Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Cambuslang Rangers
Central League First Division
Thistle went into this crucial top of the table clash knowing that only a win would realistically keep their prospects of winning the league alive. Twelve points behind with four games in hand would have stretched to fifteen with the prospect of having to cram midweek games into a tight schedule so the three points were essential.
The Jags got off to the best possible start when after just eight minutes midfielder Brian Jack pounced on a loose ball in the box to swing his boot high and send a great shot crashing into the roof of the net. The Cambuslang coaching staff set the tone for the rest of the day as they appealed loudly for a foul against Jacko for a high kick, despite the fact that there wasn’t a defender close to him. Their protests were as fruitless as they were ridiculous and the constant cries for offside every time Thistle went forward were correctly ignored by the referee.
The Cambuslang players showed there was more about them though and came back to grab a quick equaliser eight minutes later. A ball was swung in from a corner on the left and Lang’s Nolan converted at the near post with a free header.
The goal lifted the visitors as they took control of the game for a spell and made a few chances, going close on one occasion with a cross/shot that clipped the post and a volley that would have burst the net if it had been on target. Thistle also had their moments, Graham Gracie replied with a low shot across the goal that went just wide, Mark McKeever brought out a good save and a goalmouth scramble resulted in Liam Mushett nearly poking a shot home but keeper Stewart managed to save again.
Chances at both ends then but the half time whistle came without any further addition to the scoring.
Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Cambuslang Rangers 1
After the break, both teams made it clear that they were going all out for the win, resulting in a real old fashioned end-to-end contest that turned out to be more like a cup tie. Thistle had the best of the half and put the Cambuslang defence under heavy pressure for most of it, albeit without creating too many clear cut chances. The visitors also had their moments though and came close just after the restart when they hit the bar with a header.
Graham Gracie looked set to put the Jags ahead but a Lang defender managed to throw himself in front of the ball and block his shot – it was probably a legitimate challenge despite the calls for a penalty.
The game turned on a penalty decision that predictably the visiting bench didn’t entirely agree with. A cross from the left hit a defender on the arm and it is one of those decisions that some referees will give and some won’t, it was entirely open to interpretation whether the defender was too close to have been able to do anything about it but the referee was in a better position to judge than those who were giving him abuse. One of the Cambuslang players took his protests too far and was sent off in the aftermath.
Captain Mark Canning took responsibility and stepped up to slot the ball home for what proved to be the winning goal.
There were more half chances at either end as the teams went at each other right to the wire but neither keeper was really troubled too much. Credit to both teams for a great contest played in the right spirit – on the park at least.
The win keeps Thistle in touch and although there are some games to catch up, the destination of the title is in their own hands for the first time.
Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Cambuslang Rangers 1
Scorers: Jack, Canning
Website Man of the Match: !00% effort from all of the players today but none more so than Mark McKeever who plugged away tirelessly up front.
D.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 85), Gracie. Subs: Kelly, McStay, S.Thomson
Cambuslang Rangers: Stewart, Gebbie, Halliday, Nolan, Bishop, Haye, Bohme, Simeon, Gormley, Kilmartin, Hastings. Subs: Kerr, Houston, Brown, Gemmell, Collinder
Video highlights of the game (sorry Cambuslang goal is missing, some of their supporters walked in front of the camera just as they were scoring)