Larkhall Thistle 3 Forth Wanderers 3 – 16th August 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Forth Wanderers
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1

 

Thistle once again failed to beat lower-league opposition at home and missed out on a money-spinning home quarter final tie with Pollok by one goal. Although the Jags went through the section unbeaten, Forth also managed the same set of results and their goal difference was one better so they qualify from the section for the first time.

 

Despite hitting the woodwork on three separate occasions, Thistle just couldn’t get the win that the 1-1 draw with Royal Albert had left them needing.

 

Thistle went into this decisive game where only a win would be good enough. Craig Forbes was missing due to work commitments and Mark Canning and Ryan Innes were still on holiday. The Jags starting line up surprised some of the home supporters with Graham Gracie and Div Reid starting on the bench.

 

The match had an explosive start with Forth opening the scoring inside two minutes when their No 9 scored with a header. Not to be outdone, shortly after the restart Thistle were back on level terms when Jonny McStay latched on to a pass from Billy Robb and lobbed the ball over the advancing Forth keeper into the net.

 

Forth at this stage though still looked the more likely to score and it was no surprise when their No 10 picked up the ball and from the edge of the penalty area netted in Stewart Thomson’s left hand corner. This goal stung the home team and Matty Clarke should have done better when put clear on the left hand side of the box but his effort on goal did not trouble the keeper. Thistle were struggling to compete in midfield with Forth controlling this area of the pitch.

 

Half time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Forth Wanderers 2

 

Thistle started the second half in determined fashion and equalised with a goal that had more than a hint of offside about it. Jonny McStay taking the ball to the bye-line and crossing for Matty Clarke to knock the ball home. The Forth keeper then had tremendous save from a Matty Clarke free-kick and also saved well from Scott Nicol. Thistle finally went ahead when Brian Jack played in Scott Nicol who controlled the ball well and shot past Cherrie in the Forth goal.

 

Shortly after taking the lead Jonny McStay who was limping was replaced by Graham Gracie and Scott Nicol was replaced by Div Reid. Before the changes had any time to take effect Forth equalised when Hugh Kelly lost the ball and the Forth No 11 latched on to the ball and outstripped Liam Mushett to score the equaliser.

 

Thistle went on the offensive to try and get the winner with the woodwork saving Forth on three occasions and Liam Mushett missing at the back post. Graham Gracie then was desperately unlucky when his netbound shot was scrambled clear by a Forth Defender but Stewart Thomson had to tip over a great effort from the Forth No 9 to keep the Jags on level terms. Thistle continued to push forward but the Forth defence stood firm until the final whistle.

 

Forth therefore qualify for a lucrative home quarter final against Pollok by virtue of a superior goal difference of just one goal. Bit of deja vu as this happened to the Jags at this stage last season. A bitterly disappointing end to a good run with the big Super League kick-off just three days away, hopefully the team will pick themselves up and start off the league campaign with a win at Darvel on Saturday.

 

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 3 Forth Wanderers 3

 

Larkhall Thistle: Stewart Thomson; Andy Brown, Niall Reynolds, Liam Mushett; Josh Payne, Billy Robb, Hugh Kelly, Brian Jack (Gary McStay), Scott Nicol (Div Reid), Jonny McStay (Graham Gracie), Matty Clarke.

 

Booked; Billy Robb, Hugh Kelly.

 

On a night when the majority of the team looked off the pace the Man of the Match award goes to Niall Reynolds who once again was his usual competent self.

 

Larkhall Thistle 1 Royal Albert 1 – 12th August 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Royal Albert
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1

 

A win today would have left Thistle only needing a home draw with Forth in their final game to progress to a lucrative home tie against Pollok. The Jags were missing six players and it left the bench looking a bit short of options with only two outfield subs but the starting eleven could have been a first choice team from last year with the exception of new boy Craig Forbes.

 

Thistle are now two leagues above their Larkhall rivals and for the majority of the game played like they knew it and only had to turn up to win. It was only after going a goal down that they stepped up their game and looked like they wanted to win the game.

 

 

Albert contained some early pressure fairly comfortably and eased themselves into the game as the half wore on, looking like the team more likely to score. Thistle’s best effort came from a Brian Jack lob after a poor defensive clearance.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Royal Albert 0

 

Albert had two penalty claims at the start of the half for handball and there could have been no real complaints if either one had been given. Their ealy pressure looked like producing a goal and so it did thirteen minutes into the second half.

 

 

Albert took a deserved lead after what Arthur Montford might have described as a stramash. Thistle conceded a needless free kick from the right back position and keeper Thomson punched the ball only as far as the penalty spot, where it was driven in from. Tommo saved but it rebounded and was fired in again on the half volley, well saved then hit back in, scrambled off the line and finally fired into the roof of the net.

 

Of most concern to Thistle would be the fact that there were four attempts at goal and an Albert man was quickest to the ball each time.

 

In fairness to the Jags players, they reacted well to the loss of the goal and set about the task of getting it back which the duly did fourteen minutes later, albeit helped by a big slice of luck.

 

Forbes played the ball out wide right to Josh Payne who laid it off to Graham Gracie and burst inside on a run. Gracie tried to play him in but hit the ball straight at an Albert defender who took a wild swipe and missed it altogether, allowing the ball to run into the path of Payne who curled it into the corner with a great strike.

 

 

Thistle pressed for the rest of the game and carved out a few chances, but Albert held out for a draw that to be honest was the least they deserved. If they could only reproduce that level of effort and commitment throughout the campaign they would surely be closer to the top of the league than the bottom.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Royal Albert 1

 

So Albert ended Thistle’s run of eight straight wins but the Jags can take some heart from the fact that they came back and didn’t actually lose the game. Wednesday’s decider against Forth is now winner takes all and is shaping up to be a cracker.

 

Man of the Match: Josh Payne for his effort and good finish.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly (Robb 79); Payne, Forbes, Jack, Reid, McKeever, Gracie. Subs: Doyle

 

Not much in the way of highlights in this one but the goals are in the video below.