Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Lesmahagow
Central League First Division
Thistle went into the game with Craig Rutherford still injured, Mark Canning not recovered from his warm-up injury at Johnstone, Andy Brown getting married and Liam Mushett doubtful having picked up an injury in training. Mushett did make it into a starting line-up that was unchanged from last week’s win at Johnstone.
The Jags had the perfect opportunity to take the lead after 22 seconds when they were awarded a penalty for handball but Graham Gracie’s tame penalty was easily saved by the Lesmahagow keeper.
Gracie looked determined to atone for the miss and less than a minute later got the ball and played a great pass through the defence into Matty Clarke’s path, he took a stride and slotted into the corner for the opener.
Larkhall swiftly followed that up with a second minutes later when Brian Jack played in Gracie in a similar position on the left and he made no mistake this time, firing the ball low into the same spot as Clarke.
Sixteen minutes in and with the home side having literally all of the chances and the vast majority of the ball, they extended their lead further. David Reid had been tormenting the right back and putting in some excellent crosses but this time he rolled it back into the path of the oncoming Clarke who drilled the ball home.
At this point Thistle were rampant and in the rest of the half created chance after chance that could and should have seen the game out of sight, their local rivals were shellshocked at the onslaught and it really did look a question of how many.
There was no indication at that point that Thistle were to go on and finish the game without any further scoring.
Matty Clarke had the perfect chance for a first half hat-trick when he was clean through one on one but his lob came back off the bar with the keeper helpless.
Half time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 0
Manager Dunky Sinclair’s message at half time would undoubtedly have included keeping things tight in the early stages of the second half and not losing an early goal but three minutes into the second half Niall Reynolds was caught out by the swerve of a punt through and the ball landed at the feet of the Gow striker whose lob gave Thomson no chance.
Although Thistle were under the cosh after the goal as Lesmahagow dominated the early part of the half and pressed hard to get back into the game, they should surely have scored in the 65th minute when Reid, Clarke, Gracie and Payne all passed up chances to score in an incredible mellee with the keeper stranded outside his goal but enough defenders getting back to make lunging blocks.
The home players took heart from their endeavours and nearly scored minutes later when Payne set up Gracie but he blasted his shot over the bar.
Thistle seemed to be coping well with anything that Gow could throw at them but the visitors snatched an unlikely second with fifteen minutes left when the ball bobbled in the box and their striker nipped in to get a flick on it before Thomson could gather.
Thistle made their only substitution in 83 minutes when Gary McStay came on for Clarke and he was involved in their best chance in the closing stages when he picked out Ryan Innes on the edge of the box who slipped it right to Jack, he hit a good shot that looked to be heading for the to corner before the keeper produced a good save.
Larkhall were looking to see the game out and although Gow had a few attempts, few would have predicted how the final couple of minutes were about to unfold.
Lesmahagow won a corner a minute from the end that went straight across the face of the goal and got the slightest of touches to send it into the net then followed that up with a similarly scrappy goal from a fee kick a minute later that dropped to their unmarked striker who swivelled and crashed in the winning goal from six yards.
This was real game of the season stuff for any neutral watching with Thistle producing their best form of the season so far in a first half that should have seen them out of sight and a spirited comeback from Lesmahagow who demonstrated in the most emphatic way that it is only putting the ball in the net that really counts.
Website Man of The Match: The front line of Gracie, Clarke and Reid had a great first half but ultimately the misses cost Thistle the game whilst the defence failed to hold the lead once again so man of the match this week goes to Ryan Innes who battled hard all day and won ball after ball in the middle of the park.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Lesmahagow 4
D. Thomson; Mushett, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid; Clarke (McStay 73), Gracie.
Scorers: Clarke (2), Gracie
Booked: Nicholl, Reynolds, Innes