Stagecoach West of Scotland League Central District First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Dunipace
Thistle faced the joint league leaders and somehow managed to scrape a point despite a performance that was well below par in almost every department. Striker Graham Gracie was missing through injury and although the team had performed reasonably well without him in the second half last week, this time out they struggled badly to make any sort of progress against a well-disciplined Dunipace defence.
Scott McLachlan led the line in the absence of Gracie with Jordan Marshall coming in to fill the right midfield slot, the rest of the team was the same as the one which finished the game at Cambuslang.
On the first cold day of the season, Dunipace were the first to get warmed up and could have taken the lead as early as the fifth minute with a looping header from the back post that went over Jags keeper Davie McEwan and hit the bar. Larkhall were finding it hard to get any sort of passing going and with nothing coming from central midfield were forced to rely on long balls for Ross McGeachie to knock down, but with no Gracie to link up with they were easily dealt with by the Dunipace defence.
The visitors had further chances to take the lead in the first half, Rodger twisted and turned on the corner of the box before getting a shot away which was luckily just the right height for McEwan to deal with. Just before the half hour mark Hugh Kelly was lucky to escape a booking for a mistimed tackle in Thistle’s left midfield, that let the Dunipace man through to square the ball across the face of the goal but the shot on the end of it was past the post.
Five minutes later Thistle had another let off when a free kick from just outside the box took a wicked deflection and with McEwan stranded, could have landed anywhere – this time it went just over the bar for a corner.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Dunipace 0
Although Dunipace had undoubtedly been the better side and on top for most of the game, the Jags themselves had also performed fairly well at the back for the most part and it took a freak error to let Dunipace in for their goal on 58 minutes. Niall Reynolds had been having a hard time in the first half and what looked like a standard clearance with plenty of time to get the ball out turned into a horrendous scliff inside, right into the path of the Dunipace attacker who left McEwan with no chance.
Ten minutes later the visitors spurned another good chance when Mark McKeever was dispossessed on the left, leaving the whole of the side of the park to run in and get a ball into the middle where poor marking allowed a free shot at the goal from the edge of the box.
Moments later Reynolds was taken off to be replaced by Ryan Innes, a move that lifted the home support and saw the Jags take a level footing in the game for the last quarter. Innes provided the drive and energy that had been sadly lacking in the midfield and with seven minutes left he broke down the right side and won a corner which he took himself. Adam Cassidy got up what appeared to be a foot higher than anyone else but his bullet header flew over the bar. Mark McKeever was replaced by Brian Jack shortly after.
Dunipace were sensing that things might not be all going their way but two minutes later had a golden chance to seal the points when a quick break saw them attacking with 2 v 1 and only Andy Brown left holding the fort. Young substitute Hunter however lost control and instead of playing the pass, hit it to Brown who dealt with the danger.
With time running out and Larkhall looking like slumping to a defeat, Andy Brown lobbed a ball into the box which was knocked to the far post where Scott McLachlan was flying in and he headed the ball into the net from three yards.
Hugh Kelly was booked late in the game for a deliberate foul.
So very much a point won rather than two dropped for Thistle, with the late appearance of Innes one of the very few bright spots for the home supporters on the day. Good performances from McEwan and Brown in particular in defence and solid shifts from McLachlan again and McGeachie, who played his normal game but without Gracie to lay the ball off to the worry is where the goals will come from.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Dunipace 1
Thistle scorer: McLachlan
Larkhall Thistle Team:
McEwan; Reynolds, Brown, Cassidy, Kelly; Marshall, Grant, Canning, McKeever; McLachlan, McGeachie. Subs: Innes, Russell, Moss, Jack, Trialist
Mathers; Danny Brown, David Brown, MacMillan, Oates; Cullen, Sharp, Batchelor, Rodger, Mallon, Kirwin. Subs: Meikle, Dempsey, Hunter, Miller, Govan
Best on the day for Thistle: Brown for his overall consistency, just pipping McEwan and Innes