Portland Park, Troon
Troon v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division
Thistle made their way to Ayrshire for the second time this season on the back of a good win at Shettleston last week. In contrast to the Jags, Troon had made a very good start to their league campaign with three wins and a draw from their five games. Scott Nicholl was unavailable due to work and Josh Payne was out injured with Craig Forbes replacing him. The team was otherwise unchanged from last week.
Troon started the game well and took the lead within five minutes with a well worked one-two, Scott McLean applying the finish with a low shot into the bottom corner. Troon were the better team in the opening stages and with Thistle not creating a great deal in the attacking third, it looked more likely that Troon would add to lead than the Jags would score.
However the Jags did start to turn the game around as the half went on and so it was a bit of a blow when Troon doubled the lead just before the half hour mark. Again it was Troon’s best player on the day McLean who did the damage with a tremendous effort from wide left that he whipped high over Duncan’s head and into the far corner of the net.
It was nearly first half disaster for Thistle as they survived two further close shaves just minutes later; first McLean nearly completed his hat-trick but was foiled by Duncan then from the corner Duncan pulled out a worldie from a point blank header.
With the customary two goal deficit in place, Larkhall were now able to get started and they set about in earnest trying to get back into the game and indeed they did give themselves a lifeline, pulling a goal back in the 36th minute. Ryan Innes won the ball in the middle of the park and slipped it to David Reid. Div then played an inch perfect ball through the centre of defence into Graham Gracie’s path and he took the ball in his stride and flicked it in off the post.
Thistle were nearly level before the interval when Gracie sprung forward to beat the offside trap and found himself in the clear with just the keeper to beat. A square ball would have given Johnny McStay an easy tap-in but he elected to take on the shot himself and Troon keeper McGowan pulled off a great save to preserve the home team’s lead.
Half time: Troon 2 Larkhall Thistle 1
The second half started with Thistle still on top and pressing for an equaliser and it came within ten minutes of the restart. After a spell of pressure Forbes took a corner on the right and it fell to Jags captain Mark Canning who kept up his impressive recent scoring run with a low drive from the edge of the box.
It was game on now and either team looked like they could go on and win it. For Thistle, Reid produced a great run and was about to shoot when he was tackled just outside the box and from that Troon broke forward. The ball went out for a Thistle throw but they lost possession and it fell to Troon’s Chatham who shaped to shoot then cut the ball back for a tap-in for McLean to make it 3-2.
The goal left the Jags with 14 minutes to try and get level and although the effort was there, there was a feeling that a change up front might have given the team a lift. Matty Clarke, Mark McKeever and Gary McStay were all available to try and help out Gracie.
Two penalty awards to Troon in the last two minutes gave the score a completely false look as there were never three goals between the teams in terms of possession, efforts on goal or ability. The first was a poor one to concede with a needless soft foul at the corner of the box and the second for a lunging tackle around the penalty spot but no real complaints about either of them as they were both technically fouls.
Duncan did well to get down and save the first spot kick but McCrea was first to react and he tucked away the rebound. McLean made no mistake with the second, scoring with a cheeky wee dink.
Very unlucky to lose by such a margin today but 13 goals conceded in the last three games gives plenty for the coaching staff to work on. So far Thistle have held their own against most teams in this league but badly need to start turning their good play and goals into wins.
Full time: Troon 5 Larkhall Thistle 2
Duncan; Brown, Mushett (Robb 25), Reynolds; Canning; Forbes, Innes, Jack, Reid; J McStay, Gracie. Subs: McKeever, Doyle, Kelly, Clarke, Thomson (GK)
McGowan, McCreadie, Clark, Keenan, Collins, Chatham, Paterson, McCrea, Forsyth, Murphy, McLean
Scorers: Gracie, Canning
Booked: Robb, Reynolds
MoM: David Reid had a very good first half but faded a bit in the second so MoM this week is Johnny Duncan who made several top-drawer saves including the penalty and has improved every week since he came into the team.