Scottish Junior Cup Third Round
Spain Park, Aberdeen
Banks o’ Dee v Larkhall Thistle
Thistle came away from their trip to the north east with a shock win as they upset their North Superleague opponents to progress to the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. It was backs to the wall stuff at times but the Jags showed greater desire and commitment throughout and were pulled through by an heroic defensive performance by Andy Brown, ably assisted at centre back by Adam Cassidy. Up front, Scott McLachlan ran all day for Thistle and never gave a ball up.
Ross McGeachie had picked up an injury in the Neilston game and was replaced by Scott McLachlan up front in a standard 4-4-2 formation and new signings Mathew Clarke and David Garcia started on the bench.
The game got off to a fast start with Banks o’ Dee looking to exert early pressure on the Jags goal and they went close with a volley in the fifth minute that sailed over Davie McEwan’s bar. A minute later though it was first blood to Thistle. Graham Gracie, who had had a slightly nervous start to the game, got the ball on the left just outside the penalty box and shaped to cut inside the Banks o’ Dee defender, but instead cut back outside again on his right foot and crossed for McLachlan, who drilled a low shot just inside the keeper’s near post.
The Jags were looking fairly comfortable and were coping easily with any attack from the home side but they got a warning in the 17th minute when Gracie was outmuscled in the midfield area and Banks full back Joe Priestley took the ball on and hit a good shot that forced McEwan into a save.
Two minutes later the home team were on the attack again but this time with more telling effect. Max Alexander, who was their most threatening player going forward, beat Niall Reynolds to the ball on the left wing and headed into the box where he shimmied and passed the ball into the far corner of the net for the equaliser. It was a great individual effort but a poor goal to lose from a defensive point of view.
Thistle were back on the attack a minute later and McLachlan nearly snatched his second with a ferocious drive from the edge of the box that the keeper did well to stop.
The Jags survived a scare in the 33rd minute when Ryan Innes, who had been their best attacking player along with McLachlan, picked up a injury that on first sight looked to be the end of the game for the youngster but he recovered and carried on.
It might have been the lingering effects on Innes from the injury, but five minutes later Alexander again managed to evade his challenge and get a very good shot away that McEwan had to get down early to save. Innes however nearly put Thistle in ahead at the interval after good work on the left from Gracie, the centre forward reached the bye line and cut inside along the boundary before laying the ball off for Reggie but the keeper managed to save his effort from two yards.
Half Time: Banks o’ Dee 1 Larkhall Thistle 1
Thistle came out for the second half looking for a quick start and got just that, two minutes into the half. The Jags produced an excellent attacking move down the left before the ball was cut back to Mark Canning – who picked his spot and hit a tremendous drive past the helpless keeper.
Thistle then spent most of the next 45 minutes defending their lead with a defensive performance the like of which has not been produced by the team for a long time.
Andy Brown threw himself in front of a goal-bound shot 15 minutes into the half and set the tone for what was to follow. Brown and Cassidy won every header in the box between them and full backs Kelly and Reynolds played their part too, as well as keeper Davie McEwan who produced several good saves and was always commanding at set pieces.
Wave after wave of attack was soaked up and to be honest, the longer the game went on the more it looked like the Jags were going to come away with the result. They even had a half chance of extending the lead nine minutes from the end when Canning sent a long ball wide to the right for Gracie then typified the work ethic of the team by bursting forward and covering 50 yards to take the return square pass and hit a shot from the edge of the box, unfortunately though his effort was high.
Thistle made three late substitutions with Clarke replacing McKeever, then David Aguilar Garcia making his debut and coming on for Gracie, finally Innes came off and Jack replaced him. Garcia didn’t really have enough time to show what he can do but certainly showed enough determination to help the team over the line, with a great willingness to close the opposition high up the park.
There were two second half bookings with Innes getting a yellow for a tackle and McLachlan for arguing with the referee.
Full Time: Banks o’ Dee 1 Larkhall Thistle 2
Thistle scorers: McLachlan, Canning
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, McKeever; Gracie, McLachlan. Subs: Garcia, Clarke, Jack, Moss
Booked: McLachlan, Innes
Best on the day for Thistle: Andy Brown, but Scott McLachlan ran him close with his goal and tireless running.