Greenfield Park, Glasgow
Shettleston v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division
After a day off last Saturday due to a Scotish Cup bye, Thistle looked to bounce back from the sickening last minute loss to Glencairn with a win at Shettleston. The Jags had lost 3-1 at Greenfild Park on their last visit, on the first day of Shettleston’s promotion season 2013 – 2014.
Thistle were without Scott Nicholl who was working and Matty Clarke who was ill, Stuart Thomson and Gary McStay were still struggling with injury and were also both out.
Following a decent opening spell, the Jags once again fell behind to an early goal. Shettleston won a corner on the right, it was cleared only to Shettleston’s full back on the touch line. The ball was swung back into the middle and Town’s Crumlish had time and space to get a header in unchallenged, leaving Thistle keeper Johnny Duncan helpless.
The early goal was something that Larkhall have become used to dealing with and it didn’t knock them out of their stride too much, although in all honesty they spent the rest of the first half huffing and puffing and not really creating a chance worth talking about. The closest the Jags came was when Graham Gracie gave a glimpse of what was to follow with a great run along the bye line and a cross that the home keeper came out and took clean out, along with Jags midfielder Ryan Innes.
Worse was to follow just on half time when Shettleston broke away and left the Jags defence posted missing, a two on one with keeper Duncan producing the inevitable outcome of a square ball and tap in for McInosh into the empty net.
Half time: Shettleston 2 Larkhall Thistle 0
Larkhall’s first real attempt on target came just after the break when Mark Canning floated a free kick into the box and Liam Mushett’s header brought out a fine save from the home keeper. Mushett was involved again minutes later but this time it led to a goal, the big man got his head to a corner, Innes won the knock-down and smashed the ball low into the net to get Thistle back into the game.
Although Thistle were by now on top of the game and looked favourites to get level, Shettleston can point to a second booking for excessive backchat to the referee just after the goal as a turning point. Manager Dunky Sinclair made what turned out to be a very significant substitution in the 67th minute when he replaced the struggling Josh Payne with Craig Forbes and he made an instant impact on the game asThistle drew level a minute later with a goal of real quality, Forbes started the move, playing the ball to Mark Canning and making a run down he right wing. Canning played a pass up the line and Forbes headed the ball into Gracie’s path, the big striker cut across the 18 yard line leaving a trail of defenders in his wake before firing a left foot shot into the corner.
The Jags had their tails up now and looked the more likely team to win the game and it only took another five minutes for them to go ahead for the first time in the game. Gracie got on the end of a ball into the box and tried to dink it over the keeper but he managed to get a hand to it only for big Graham to react quickest and slide the ball into the net.
Thistle were flying now and the home defence looked to have collapsed under the pressure. David Reid nearly added to the tally when his cross/shot drifted just past the post but Gracie went one better from the same position when he landed his cross plum onto Brian Jack’s head for the easiest goal he’ll score all season.
Shettleston pulled a goal back six minutes from the end with a very well placed free kick by Johnston but they looked a beaten team and unlikely to cause any more damage and it was Thistle who had the final say, rounding off the scoring with a goal on the beak as Graham Gracie completed his hat-trick with a run down the left and a deadly finish hit across the keeper.
Another spirited comeback from the Jags against admittedly limited opposition. Goal scoring doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem and it would seem that their fate in this division will depend on whether they can shore up the defence.
Full time: Shettleston 3 Larkhall Thistle 5
Duncan; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Canning; Payne (Forbes 67), Innes, Jack, Reid; J McStay (McKeever 87), Gracie. Subs: Robb, Doyle, Kelly
Scorers: Innes, Gracie (3), Jack
MoM: Has to be Graham Gracie, scored three and could have had a couple more but great efforts from Ryan Innes and Johnny Duncan.
*** Video up tomorrow