Central League First Division
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Lesmahagow
Thistle kicked off into the bright sun in front of a decent crowd and the game started at a fast pace that never let up for the full 90+ minutes. The Jags got off to the worst possible start though when they went a goal down after just four minutes when McStay was given too much time and room as he waltzed through the right side of the defence before cutting the ball inside the near post. Larkhall had barely recovered from the shock of the opener when the visitors added to their lead. A free kick just inside their own half was swung accross the park to McStay on the left wing again and he had time to bring the ball down and hit a low drive across keeper Alan Colquhoun into the corner of the net.
After the early setback though, Thistle rolled up their sleeves and dominated most of the rest of the game. Graham Gracie almost pulled a goal back right away as he pulled the ball down out of the air and hit a stinging half volley just over the bar and 10 minutes later Mark McKeever got a foot to a ball over the top but couldn’t get enough on it to trouble Gow keeper Barnes. That was followed a minute later by a stab at the ball from Innes at the near post after great work from Scott Nicholl on the left.
Thistle’s best chance of the game so far then fell to Innes in 28 minutes after Gracie had put him clean through on goal but Barnes got a good hand to his shot from 8 yards. The Jags had a strong claim for a penalty waved away by the referee five minutes from the break but two minutes into stoppage time they did get a spot kick. Colquhoun set up the attack with a great throw out to David Reid on the right wing and after having a poor half up till then, he made up for it with a tremendous run all the way to the penalty area where he was brought down. Mark Canning converted the penalty.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Lesmahagow 2
Thistle came out for the second half with their tails up and looking to try and get the equaliser. After an eight minute spell of pressure the Jags got their break with a massive stroke of good fortune. David Reid made a great run down the right but it appeared to everyone – including himself and manager Dunky Sinclair – that he had made a mess of his cross but Barnes lost the flight of it in the bright sunlight and it dropped into the top corner.
Having drawn level, Larkhall weren’t prepared to settle for a single point and sensed that a win was on the cards. That looked all the more likely after 62 minutes when Canning stretched at the back post to get on to the end of a cross from Innes and squeeze the ball beween Barnes and the near post to give Thistle the lead for the first time.
Thistle continued to pile on the pressure and went close twice in quick succession through good set up play by Gracie creating chances for Canning but his efforts went wide of the post and over the bar. The Jags were to regret the missed opportunities when Leasmahagow levelled the game again in the 73rd minute. McStay was involved once again as he set up substitute Coffee who went clear on the keeper and slipped the ball under him with a tidy finish.
The game was now at a stage where any result looked equally likely but the Jags fans in the crowd thought their side were about to grab the win four minutes from time when Gracie found himself in space at the penalty spot, but somehow he managed to send his shot wide of the post.
A minute later though came the final twist in the tale as McStay again did well to win the ball and set off the Gow attack on the right wing and when the cross was fired over into the six yard area Coffee was there to slide in and put his side back in front. Thistle’s last chance came a minute later from a corner when Reid shifted the ball to Kelly on the edge of the box but his shot went past the post.
The game had been hotly contested throughout but had never spilled over into violence, however there were some ugly scenes at the tunnel as the players went off after the game. The melee did nobody any credit, but when you have been the outstanding player on the park the sporting thing to do is just shake hands and walk off the park.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 4
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Marshall, Schoneville, Nicholl; McKeever, Canning, Kelly, Innes, Reid; Gracie. Subs: Brown, Cooke, Clarke, Jack, McGeachie
Barnes; Hall, Hastie, Gallagher, Bunch, Lygate, Meikle, Hamilton, Logan, Taylor, McStay. Subs: Coffee, Whitefield,
Thistle scorers: Canning (2), Reid
Booked: Colquhoun, Canning, Kelly, Reid
Best on the day for Thistle: Ryan Innes put in a good shift and Graham Gracie tried his best to get things going but David Reid was the one who made things happen despite a very quiet first half.