Renfew 4 Larkhall Thistle 1 – 14th February 2015

Keanie Park, Johnstone
Renfrew v Larkhall Thistle

Thistle at last managed to get a game on – for the first time since December 27th – as the weather finally gave junior football a much needed break, but a day that started out full of promise turned into a disaster. With Renfrew’s ground out of action and their new park not yet finished, the game was shifted to their temporary home at Johnstone Burgh’s Keanie Park. They will be hoping to get back to playing in their own home town as soon as possible if the size of the crowd today is anything to go by – probably the lowest at any of our games this season.

With a few players out for various reasons, the squad was down to a bare-bones 13 with only two subs named. Scott Nicholl’s absence meant Neil Reynolds switching to left back with Brian Jack filling in at right back. Mark McKeever started up front with Graham Gracie.

The first 10 minutes were all Thistle as they took the game to Renfrew, shooting up the slope in the first half. McKeever, playing mostly on the left, was involved in most of the attacking play as the Jags had a couple of early efforts at goal. Renfrew however took the lead in the 13th minute, totally against the run of play with what might well have been their first attack. The ball went out for a corner on the Thistle left side and when it was swung in Nicolson was left completely unmarked and sent his free header past Colquhoun.

After the usual polite enquires between the Thistle players and management as to who should have been marking, the Jags dusted themselves down and went out looking for an equaliser. There were a few more half chances for both sides although nothing much to get the fans talking until the 32nd minute when Thistle won a penalty. David Reid did well to set up McKeever in the box and as he bore down on goal he was taken out from behind in the most blatant of challenges. There was a strong case for the defender to be sent off as McKeever was in on goal and undoubtedly in a goal scoring position but referee Chris McTeirnan chose to show him yellow instead. It was not to be his last controversial decision of the game.

Canning's penalty
Canning’s penalty

A minute later Renfrew nearly went back in front after some slack play in the middle of the park from Thistle saw Kelly dispossessed and in the breakaway they hit the post with a 20 yard drive. The let-off was only temporary however as Renfrew did take the lead again after 41 minutes following the game’s only real moment of quality. The Frew No.8 picked up the ball just inside the Jags half and made a great run straight through the middle before firing in a shot that Colquhoun got down well to block – but might just have done a bit better and held. Renfrew’s Scott Arthur was quickest to react and had an easy tap-in from six yards from the rebound.

Two minutes later, step forward Mr McTeirnan. Hugh Kelly went in for a challenge on the right stand side of the park and was fouled by the Renfew player, They went down in a heap and got tangled up together and as they got up, there was a bit of mild shoving. The referee decided that from what he saw, Kelly had committed a red card offence and sent him off, much to the bemusement of the crowd and to the anger of the Thistle players.

Flashpoint as players surround referee McTeirnan
Flashpoint as players surround referee McTeirnan

Admittedly some of the arguing that followed was of the strong variety but it was a highly contentious decision at a crucial stage of the game and the reaction would have probably been judged more sympathetically by a stronger referee. Thistle captain Mark Canning was shown a red card in the aftermath and the game was effectively killed off.

Half Time: Renfrew 2 Larkhall Thistle 1

The game was held up for nearly fifteen minutes before it got underway for the second half, the two teams were out on the park but there was no sign of the referee. The two club presidents were called in to discuss the situation and the word is that the ref was worried about his safety, although it is hard to believe that a crowd of that size and nature would have caused him any real concern.

When the game did eventually get underway, it proved to be the damp squib that the referee’s decisions had turned it into. A big playing surface meant that the two man advantage was never going to be threatened and to add insult to injury Thistle had lost their two best players for holding the ball. They started gamely enough and set themselves up to defend but went further behind seven minutes into the half. Andy Brown lost the flight of a cross into the box and to sum up their day, the ball hit his nose and fell perfectly for McDaid who hit it low into the far corner.

Thistle produced their best moment of the half ten minutes later with good build up play on the right between Reynolds and Brian Jack before Jacko played the ball forward towards Gracie, who backeeled the ball perfectly into the path of Ryan Innes to send him in on goal but the keeper was quick out to block.

Gracie goes up for a header
Graham Gracie goes up for a header

The scoring was completed in the 64th minute when Colquhoun raced out of his goal and conceded a free kick just outside the box, Scott Arthur took full advantage and curled an unstoppable shot into the top left corner of the net.

The rest of the game was played out in a bit of a tame stand off, Renfrew were doing the attacking but the subs they brought on up front didn’t trouble the nine men. Arthur had a chance of his hat trick three minutes from time with a run and shot that nearly found the same corner as his free kick.

The game was over and the referee left the park safely.

Full Time: Renfrew 4 Larkhall Thistle 1

Larkhall Thistle:
Colquhoun; Jack, Brown, Schoneville, Reynolds; Innes, Canning, Kelly, Reid; McKeever Gracie (McGeachie 68). Subs: McPhee

Thistle scorers: Canning

Booked: Reid, Colquhoun Sent off: Kelly, Canning,

Best on the day for Thistle: It’s been a long time coming but Brian Jack gets the verdict today, just a shame it couldn’t have been in better circumstances.

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