Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Wishaw
Central League First Division
A twelve game unbeaten run that included ten wins had seen Thistle move up to second place in the league with six games left and it all began at the home of today’s visitors back in November. Since then the Jags had gone on a run that many of us have never witnessed before to make themselves favourites for the league title itself.
With St Roch’s on cup duty this was an opportunity for Thistle to stretch their lead over them to six points, Cambuslang Rangers at the top were expected to win at home against Forth.
Wishaw started the game looking the more determined side and took the lead after eight minutes, Mark Canning had a shot blocked and Wishaw broke forward through Dan Kindlan who was allowed a criminal amount of time and space to waltz through the middle of the park unchallenged before hitting a low shot from the left edge of the box that Thomson might have felt he could have done better with. A poor goal all round to lose.
The goal settled Wishaw and they dealt well with anything that Thistle could come up with in the way of chances and the long balls were being easily dealt with by their defence, although they did not really trouble the Larkhall defence too much either.
The visitors doubled their lead on 28 minutes when a corner kick fell perfectly at the back post for Dean Kindlan to blast in from close range.
Thistle got back into the game with a great goal five minutes from half time. Josh Payne took the ball in the middle of the park and spotted a gap between the Wishaw defenders, he played the perfect ball out left for Graham Gracie to run on to and take wide of the keeper before squeezing it it from the tightest of angles.
The goal brought the Jags to life as they shook off their sluggish start and set about getting level. That was blown out of the water though as Wishaw won a free kick right on 45 minutes which Dan Kindlan swept past Thomson for his second goal of the game.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Wishaw 3
It was as poor a first half showing as Thistle have put up all season so the second half could only really have been an improvement. The Jags set about an assault on the Wishaw goal that saw them create chance after chance, albeit none of them very clear cut as the Wishaw defence dug in and looked happy just to sit deep and get rid of the ball.
After an hour it was clear to all that changes were needed but Niall Reynolds might count himself unlucky to have been hooked along with Brian Jack in favour of Scott Nicholl and Hugh Kelly. Reynolds had been one of the few pass-marks players up that point but the manager wanted to use the extra attacking ability of Nicholl who can get further forward.
The Wishaw defence survived a real scare when Josh Payne cut in on the right side of the byeline and tried to score from an even tighter angle than Gracie but his shot rolled just in front of the goal line and past.
Keeper Stewart Thomson kept Thistle in the game with a great save as he came out to block a shot from Smillie who was put clean through on goal by Dan Kindlan.
The Jags took full advantage as they broke quickly to pull a goal back through Canning with sixteen minutes left on the clock. Canning started the move when he knocked the ball forward to Gracie who set off on a run after a one-two with Reid. The big striker got a lucky break as he tried to take the ball past the last defender and it broke back into his path but he unselfishly squared it to Canning who kept cool to roll it into the corner.
The remainder of the game was virtually one way traffic as the Jags laid siege to the Wishaw goal but a combination of good defending, desperate last minute blocks and good luck thwarted their best attempts at getting level.
Thistle also had a shout for a penalty denied when the ball was played off a Wishaw defender’s arm but in truth it was too close to award a spot kick and couldn’t have been considered as deliberate.
The Jags finally ran out of time and tasted their first league defeat of 2017. Despite a much improved second half there is no doubt that Wishaw were the better team on the day and fully deserved their win. Cambuslang were held to a shock home draw by Forth so if ever there was a day to lose a game this was probably it. The real winners were St Roch’s who saw the two teams above them lose a bit of the advantage they had. It is now a genuine any two from three with Cambuslang possibly looking the most precarious at the top.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Wishaw 3
Scorers: Gracie, Canning
Website Man of the Match: On a day where nobody really reached the heights they are capable of, Josh Payne plugged away well and provided the Jags only real moment of quality in the game.
S.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl 61); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack (Kelly 61), Reid; McKeever, (Clarke 72), Gracie. Subs: D.Thomson (GK), Doyle
Thomson; McIntyre, Goodall, Watt, Eley,; McCafferty, Grant, Dean Kindlan, Smillie, Dan Kindlan, Collinder, Bannerman
** Sorry no video this week, camera failure at Thistle’s first goal so not worth doing