Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Keppoch Park, Glasgow
Glasgow Perthshire v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle went into today’s game with bottom club Glasgow Perthshire as strong pre-match favourites but had to do it the hard way to get a result in the end.
With Scott McLachlan unavailable through injury, manager Dunky Sinclair handed new Spanish signing David Garcia his debut and brought in two new trialists to bolster the squad. Thistle took the initiative early on and were well on top until Perthshire scored with what was virtually their first attack of the game in the 16th minute. The ball got played through the middle of the park towards Perthshire’s striker and as Mark Canning slid in to try and block, he deflected it into the path of their No.11 who rattled the ball high into the corner of the net from 25 yards.
The Jags players looked a bit shellshocked at going behind but before they knew it, the lead had doubled. This time the goal came from a run down the right wing and when the cross came in the Perthshire striker found himself unmarked in the middle of the box and his diving headergave Davie McEwan in the Thistle goal no chance.
Thistle were reeling and it took them a few minutes to recover their composure and force their way back into the game. Ryan Innes played the ball into the box for Graham Gracie and his clever turn took out two defenders, creating the space for a shot which unfortunately he fluffed wide.
Thistle were starting to look more threatening again with most of their attacking play going through Innes on the right and in the 31st minute they pulled a goal back. This time it was Niall Reynolds who found himself in the right midfield position and scooped the ball over the line of Perthshire defenders for Gracie to run on to and fire in a shot. The keeper saved the first atempt but it rebounded straight back to him and he made no mistake the second time. The ink was hardly dry on the referee’s notepad before it was 2-2, this time Iness timed his run perfectly in behind the defence and slotted calmly past the keeper.
The visiting fans in the small crowd were now in far better mood and it got better five minutes later. Hugh Kelly took a corner on the right and Gracie was given too much leeway to squeeze the ball in at the near post.
Perthsire produced something of a revival at the end of the first half as they looked to draw level and McEwan had to throw himself across his goal to keep out a great 20 yard effort, then seconds later had to produce another good save to keep Thistle ahead.
Half Time: Glasgow Perthshire 2 Larkhall Thistle 3
David Garcia had had a fairly quiet first half, adjusting to life as a Scottish junior player and the slightly cooler climate of North Glasgow but showed in the second half why he is so highly rated by the other players at the club. The first attack of the second half produced a corner which Gracie took and the Perthshire defence missed altogether, the ball fell to Innes in the clear but he hit his shot over the bar.
Garcia played a part in Thistle’s fourth goal which effectively sealed the win. He took the ball on the left and played it forward to Gracie whose cross found Innes at the back post, Reggie cut the ball back across the goal and it was deflected in by the Perthshire No.5.
The game had been heating up with some contentious decisions both ways and midway through the second half it came to boiling point when Perthshire’s No.2 was sent off for stamping on Garcia as he lay on the ground. It was an ugly incident and one that nobody wants to see in football but the sending off made no real difference as the game was already won.
The extra space did benefit players like Garcia and Gracie in the later stages of the game and the Spaniard played a tremendous cross field ball into the path of McKeever on the left side. The winger played the ball into Jordan Marshall who cut it back into the path of the incoming Ryan Innes – it was the best move of the game up to that point but was spoiled by a wild finish that almost cleared the factory unit behind the goal.
With 20 minutes to go the game saw a double subtitution, new boy Stuart McIntosh replacing Adam Cassidy at centre back and Matthew Clarke coming on for Innes and ten minutes later Jordan Marshall was replaced by Livingston.
Larkhall piled on the pressure in the remaining part of the game and nearly scored a fifth through great play between Gracie and Canning – the big striker whipping in a tremendous cross that Canning met with a perfectly timed run but dinked his shot past the post.
The best goal of the game came right on 90 minutes when Mark McKeever picked out Garcia just inside the box and the young Spaniard did the rest. He controlled the ball and glided past two defenders before curling a right footed shot just inside the post.
Adam Cassidy was booked for a mistimed tackle in the middle of the park midway through the first half, Marshall was booked for a rash challenge and Kelly and Innes also saw yellow for fouls.
It was a great result for Thistle and one that keeps the good run going, the team is now handily placed just two points off the promotion places and in a clutch of teams that will fancy their chances. Next week is now something of a crunch fixture as Thistle travel to second placed Carluke – who won at Gasworks Park earlier in the season.
Full Time: Glasgow Perthshire 2 Larkhall Thistle 5
Thistle scorers: Gracie 2, Innes, Garcia, o.g.
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, McKeever; Gracie, Garcia. Subs: Moss, Clarke, McIntosh, Liningston
Booked: Cassidy, Innes, Kelly, Marshall
Best on the day for Thistle: Not his best ever game but Graham Gracie still contributed more than anybody else to the win. Innes (first half) and Garcia (second half) also deserve a mention.