Scottish Junior Cup Round 2
Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Darvel
There were a few raised eyebrows among the home support when the Larkhall Thistle team was announced, there were no places for fit again Ryan Innes or Ross McGeachie – who most would have expected to partner Graham Gracie up front. Instead the manager chose a more defensive formation with Hugh Kelly sitting in front of the back four, Mark McKeever and David Reid playing wide and Gracie through the middle himself.
Thistle kicked off the game shooting into a high wind that was the classic leveller, especially in a Scottish Cup tie and Darvel got the early advantage after just four minutes. A high ball swirled and was misjudged by the home defence who all left it for each other while Darvel’s Vernon nicked in behind and found himself in the clear, slotting the ball past Alan Colquhoun. They followed that up a couple of minutes later when the No.8 fired in a shot from 30 yards that dipped in the wind and in the end went just over the bar.
In truth that was just about all the visitors did in an attacking sense as Thistle took the play to Darvel and threatened to overrun them at times. The Jags had the ball in the net after 20 minutes when the ball broke to Neil Schoneville after a free kick from Scott Nicholl, but the challenge on the Darvel keeper was judged to be illegal then a strong penalty claim for a challenge on Gracie was ignored.
Graham Gracie then started to take the game to Darvel and had a great end to the first half in a period where he might have had two or three goals. An excellent one-two with Brian Jack on the edge of the box saw him cut right through the middle of the opposition defence but he lost the one on one with the keeper as he pulled off a great low save. Gracie then took on the whole Darvel defence himself in a spectacular dribble that ended with a shot which spun off a defender for a corner.
Darvel made a rare break out of defence in the 32nd minute and while the Thistle defence hesitated and claimed a foul, Henderson didn’t and hit a cracking drive into the far corner to double their lead. Hugh Kelly and Mark Canning were booked in the aftermath for protesting too long about the foul.
Gracie might have had a penalty two minutes later when he was taken down on the left edge of the box but the referee ruled that it was a fair tackle and awarded a throw in. From it the Jags kept up the pressure and there was a fierce scramble in the box in which the Darvel keeper managed to dive the wrong way and still pull off a point blank save.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Darvel 2
Darvel were shooting into the wind in the second half and might have been expected to try and sit on their two goal lead but they got out of the traps right away and nearly scored again in the first minute with a quick break, Colquhoun having to look very lively to save with his feet.
That was panic over for the Jags for most of the rest of the game as it was virtually all one-way traffic from then on in. Thistle were denied what looked like a stonewall penalty in the 59th minute when the Darvel defender took a ball into his body but appeared to control it with his arm before clearing it.
Thistle were a bit short in the middle of the park so Ryan Innes was brought on for Canning in the 60th minute and he made an immediate impact with some strong tackling. Jordan Marshall was taken off with an ankle injury shortly after that after an accidental collision with Kelly, Ross McGeachie came on and the formation was reshuffled.
Larkhall came close to scoring again in the 69th minute after another spell of pressure produced yet another scramble, McGeachie’s effort from two yards was crowded out and the ball fell into the keeper’s arms as he lay on the deck. Gracie picked up a knee injury again and was replaced by Matty Clarke 19 minutes from time and four minutes later Ross McGeachie did get his goal in a scramble, this time managing to poke it in.
It was almost completely backs to the wall for Darvel now but one of their long clearances out of defence found a teammate on the left wing who drove in a put in a good cross to the back post, the quick break caught out the Thistle defence and Nicholl was beaten to the ball, which was then cut back to a supporting runner who swept it into the net.
Thistle kept going but didn’t really threaten with any more clear cut chances until two minutes into injury time when Ryan Innes should have scored from a close range header from a corner.
It was a bitterly disappointing result for everyone at the club but a result that in no way reflected the game. Thistle had virtually all of the pressure and most of the chances and it was just one of these days you get in football where it didn’t go right.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Darvel 3
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Schoneville, Marshall (McGeachie 65), Nicholl; Kelly, Reid, McKeever, Canning (Innes 60), Jack; Gracie (Clarke 70) Subs: Cooke, Brown
Thistle scorers: McGeachie
Booked: Canning, Kelly
Best on the day for Thistle: no outstanding performances today but Gracie was very close to at least one goal, Jack had one of his best games and McKeever plugged away and lasted the whole game