West of Scotland Cup
Ardeer Stadium, Ardeer
Ardeer Thistle v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle played their first competitive game in Ayrshire since losing to Cumnock in the Scottish Cup and came away with what in the end was an easy win. A goal each for all three strikers was enough to take the Jags through against their 10 man opponents.
Thistle looked to youth and made several changes from Saturday’s home draw with Dunipace. The central midfield pairing of Grant – who has left the club – and Canning who was carrying a niggle were replaced by Ryan Innes and Jordan Marshall. Brian Jack returned to play wide right and Mark Russell made a rare start at right back in place of Niall Reynolds.
Larkhall dominated early proceedings almost completely and midfielder Brian Jack set up Innes for the game’s first attempt at goal in the ninth minute but his shot was comfortably saved by the Ardeer keeper. The Jags did take the lead with their next meaningful attack though, when Hugh Kelly fizzed in a corner from the right which was met perfectly by McLachlan who bulleted home a header that left the keeper with no chance.
Larkhall were in command of the game and had their advantage boosted minutes later by a moment of madness from one of the Ardeer players, who swung an arm at Kelly and didn’t even bother to wait for the referee to show him the red card before walking off the park.
Innes passed up a tremendous opportunity to double the lead in the 25th minute after great work again by McLachlan put him clean through on the keeper but he could only shoot over the bar. Despite having most of the play and all of the chances it took Thistle until six minutes before half time to get their second goal. Kelly played a ball into the path of Andy Brown who was overlapping on the right, he crossed for McLachlan whose header was heading towards the back post and might have gone in but Ross McGeachie made sure it did – getting on the end of it before the Ardeer defender and bundling it over the line.
A minute later Ardeer had their only chance of the first half when the ball was played into the Thistle box and a couple of players had a go at it before the defence managed to scramble it clear.
The Jags made a push in the last five minutes of the half and could well have scored another three goals. McLachlan had a header off the post then Jack stretched well to control a through ball and swing in a great cross that was begging to be finished but an Ardeer defender got a leg to it first and cleared. Finally Russell played in a great ball that McGeachie flicked off the post.
Half Time: Ardeer Thistle 0 Larkhall Thistle 2
Ardeer came out for the second half intent on showing the Jags that the game wasn’t over and had their best spell in the first ten minutes of the half. Five minutes in they produced their best move of the game and their No.14 got his shot away but fired just past the post. That was followed three minutes later with a free header in the middle of the goal from a corner which went just over the bar.
In the 65th minute manager Dunky Sinclair made a double substitution, taking off McLachlan and Kelly and bringing on Graham Gracie and Matthew Clarke (below) for his debut.
Clarke was involved from the start and took the ball inside from the left wing position before curling a right foot shot that the keeper did well to push wide for a corner. He had an almost identical effort just a few minutes later and showed plenty of potential in his 25 minutes on the park to suggest that he will be a very good addition to the squad.
Mark Canning replaced Ross McGeachie for the last 20 minutes of the game and a couple of minutes later Thistle killed the game with their third goal. Ryan Innes went in for a tackle in his own half and as he won the ball it spun off him and into the opposition half, leaving Gracie with a clear run in on goal. The big striker showed no signs of rustiness after his absence and rounded the Ardeer keeper before slotting the ball into the empty net.
Thistle safely through to the next round then with a good team performance showing the energy and commitment that had been missing a bit of late. Solid at the back although not really under too much pressure, and pleasing to see Mark Russell getting a lot of the ball and performing well, especially going forward.
Full Time: Ardeer Thistle 0 Larkhall Thistle 3
Best on the day for Thistle though was Scott McLachlan who is growing in confidence with every game and involved in nearly all of the attacking moves.
Thistle scorers: McLachlan, McGeachie, Gracie
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Russell, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Jack, Marshall, Innes, McKeever; McLachlan, McGeachie. Subs: Gracie, Clarke, Canning, Moss