Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Neilston
Central League First Division
Thistle began their home campaign with what looked on paper to be a difficult game, although Neilston finished just above the relegation spots last season they had got off to good start this season with a defeat at Pollok being the only blip in an otherwise 100% record.
Thistle got off to a great start after only four minutes when Graham Gracie knocked the ball into the path of David Reid who took a touch and drilled a perfect low drive past the keeper.
The pair linked up well again minutes later to set up a chance for Matty Clarke but he could only blast his shot into the side netting, and although the Jags had the majority of the early play and created some good chances, it always felt that one goal wouldn’t be enough to win the game.
The game did indeed turn as the half went on and ten minutes before the interval young David Thomson had to pull off a tremendous save from a point blank header to keep the Jags in front.
The referee came under heavy pressure from the Neilston bench who were screaming for a penalty every time the ball went into the box but he did well to keep his cool and rightly deny the claims.
As the half went on though it looked more and more like Thistle should have taken better advantage of their superiority to add more goals and that the visitors would do the inevitable and equalise.
Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 0
The first chance of the second half came after 6 minutes when Gracie played in Reid on the left and he ran 30 yards before shooting wide, Josh Payne then made a couple of great runs down the right and produced two balls into the danger area that Innes and Reid should have done better with.
Unfortunately that was about as far as it went for Thistle on the day and the remaining 25 minutes or so belonged almost entirely to Neilston.
The visitors created chance after chance and it looked only a matter of time before they equalised and the goal did come by way of a soft penalty award, converted after 68 minutes by Kennedy.
Hugh Kelly had surprisingly been left out for Paul Burns who was finding it impossible to keep up with the pace of the game and was taken off after an hour to be replaced by new signing Liam Mushett. The less said about the big defender the better too as he was promptly sent packing for advising the referee to go away in less subtle language.
Shug showed in the reaining 18 minutes why he should have been on from the start but with a man down Thistle were facing an uphill task to even salvage a point.
Neilston were also reduced to 10 men late in the game when Clark was sent off for a crunching tackle on Ryan Innes but the visitors adapted better to the loss than Thistle and got the winning goal two minutes from time when a cross from the left went over Thomson and Young slid in at the back post to send the ball crashing into the roof of the net.
A great start for Thistle followed by a massive slump when they failed to build on the lead means they lost their chance to stay up with the early leaders in the league. The team is looking more settled now although there is still a bit of a weakness in defence, if Andy Brown was missing they would struggle badly and it looks like only really Hugh Kelly is capable of playing in front of a back three.
Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Neilston 2
Website Man of the Match: David Reid had a great first half but faded badly, Andy Brown gets it this week.
D. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Payne, Canning, Burns (Mushett 60), Innes, Reid; Clarke (Kelly 72), Gracie. Subs: Stewart, McKeever, McStay
Digney; McDade, Geddes, Clark, Young; Stevenson, Docherty, Stoney, Cameron, Kennedy, McLachlan. Payne
Booked: Burns, Nicholl, Kelly
Sent off: Mushett