Central League First Division
Craighead Park, Lesmahagow
Lesmahagow v Larkhall Thistle
Torrential overnight rain had cast some doubt as to whether Craighead Park would survive but by kick off time it looked in perfect condition and it was good to see Lesmahagow back on their own ground again after the disastrous floods of last winter.
Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair restored Andy Brown to the centre back position with Jordan Marshall returning to his more natural central midfield role. Brian Jack was a surprise starter on the left side of midfield with Clarke and McKeever on the bench.
The game got off to the worst possible start for Thistle with the loss once again of an early goal, poor defending allowed McStay to waltz though on the right of the box before sending a shot high into the net from a tight angle after only 7 minutes.
Thistle to their credit went straight up the park from the restart and could have equalised right away through Gracie but he was crowded out by defenders and couldn’t get his shot away. The visitors dominated possession for most of the next 15 minutes but couldn’t turn it into any clear cut chances and were picked off once again down the right when the ‘Gow 10 made a good run and finished it with a dangerous ball into the six yard area that Niall Reynolds turned into his own goal trying to clear.
Although Thistle were two goals down, the game was by no means over and the Jags hit back twice in two minutes with chances for Graham Gracie that could have levelled the game. First Neil Schoneville lobbed over the defence to Gracie whose touch took him wide and his shot went past the post. Next, just before the half hour, David Reid played him in on the edge of the box and his touch took him past the last defender and clear in on goal. Again though his shot across the goal cleared the post when he really should have scored with what proved to be Thistle’s best chance of the game.
Lesmahagow hit back right away and could have made it three with yet another run down the right and a shot that went just past the post. Six minutes before the interval Larkhall produced their best football of the game with a great move between Nicholl, Marshall and Reid that ended with a decent shot from Nicholl that keeper Barnes saved comfortably. The Jags followed that a minute later with another effort on target from Gracie after Canning had put him in with a lob over the defence – but again Barnes pulled off the save.
The roof fell in for Thistle after 41 minutes when they lost the ball in the middle of the park and Gow played a one-two before scooping the ball over Colquhoun into the net to kill the game off. There was a suspicion of a foul on Gracie in the area a minute later as he was bundled off the ball forcing his header wide but the protests were waved away.
Half Time: Lesmahagow 3 Larkhall Thistle 0
Three minutes into the second half it could have got a lot worse as Niall Reynolds had to make a brilliant last gasp block to prevent a goal after a rebound from a free kick but Thistle had to wait until the 65th minute before they produced their first real chance of the second half. Jordan Marshall did well to pick up the ball and drive with it before playing Gracie in, he wriggled between two defenders and shot with the outside of his foot but the effort was blocked as it headed towards the net.
Ross McGeachie was next to pass up an opportunity after Canning found him clear in the box but he wanted too much time to get a shot in and the ball was cleared. It was Lesmahagow’s turn next as Jack lost possession and the Thistle defence had no answer to the run that followed, fortunately the shot was past the post.
The referee then made one of the most bizarre decisions seen at any level of football in a long time as he booked Neil Schoneville after he had been blatantly shoved by the opposition player. Even the home fans were scratching their heads in disbelief and it led to a free kick right on the edge of the box that luckily came to nothing.
The game petered out with no more goals and we were left with another bad result for Thistle. Too many players underperformed on the day and the Jags main threat Gracie was up against two, three and even four defenders every time he got in a decent position. Credit to big Graham for keeping plugging away but he was badly isolated as the only attacking option for most of the game and something is missing up front.
Full Time: Lesmahagow 3 Larkhall Thistle 0
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Schoneville, Brown (Clarke 79), Nicholl; Reid (McKeever 51), Canning, Marshall, Jack; McGeachie, Gracie. Subs: Kelly, Cooke, McAlpine (GK)
Booked: Schoneville, Nicholl, Marshall
Best on the day for Thistle: Jordan Marshall was tidy in midfield and didn’t waste many balls