James McGrory Park, Glasgow,
St Roch’s v Larkhall Thistle
EuroScot Eng Central Cup 3rd Round
After having beaten neighbours Royal Albert in the last round, Thistle faced fellow Division One side St Rochs in a tie that looked very evenly matched. The teams had only been separated by a single point in the table and had drawn 4-4 in the league less than a month ago.
The game got off to a lively start at a pace that never really dropped at all all the way through. David Reid threatened in the 10th minute for Thistle with a shot that went just past the post and St Roch’s replied immediately and brought out the first save from Thomson.
The Jags pressure paid off in the 19th minute when a free kick from Jordan Marshall cleared the right back’s head and found Reid who slipped it into the path of Graham Gracie. The big striker steadied himself and slipped the ball under the advancing keeper.
The Jags were having the majority of the possession and produced a series of good attacking moves, especially on the left flank with Burns feeding Reid who linked up with Gracie and Clarke. A bit more of an understanding and timing of passes between the three and Thistle could have been out of sight.
As it was however, St Roch’s came back in 35 minutes with a great move down the left where they were having a lot of joy, Shiels cut into the box and shimmied past two defenders before hitting a fine shot that was bound for the corner of the net before Thomson produced a great save.
Just before half time the referee produced a strange moment even for a junior ref, as Thistle were breaking away he pulled play back to the halway line for what everybody in the ground assumed was a St Roch’s free kick but he gave it to Thistle. The ball was played early to Reid on the run into the clear and he managed to get a low shot away that the keeper saved.
Half time: St Roch’s 0 Larkhall Thistle 1
After Thistle’s domination of the first half it was all change after the break as St Roch’s came out determined to get back on level terms. They produced some good free flowing attacking play in the first 15 minutes that the Jags defence did well to keep out with keeper Thomson called upon again and again. Andy Brown was as ever in the thick of it and produced a moment of inspiration as he somehow managed to throw himself in front of a netbound rocket shot that would have seen the scores level.
Hugh Kelly came on early in the half to replace Ryan Innes, who looked to be struggling with a niggle, and had a good second half, keeping the ball well and finding his passes but it was Thomson again who pulled off a double point-blank save from Shiels, their most dangerous player on the night.
The latter stages of the second half saw Thistle come back into the game and Josh Payne come to life after a very quiet game up until then. He was involved in several good breaks down the right and might well have set up a couple of goals given better final balls.
Thistle looked to have sealed the game in the 78th minute with the most basic of route-one goals, a long punt from Thomson bounced once high in the air and as home keeper Brown misjudged the flight, Gracie got up and header into the empty net.
Big Graham could and should have wrapped up his hat-trick five minutes lated after a badly miscued kick from keeper Brown fell right to him and left him clear but at a wide angle, he rolled a shot towards the empty net but hit the post.
St Roch’s never gave up and got a reward for their pressure when the Jags defence failed to clear a bobbling ball and McFadyen lifted it past Thomson with almost the last kick of the game.
A great cup tie played in the right spirit by both sets of players and to be honest it could have gone either way. Thomson and Brown were outstanding in the Thistle defence but there were also a load of good chances at the other end for the Jags. Pleased also to report that the action was all on the park and although the supporters may have their differences there was no animosity on show.
Full time: St Roch’s 1 Larkhall Thistle 2
Scorer: Gracie (2)
Bookings: Clarke, Innes
S.Thomson, Reynolds, Brown, Marshall, Burns (Nicholl 70); Payne, Innes (Kelly 55), Jack, Reid; Gracie, Clarke
Website MoM: Well taken goals by Graham Gracie and the third would have made him impossible to overlook but it’s a toss of a coin between Thomson and Brown and the keeper made several vital saves so he gets the nod.