Sectional League Cup
Lesmahagow v Larkhall Thistle
Thistle and Lesmahagow went in to this group decider dead level with identical records, knowing that a win for either team would take them through to the quarter-finals as group winners. However a somewhat bizarre ruling meant that if the game ended in a draw, the teams would have to replay two days later – possibly even back at the same venue.
With Andy Brown out injured, Dunky Sinclair reverted to three at the back as Neil Schoneville was the the only recognised centre half available to play.
Thistle striker Graham Gracie has had a quiet start to the season by his standards, but he set about putting that right by firing the Jags in front after only four minutes. The Lesmahagow defence had tried to play him offside but one of their defenders didn’t get out in time and Gracie’s drive found the net.
In Thistle’s last game at Gasworks Park they were 2-0 down after 12 minutes, but today they reversed that and went 2-0 up in 12 minutes. Mark McKeever did well to force a corner kick on the left and took it himself, the ball rebounded to Neil Schoneville in a crowded box and he hooked the ball into the top corner.
The Gow almost pulled a goal back in the 24th minute when they broke down the left wing but the shot was saved by Jags keeper Alan Colquhoun and Neil Reynolds completed the scrambled clearance. Colquhoun was called on again eight minutes later when he dived brilliantly at a Lesmahagow forward’s feet to prevent a certain goal.
Minutes later Mark McKeever was taken off to be replaced by Ian Cooke, who made an immediate impact by getting to the byline and putting in an excellent cross that left Ross McGeachie with a great chance but the striker couldn’t finish.
Just before half time Thistle survived a scare when Colquhoun dived bravely at the feet of Hamilton and picked up an injury. Thankfully the half time break was enough for him to recover enough to carry on and he reappeared for the start of the second half.
Half Time: Lesmahagow 0 Larkhall Thistle 1
Lesmahagow weren’t giving up without a fight and in the eighth minute of the second half McStay came close with a run and shot, cutting inside from the left and firing unchallenged just over the bar from 20 yards.
Two minutes later however Thistle could have wrapped up the win with a nice piece of football when Canning got in behind the Gow defence from a long ball out of defence, he took a touch then laid it square on a plate for McGeachie in space in front of the goal but he blasted over the bar from 15 yards.
Amazingly there was an identical move from Thistle just two minutes later. This time it was Gracie on the right, who was the provider for Ian Cooke but the result was the same – a wild shot over the bar.
There were a couple of unsavoury incidents where things looked like boiling over, with a bit of formation pushing and shoving from both sides and the referee not being a stranger to his yellow card but thankfully both teams managed to finish the game with eleven players.
Thistle had a couple of very good chances to extend the lead as time ran out in the second half; first Matty Clarke took a quick free kick to find Canning who had made a clever run into the box unchecked but his shot flew across the face of the goal and Barnes prevented it being bundled in. Then Brian Jack played Gracie in but he lobbed just past the post.
Big Graham did have the last laugh though when he controlled a good ball down the line from Schoneville and laid it right into Canning’s path as he ran in and slotted the ball home.
So Thistle finish as clear group winners with three wins out of three – their best return in many years. They will now face Cumbernauld United at home on Wednesday in the quarter final.
Full Time: Lesmahagow 0 Larkhall Thistle 3
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Schoneville, Duris; Innes, Jack, Canning, Clarke (Kidd 87), McKeever (Cooke 35); Gracie, McGeachie (Kerr 57). Subs: Moss, McPhee
Barnes; Hall, Whitefield, Moore, MacAuliffe, Gallagher, Meikle, Hamilton, Cofee, Fitzpatrick, McStay. Subs: Boylan, Swan, Wardrope, Logan
Thistle scorers: Gracie, Schoneville, Canning
Booked: Schoneville, Reynolds, Innes, Cooke
Best on the day: This was a good all-round team performance again and some very good saves from Alan Colquhoun meant he came very close, Neil Schoneville also performed very well but this week Mark Canning was back to near his best, capped by a well taken goal.