Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Johnstone Burgh
Central District First Division
Thistle started the game as though they were determined to put Monday’s performance against Royal Albert behind them and for almost the entire first half there was only one team in it. This was the good side of the Jags on show tonight and if they had played that way all season they may well have been in line for promotion.
Graham Gracie was first to threaten the visitors goal with a well controlled drive from 22 yards that the keeper got down to save well, moments later though the Jags got a reminder that Burgh were there when Thomson had to get up to tip a long range effort over the bar. That was the full extent of the Burgh attack for the first 35 minutes.
The first goal came after 17 minutes when Ryan Innes finished a Josh Payne cross from the right with a low shot from six yards and it was no more than the Thistle pressure had deserved. The game continued in the same pattern and the second goal almost came right on half an hour from a great move started by David Reid on the left. He took the ball past a defender and passed inside to Matty Clarke who took the ball into the box and played it out to Payne on the right. Josh hit a cross that looked overhit but Gracie managed to keep it in and send the ball across the six yard box but there were no takers for an easy tap-in.
Two minutes later it was 2-0 when Reid again on the left wing drove another good cross low into the six yard box that was tapped in by Gracie at the back post. Johnstone got back into the game five minutes later when Jordan Marshall stumbled into the back of an attacker in the box and was shown the red card. The resultant penalty gave the visitors a lifeline that they could hardly claim to have deserved.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1
Jags supporters didn’t have to wait too long before the second half came alive with the best bit of play in the game. Ryan Innes picked up the ball around the centre spot and sent a tremendous ball out left to Gracie who spotted the keeper off the line and gave him no chance with a perfectly placed lob into the far corner of the net.
Div Reid carried on from where he had left off in the first half and tore the Burgh defence to ribbons with his pace and direct running, only a lack of composure in front of goal stopped him from scoring at least two goals. Brian Jack almost added to the lead with a well hit shot from just outside the box that the goalie struggled to reach but the fourth goal did come midway through the half.
Gracie once again was the man who got it, this time picking up the ball wide left and driving into the box with it, and despite the Johnstone defender’s best efforts to foul him he slotted the ball low past the keeper.
Burgh’s one real effort came a few minutes later with a header that was meant to go back across Thomson in the Jags goal but went wide. They had a spell of possession in the last 15 minutes as Thistle eased off with the job done but even with ten men the Jags were by far the superior team.
The Jags fans were treated to a very unusual sight with six minutes left on the clock – young goalkeeper David Thomson came on as an outfield player to replace Reid and although he didn’t have time to really get involved, managed to get himself a few touches and didn’t look out of place.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 4 Johnstone Burgh 1
Scorers: Innes, Gracie (3)
Sent off: Marshall
S.Thomson, Reynolds, Brown, Marshall, Burns; Payne, Innes, Jack, Reid (D. Thomson 84); Gracie, Clarke (Nicholl 72)
Website MoM: Pass marks all round tonight with very good showings from Jack, Brown Innes and Reid but Graham Gracie’s return to scoring form edges the award.