Lock Park, Glenafton
Glenafton v Larkhall Thistle
New Coin Holdings West of Scotland Cup Round 1
Thistle went into this cup tie as 12/1 underdogs, probably justifiably so against a team from two divisions higher but by half time you could have probably got about the same price that Glenafton would emerge as winners.
The Jags got the perfect start with an early goal from Ryan Innes settling any nerves, the midfielder running on to a through ball from Gary McStay and producing a great finish after good initial build up play from Scott Nicholl on the left.
Midway through the half Thistle extended their lead with a goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Scotland game on Thursday, Graham Gracie knocking the ball down to his strike partner McStay who curled a terrific left foot effort into the top corner of the net.
At this stage Larkhall were threatening to overrun their hosts and almost made it 3-0 a moment later when McStay was just beaten to a high ball on the goal line as he tried to force it over from a Gracie cross on the left. Gracie was involved in most of the Jags forward play an eight minutes from the break he had a great chance to set up McStay again for what would have been a tap in from eight yards but chose to take on the shot himself from an awkward position near the byline.
Alan Colquhoun was called into action in the Thistle goal five minutes before the break when he pulled off a magnificent stop from a well worked free kick routine. Just before half time Gracie sprung the Glenafton defence with a run from deep to collect a through ball and this time he hid cut it back for McStay and although he got a decent shot in the Glens keeper saved fairly comfortably at his feet.
Half Time: Glenafton 0 Larkhall Thistle 2
Glenafton got themselves right back into the tie with a goal a minute into the second half that owed as much to a defensive lapse as it did to McGuffie’s great finish. Neil Schoneville was the unfortunate Jags man who neither trapped nor cleared a ball to him at the edge of the box and it fell to McGuffie who put the ball into the same top corner as Gary McStay had in the first half.
It looked like we were in for a good close cup tie but five minutes later came the incident which changed the course of the game. A scything high tackle by one of the Glenafton players on the halfway line led to a free for all involving several players from each side. The referee amazingly chose only to send off Thistle’s Schoneville who was not involved. Burns was also booked for protesting at the injustice but there was no action taken towards the original perpetrator who could easily have seen red for what was a shocking challenge.
Mark McKeever replaced Burns minutes later in the tactical reshuffle with Nicholl dropping back into his more familiar defensive role.
Thistle came under increasing pressure as the second half wore on and were finding it hard to even get out of their own end of the park, it was clear that the referee’s error had ruined the game and it looked only a matter of time before the home team equalised.
The goal duly came just after the hour from a corner on the left which was headed back across the goal nd nodded in from close range by Park. The Jags heads were down by now and it was only three minutes later that Glenafton got what turned out to be the winning goal.
Again overplaying in defence cost the Jags dear – this time Jordan Marshall, who had been having a good game up until that point, lost possession thirty yards out allowing McGill through on the left side of goal to slot the ball low past Colquhoun.
Graham Gracie was the second victim of an apparent injustice as he picked up a second booking with fifteen minutes left to play, heads were collectively scratched all round Loch Park as the home and away fans both tried to fathom this latest gaffe from the referee.
With a two man advantage it was just a question of how many now for Glenafton but they didn’t add to their lead, chiefly because of another great save by Colquhoun with his feet when their striker was one on one with the keeper.
The final nail in the coffin was left for the referee to deliver when he denied Thistle a stonewall penalty claim for a handball right at the death that would have taken the game to penalties.
There’s no way of knowing if Thistle would have held out for the win if the referee hadn’t intervened – Glenafton had the momentum of the early goal – but the ref certainly didn’t do the Jags any favours.
Full Time: Glenafton 3 Larkhall Thistle 2
Website MoM: There was nothing much from Thistle in the second half but for their first half performances the strike partnership of Gracie and McStay share this week’s man of the match.
Colquhoun; Reynolds, Schoneville, Marshall, Burns (McKeever 52); Payne, Jack, Innes, Nicholl; Gracie, McStay (Brown 72) Subs: Doyle, Thomson (GK)
Bookings: Burns, McStay, Jack, Nicholl
Sent off: Schoneville, Gracie