Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
McKenna Park, Glasgow
St Anthony’s v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle recalled winger Mark McKeever to the left wing slot for a match against a St Anthony’s team who had been struggling a bit so far in the league. The Jags had won at McKenna park on their last visit in the league and would have hoped for all three points here too, this game and next week’s home game against leaders Neilston would give a good indication of the expectations for the rest of the league campaign.
Thistle suffered a pre-match blow when in-form midfielder/striker Scott McLachlan was forced to pull out of the game after injuring himself in the pre-match warm up. McKeever replaced him but otherwise the team was unchanged from the Scottish Cup win against Kirriemuir.
Thistle got off to the worst possible start after only four minutes when the defence failed to clear a harmless looking ball and it dropped straight to Ants winger Jay McKay who found himself in the clear and rolled the ball past Davie McEwan for the opening goal.
The Jags found themselves up against it in the early part of the first half and it wasn’t until the 10th minute that they had their first real effort on goal. Graham Gracie took a free kick on the left and swung a great ball into the danger zone only for Ryan Innes to head well over the bar. St Anthony’s replied a couple of minutes later with a long range free kick that Davie McEwan saw late and was relieved as it hit his chest and bounced out, only for it to fall to an Ants striker who should have scored but was denied brilliantly by McEwan’s diving stop.
Ryan Innes was coming into the game and was proving to be Thistle’s main attacking threat with his runs down the right side and good work from him in the 15th minute nearly brought about the equaliser. He won the ball, drove in and fed Canning whose dink came back off the post. The keeper swung a boot to clear and the ball hit Graham Gracie and almost fell back into the net.
Twenty minutes in and St anthony’s could have doubled their lead when a ball over the top beat the Thistle offside line and it took a tremendous last gasp tackle from Andy Brown to prevent a goal. Brown was involved again a minute later, this time a mix up with keeper McEwan left him and Brown on the deck and an Ants man with a hook over his shoulder into an empty net but somehow he managed to send it wide of the goal.
Brown was injured in the collision and hobbled off, he returned to the park but only lasted another six minutes before being replaced by Brian Jack who took up the wide right position, with Innes moving inside and Marshall covering at centre half. This had an unsettling effect on the team and although Marshall did well in defence, the threat that Innes had provided on the right was no longer there.
Thistle did recover though and continued to press for the rest of the first half, winning a series of corners and having one of them cleared off the line. Goal line technology might have awarded the Jags a goal but there was no way the refereee could have given it from his position.
Half Time: St Anthony’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 0
Thistle produced their best passage of play ten minutes after the break when a free kick taken by Hugh Kelly was worked out to Canning on the right. He took a touch and powered past the Ants defender before sending in a great cross that Innes glanced towards goal but was denied by keeper Bishop.
Two minutes later an almost identical move starting from a Kelly free kick in the same position again resulted in a good chance, this time Gracie header over from McKeever’s cross.
The Jags threatened again in the 66th minute when Gracie drifted past two defenders and hit the byeline, he looked up and spotted a shooting opportunity at the near post when perhaps a cutback to one of his team mates in the middle would have been the better option. The Jags were in control at this point and Gracie did well to stop a clearance from going out for a throw, sending the ball forward. Bishop came out to claim the ball but was judged to have handled it outside the box and Thistle got the free kick – although mysteriously no action was taken against the keeper. Canning blasted his shot narrowly past the post from the free kick.
The Jags continued to pile on the pressure and Bishop was the star man in the St Anthony’s goal, saving brilliantly from a point blank Gracie header after McGeachie had header it on to him. The equaliser looked certain to come but it was the Ants who scored totaly against the run of play. A layoff into the feet of Cullen had the Jags players and the visiting support screaming for offside but again the referee wasn’t best placed to judge and allowed the striker to pick his spot. Davie McEwan came out well and looked to have the goal covered but somehow the ball crept past him and trickled in off the post. Hugh Kelly picked up a booking for complaining about the offside decision.
Thistle plugged away for the remaining thirteen minutes but you sensed that their chance had gone and it was ironic that after all the pressure and chances they created, the consolation came from a speculation pot shot from Innes that took a deflection on the way through.
A bad day for Thistle then with nobody really reaching top form and it is now vital that the team takes something from the home game next week against Neilston to stay in touch and also to build a bit of confidence for the Scottish Cup trip to Aberdeen.
Full Time: St Anthony’s 2 Larkhall Thistle 1
Thistle scorer: Innes
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Innes, Marshall, Canning, McKeever; Gracie, McGeachie. Subs: Russell, Moss, Jack, Clarke
St Anthony’s Team:
Bishop; Gaffney, Holmes, R McDonald, McIntosh, Timoney, D McKay, O’Malley, Cullen, Maxwell, J McKay Subs: Howarth, Mansare, Clark, Hamilton, Cusack
Booked: Kelly, Marshall
Best on the day for Thistle: Hugh Kelly was tidy and started a lot of the moves for Thistle, his best game for a while.