with Thistle trying hard to get back into the game and they produced a good chance twelve minutes after the break when a good diagonal ball from Jack found Gracie in the clear and cutting across the keeper but he lost control at the last minute and the chance was lost.
Midway through the second half the game was over as Benburb scored again through a penalty. Hendry was caught by Schoneville as he turned in the box and there was no doubt it was a spot kick, McQuade slotting the ball past Moss for his second.
Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair made a triple substitution with 20 minutes left with Matty Clarke replacing Mark McKeever who had played quite well on the left, David Garcia coming on for Gracie who had been mostly marked out of the game and Sean McLaughlin making his debut in place of the tireless Andy Brown.
The Jags kept going even at three goals down and in 73 minutes a corner from McKeever on the right found Ross McGeachie unmarked in the middle but he tried to glance his header into the corner when a full on attempt would probably have seen the net bulging. Six minutes later Lee Moss had to react quickly to prevent further damage after Metcalfe had walzed through the middle of the Thistle defence and fired a rasping shot that the keeper did well to parry.
Seven minutes from the end Benburb served a warning that they were looking for more goals as substitute Lavery beat McLaughlin on the left wing and drilled in a low ball across the edge of the six yard area for Barr whose first time shot went past the post.
The Bens did add to their lead with a fifth goal five minutes from time, a through ball found Metcalfe on the run buut although he was a yard offside the referee let play go on and he carried on to finish with a low shot under the body of Moss, who managed to get a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
No complaints then about the winners here but the margin of victory did flatter Benburb a bit. Thistle’s re-jigged defence were lacking the understanding to cope with the work rate and pressure of the visitors but the didn’t do enough in the front third either and now a mid-table finish is all they can expect.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Benburb 5
Thistle scorer: Schoneville
Moss; Brown (McLaughlin 70), Cassidy, Schoneville, Reynolds; Jack, Canning, Innes, McKeever (Clarke 70); Gracie (Garcia 70) McGeachie.
Tiropoulos; McInnes, Wright, C Jackson, Lovering; Barr, Hendry, Metcalfe, S Jackson, McQuade, McGurgan. Subs: Lavery, Collins, Docherty,
Best on the day for Thistle – Things didn’t always come off for Mark Canning but he kept going and sprayed some good balls from the centre of midfield.