Central League First Division
Fullarton Park, Glasgow
Bellshill Athletic v Larkhall Thistle
Thistle made some changes from last week with Andy Brown coming back into the centre of defence to replace the injured Jordan Marshall and Matty Clarke starting in left midfield. David Reid moved to the centre forward position to partner Ross McGeachie with Graham Gracie rested due to a knee problem. Ryan Innes came back into midfield in place of Hugh Kelly.
The Jags made a nervy start and Bellshill had the early pressure with Larkhall not managing a shot of note until the 15th minute – when Clarke cut through the defence before choosing to lay the ball off for Reid whose tame effort was easily saved.Two minutes later Reid created a good chance for himself when he picked up the ball on the edge of the box and cut inside before hitting a fierce left foot shot that the Hill keeper dived well to save.
Thistle were gaining the upper hand in the game and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 20th minute after a good build up. Innes won the ball in midfield and passed it on to Brian Jack who found Matty Clarke, he danced past two Bellshill defenders before slipping an inch-perfect ball into the box for Ryan Innes, who waited for the keeper to make his move before calmly slotting the ball low past him. Reid almost made it two just a minute later after a Canning free kick was saved and the ball rebounded to him but he hit the bar from 10 yards.
Larkhall didn’t have long to wait for the second though as they doubled the lead after 25 minutes, a quick throw in on the left caught the home defence napping and Reid pounced on the opportunity to lash a low shot into the bottom corner across the keeper.
A period of consolidation was probably what Jags manager Dunky Sinclair was looking for but what he got was an almost instant reply from Bellshill. A free kick just inside the opposition half was curled into the middle of the Jags area and it was met with a Bellshill head that sent it into the top corner despite Alan Colquhoun getting a hand to it.
Worse was to follow a minute later as the Bellshill No.8 got possession of the ball 22 yards out and with nothing appearing on, tried his luck with a perfectly placed shot that gave Colquhoun no chance as it flew into the bottom corner.
Thistle hadn’t been enjoying the best of luck as far as refereeing decisions had gone but in the 40th minute there was the first incident in a double let-off as Bellshill had a goal disallowed for what was deemed a foul on Colquhoun – although it looked like he might have just misjudged the flight of the ball. There was further relief a minute later when Neil Schoneville got caught out and pulled back the Bellshill forward when he was last man, Colqhoun was out of his goal going towards them though and the referee might have decided that he would have got there in time to prevent a clear goal scoring opportunity so the yellow card was shown.
Just on the stroke of half time though the situation took a turn for the worse when Scott Nicholl got involved in a bit of afters with his opponenet after just being booked, the referee promptly showed him another yellow and Thistle had to play the whole of the second half with ten men.
Half Time: Bellshill Athletic 2 Larkhall Thistle 2
The second half started with Thistle up against it with being a man down and the opposition obviously having been sent out with orders to exploit the advantage. Bellshill had a spell of domination at the start of the half and in the 54th minute Brian Jack had to come to the aid of the defence with a headed clearance off the line but the ball came straight back in and he had to clear off the line again, it was third time lucky for Bellshill though as the next effort found the bottom corner of the net.
The Jags were looking a bit dispirited by now having lost a two goal lead and the game was threatening to run away from them. Four minutes later the defence gave the ball away as they tried to play it out and there was a good interchange between two Hill players before they got a shot in from 12 yards. Colquhoun did well to knock it away but the ball landed in the six yard area at the feet of a Bellshill player whose shot was blocked – almost miraculously – by a combination of Colquhoun and Schoneville, the big centre half picking up a knock in the process.
Thistle had a brief respite as they pushed forward and had what looked like a strong claim for a penalty when a Bellshill defender handled at a corner in the 65th minute but three minutes later the home side should have killed off the game. Andy Brown had been having a good return to the team but he went up for a header just inside his own half and missed it, the ball falling to the Bellshill right midfielder who set off into the clear and crossed for what was an easy finish but somehow the shot went past the post.
Mark McKeever had replaced Brian Jack in right midfield and had a major part to play in the outcome with a magnificent run, down the wing then inside past a Hill defender before standing the ball up at the back post for David Reid to head. The keeper made a good save but couldn’t clear the ball and Ross McGeachie won the battle to force the ball over the line.
It was backs to the wall at times from then on for the remaining period and although Thistle had chances to win the game themselves the emphasis was on coming away not having lost. Three minutes into injury time Colquhoun again pulled off a great save as he threw himself across the goal and got a hand to the ball before it went into the top corner of the net.
A great game on the whole played with passion from both sides and full commitment all round. Both sides will be relieved not to have lost the match but at the same time both will also feel a bit of disappointment that they could have won it.
Full Time: Bellshill Athletic 3 Larkhall Thistle 3
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Schoneville, Brown, Nicholl; Jack (McKeever 65), Innes, Canning, Clarke (Cooke 86); McGeachie, Reid. Subs: McAlpine McPhee
Thistle scorers: Innes, Reid, McGeachie
Booked: Schoneville, Nicholl. Sent off: Nicholl
Best on the day for Thistle: Alan Colquhoun made a couple of great saves and Ryan Innes added steel to the midfield, Matty Clarke was as entertaining to watch as ever and involved in the goals but the verdict this week goes to David Reid who was a willing runner all day long and showed some great touches, topped by a good goal.