Central League First Division
McKenna Park, Cardonald
St Anthony’s v Larkhall Thistle
Alan Colquhoun passed his fitness test and was recalled to the starting line-up along with Hugh Kelly, back in his best position in the centre of midfield. Maty Clarke dropped to the bench to make way for Shug.
Thistle started the game brightly and had a chance to take the lead after only two minutes when David Reid won a header and knocked it to Mark Canning but his first time volley went just wide of the post. Five minutes later the Jags had an even better chance when Mark McKeever played a good ball out to the right wing for Niall Reynolds to run on to, his cross missed everybody out and flew right across the goal where Reid somehow managed not to make any connection with it at the back post and the ball went out harmlessly for a goal kick.
Next up was Kelly who picked up a loose ball and drove forward right through the middle of the Ants defence before hitting a good shot that keeper Duncan had to get down well to save.
There was no threat at all from the home side until the 14th minute when they took the lead with their first chance. A corner on the right was knocked on by McDonald as Colqhoun came out to clear, leaving Duncan unmarked standing virtually on the goal line, with the easiest of tasks to tap the ball in.
Ten minutes later St Anthony’s had their second chance of the game – and they scored with that too. There looked to be no threat as Reynolds had time to clear the ball out of the danger area with a header towards Ryan Innes. Reggie however was easily dispossessed by Harvey who tried his luck from 20 yards – and found the corner, to give his team a two goal lead they could hardly say they deserved.
Although St Anthony’s had hardly been in the game as an attacking force up until now, incredibly they should have added to their lead just four minutes later when a Thistle attack broke down. Thomson outpaced Andy Brown on the left before delivering an inch perfect cross to the unmarked Duncan at the back post, but somehow he managed to head past from five yards out with the goal at his mercy.
Thistle were pushing hard to try and get a goal back before the interval but again they got caught out with just a minute to go till the break in the incident that changed the game. Ants won the ball back in their own half and sent Duncan sprinting away through the middle after Scott Nicholl had taken a wild swipe at the ball on the centre circle and missed it altogether. Andy Brown looked to be losing out in the race towards the Jags goal but he got back level with Duncan and put in a fantastic goal saving tackle, bringing Duncan down in the process. Referee McFadyen was unable too keep up with the sprint and from his angle well behind the play it looked like a foul so he was left with no option other than to send Brown off as well as awarding the penalty.
Neil Schoneville was sent off for foul and abusive language toward the referee while Canning and Colquhoun were both booked in the aftermath as the protests raged long and hard. It is the popular belief that you can tell by the players reactions whether the decision was right or not and if that’s the case then this was clearly a major injustice.
Alan Colquhoun pulled off a great save from the penalty to change the whole complexion of the game and prevent a three goal deficit at the break.
Straight from the kick off Thistle were on the attack again and McGeachie nearly pulled a goal back when he headed just over the bar from a Reid cross.
Half Time: St Anthony’s 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
Against all odds, Thistle came out in the second half and carried on where they had left off. Even with only nine men they dominated play and had the home contingent roaring in frustration at their side’s inability to keep the ball and make the extra men count. Just two minutes into the half and it was starting to look like the Jags might even get back into the game when Mark McKeever collected the ball in the left wing and cut inside into acres of space, with nothing else really on he decided to have a go himself and hit a great shot just inside the post to cut the deficit to a single goal.
A minute later St Anthony’s had the ball in the net from a free kick but the referee spotted an offside and disallowed the effort. It was Thistle though who were still looking the more likely team and they went close from a Reid scissor kick after good work by McKeever, then a good run down the right by Reid past two defenders set up a chance for McGeachie in the middle but he couldn’t adjust his feet in time to stick the ball away.
Thistle continued to dominate for most of the half with Kelly in particular showing the home side how to keep the ball and it was no surprise to anybody when the Jags drew level in 72 minutes. Scott Nicholl burst forward out of defence and set up a fantastic Jags move, playing a one-two with Reid before laying the ball square into McGeachie’s path, the big striker making no mistake from close range.
Five minutes later Larkhall should have been in front after another flowing move that left Innes with a tap in at the back post, unfortunately the ball came to him on his left side but he chose to try and hit it with his right foot and it squirmed past the post.
The roof fell in on Thistle’s heroic attempt seven minutes from the end when they conceded the unluckiest of goals, a speculative 30 yard effort from Thomson looked unlikely to trouble Colquhoun in the Jags goal but it took a massive deflection on the way through and left the keeper with no chance. It was all over then as some of the Thistle players sank to their knees in disbelief at how they could have been robbed again.
With three minutes left on the clock St Anthony’s put the game beyond doubt with a back post header.
It was an incredible effort by Thistle in the second half to haul themselves back into the game with nine men and hopefully they can carry the team spirit and fight they showed into the rest of the campaign. They were by far the better team on the day and even with two men short had the bulk of the possession and chances.
Full Time: St Anthony’s 4 Larkhall Thistle 2
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Schoneville, Brown, Nicholl; McKeever, Canning, Kelly, Innes; McGeachie, Reid. Subs: Clarke, McPhee, Jack, Cooke, Marshall
J Duncan; Thomson, Miller, R McDonald, Timoney, Harvey, Crawford, McKeown, Docherty, Stevenson, W Duncan. Subs: Laughlin, Conway, Taylor, McKenzie, Curran (GK)
Thistle scorers: McKeever, McGeachie
Booked: Colquhoun, Canning, Innes, Kelly. Red card: Brown, Schoneville
Best on the day for Thistle: Andy Brown did little wrong before his sending off and his tackle saved a certain goal, but the second half performances throughout the team were superb, in particular Kelly and Reid.