Recreation Park, Darvel
Darvel v Larkhall Thistle
Thistle kicked off with a much changed team from the one that finished against Forfar on Saturday. Darvel started very strongly and within four minutes Thistle were behind, an error at the back allowing the Darvel No. 10 to score with ease. At this early stage the Jags were struggling to get to grips with the game and it was no surprise when Darvel increased their lead – again after very slack play by the Thistle defence.
Thistle started to come into the game more and in 27 minutes Graham Gracie just failed to get enough on a great ball from Mark McKeever and the Darvel keeper saved easily. David Reid then missed a one on one with the Darvel keeper as the visitors started to get a grip of the game. Gracie again came close to scoring from a Mark Canning pass but again the keeper saved.
With half time approaching David Reid had a great run and shot which went narrowly past. The Darvel keeper then had a fine stop from Gracie but could not hold the ball, unfortunately Canning fired the rebound over the bar so Darvel went in at hslf time with a two goal lead.
Half Time: Darvel 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
David Reid, Ian Cooke, Lee Brown, Neil Schoneville and Brian Jack replaced Ross McGeachie, Matty Clarke, Ryan Innes Niall Reynolds and Jordan Marshall but within two minutes of the restart Thistle were three down after conceding a penalty for trip by trialist Lee Brown. The Darvel No. 8 duly converted the sopt kick. Just prior to being replaced, David Reid had a shot which went narrowly over the bar after a fine pass by Scott Nicoll.
Thistle were still doing the bulk of the attacking and from a Scott Nicoll corner Gracie just failed to make contact at the back post. Ross McGeachie was next to miss a good chance from a Scott Nicoll pass after a fine Graham Gracie cross but the striker headed narrowly past the keeper’s left hand post.
Thistle were creating chances but not taking them. Niall Reynolds was next to miss from another Gracie cross but the header was saved by the home keeper. With all the pressure Thistle were putting home defence under, a goal had to come and so it proved. Canning started the move with a pinpoint ball to Gracie who crossed into the box for Ryan Innes to score with a header.
Darvel were beginning to struggle and Jordan Marshall had a great run and shot which was just off target. Canning then went close with a good drive and McGeachie then headed just past the post. The Jags second goal was rather unusual in that Mark McKeever knocked the ball out of the keeper’s hands – but it was not spotted by the referee as she had turned her back on the play. The ball broke to Gracie who chipped it into the empty net from the edge of the box.
Darvel were clearly rattled and in the space of a few minutes both Gracie and Niall Reynolds headed against the woodwork from close range. With about five minutes left, a short corner routine involving Scott Nicoll and Graham Gracie resulted in the latter playing in Mark Canning and the captain netted the equaliser. Thistle kept pressing and from an Andy Brown pass Ross McGeachie shot narrowly past.
The game finished with the visitors very much on top. After conceding poor goals in the first half Thistle did well to draw level but if they had converted more of what were clear cut chances the final score would not have been a draw. We play our last pre-season game at Kinnoull on Saturday before the Sectional League Cup starts on 9th August against Lanark at home.
Full Time: Darvel 3 Larkhall Thistle 3
Larkhall Thistle starting team: Moss; L Brown, A Brown, Schoneville, Nicol; Canning, Jack, Cook, Mckeever; Gracie, Reid Subs, Reynolds, Marshall, Innes, McGeachie, Clarke, W Gracie
Thistle scorers: Innes, Gracie, Canning
Match report by Hugh Kerr