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.

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 St Roch’s 1 – 13th May 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v St Roch’s
Central League First Division

 

 

Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair went into the biggest game of his time at the Jags with three changes from the win at Lesmahagow. Scott Nicholl was suspended and his driving runs to the 18 yard line and diagonal passes would be a miss after a good game last week. Brian Jack dropped to the bench with Mark McKeever and back came Andy Brown, Hugh Kelly and Gary McStay.

 

A bit of early rain wasn’t enough to put the game in any doubt and the conditions added to what was already going to be a powdrekeg fixture. The rivalry between the teams goes way back in time and with both on 51 points, the winner was assured of promotion to the Super League.

 

The Thistle committee had worked with the police to ensure that the game went off without a hitch and did a great job in organising and segregating the two sets of supporters and the game was played in a safe if somewhat hostile atmosphere, although the noise from both sides made it more of an occasion.

 

The teams have been well matched all season with both having great spells and mini-slumps and it’s often said than on occasions like this it comes down to who wants it most and handles the occasion the best. In the first half that was without question Thistle.

 

The Jags came roaring out of the blocks and tore at the St Roch’s goal from the off. The pressure paid off after just nine minutes when Larkhall took the lead with what was in the circumstances, probably the goal of the season.

 

 

Larkhall won a free kick on the half way line and Canning swept the ball wide to the right edge of the box, Josh Payne knocked a first-time ball back across the area and Graham Gracie took over. He flicked the ball up with his left foot then right foot past the last defender before volleying it in with his left, a truly brilliant effort.

 

The goal settled Thistle and they had a great chance to go further ahead eight minutes later with a fine team move, Kelly played the ball out to Gracie wide on the left and he took it down the wing before delivering a perfect ball into the six yard area for McStay to slide in and connect with, unfortunately the St Roch’s keeper Stark made a great save to deny what looked like a certain goal.

 


Thistle continued to dominate the first half with Kelly and Ryan Innes winning the battles in midfield and Gracie giving the St Roch’s defence all sorts of problems up front. The visitors only had one significant effort on goal in the first half, a shot from just outside the box that Thomson got down well to block.

 

Half time and Thistle well in control although with just a slender advantage.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 St Roch’s 0

 

The second half started well for Thistle and they went 2-0 up within two minutes of the restart.

 

Liam Mushett broke up a St Roch’s attack and launched the ball up the park and the second ball was picked up by Kelly. He played it forward towards Gracie and the St Roch’s defender made a calamatous attempt at heading it away, totally misjudging the flight of the ball. It broke to Gracie and he swept it to the right into the path of the overlapping Canning who took one touch and slotted it low into the corner.

 

 

With the second goal, St Roch’s realised it was now all or nothing and they had to go for it. To their credit that is exactly what the did, they fought with everything they had for the remainder of the game to try and get the draw that they needed. Spurred on by their combative number 8 Daw who sailed close to the wind on several occasions but managed to escape without the referee taking action. He also took the constant barracking from the home fans in good part, smiling and waving five fingers for some reason.

 

Apart from letting off the Daw, the referee was more than lenient towards the visiting keeper who could have seen a straight red for what was an assault on Gracie, but he capped even that with a penalty award for St Roch’s after 57 minutes. The striker was heading away from goal and posed no threat at all, Thomson in fairness didn’t need to lunge in but there didn’t seem to be much contact and the striker took a couple of steps before deciding to go down and try his luck.

 

 

The penalty was converted by Daw and sparked a good spell for the visitors.

 

The pressure was now all towards Jags keeper Thomson but the defence held firm, Andy Brown and Niall Reynolds coping well and Liam Mushett winning every ball in the middle in the air. The situation got even more nervous for Thistle when they brought on substitute Musa, inexplicably left out as he is their top scorer and looked by far their most dangerous player.

 

Matty Clarke came on in the second half for Gary McStay who wasn’t having any luck up front but Clarke’s main duties were defensive and he did well covering on the left side in particular.

 

For all their pressure, St Roch’s didn’t really create many real chances, the best of them was a great run down the goal line from Musa, Thomson did well to block his dinked shot at the end of it and send it out for a corner. It wasn’t all one way though and Thistle threatened on the break with efforts from David Reid and Gracie.

 

Full time came and Thistle had held out for the win that the home supporters would say they deserved, while the St Roch’s fans would argue they deserved a point. There was nothing much between the sides as there hasn’t been all season but one of them had to lose out.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 St Roch’s 1

 

Scorers: Gracie, Canning

 

Website Man of the Match: No failures today and although Liam Mushett was again fantastic in a great defensive display, Graham Gracie just edges him out with his work rate and brilliant goal.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Payne, Innes (Jack 90), Canning, Kelly, Reid (McKeever 86); McStay, (Clarke 45), Gracie. Subs: D.Thomson (GK), Stewart, Rutherford

 

Booked: Innes, Gracie, Thomson, Canning

 

*** Video taking a while to upload, expected about 7pm

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Wishaw 3 – 22nd April 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Wishaw
Central League First Division

 

A twelve game unbeaten run that included ten wins had seen Thistle move up to second place in the league with six games left and it all began at the home of today’s visitors back in November. Since then the Jags had gone on a run that many of us have never witnessed before to make themselves favourites for the league title itself.

 

With St Roch’s on cup duty this was an opportunity for Thistle to stretch their lead over them to six points, Cambuslang Rangers at the top were expected to win at home against Forth.

 

Wishaw started the game looking the more determined side and took the lead after eight minutes, Mark Canning had a shot blocked and Wishaw broke forward through Dan Kindlan who was allowed a criminal amount of time and space to waltz through the middle of the park unchallenged before hitting a low shot from the left edge of the box that Thomson might have felt he could have done better with. A poor goal all round to lose.

 

 

The goal settled Wishaw and they dealt well with anything that Thistle could come up with in the way of chances and the long balls were being easily dealt with by their defence, although they did not really trouble the Larkhall defence too much either.

 

The visitors doubled their lead on 28 minutes when a corner kick fell perfectly at the back post for Dean Kindlan to blast in from close range.

 

Thistle got back into the game with a great goal five minutes from half time. Josh Payne took the ball in the middle of the park and spotted a gap between the Wishaw defenders, he played the perfect ball out left for Graham Gracie to run on to and take wide of the keeper before squeezing it it from the tightest of angles.

 

The goal brought the Jags to life as they shook off their sluggish start and set about getting level. That was blown out of the water though as Wishaw won a free kick right on 45 minutes which Dan Kindlan swept past Thomson for his second goal of the game.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Wishaw 3

 

It was as poor a first half showing as Thistle have put up all season so the second half could only really have been an improvement. The Jags set about an assault on the Wishaw goal that saw them create chance after chance, albeit none of them very clear cut as the Wishaw defence dug in and looked happy just to sit deep and get rid of the ball.

 

After an hour it was clear to all that changes were needed but Niall Reynolds might count himself unlucky to have been hooked along with Brian Jack in favour of Scott Nicholl and Hugh Kelly. Reynolds had been one of the few pass-marks players up that point but the manager wanted to use the extra attacking ability of Nicholl who can get further forward.

 

The Wishaw defence survived a real scare when Josh Payne cut in on the right side of the byeline and tried to score from an even tighter angle than Gracie but his shot rolled just in front of the goal line and past.

 

 

Keeper Stewart Thomson kept Thistle in the game with a great save as he came out to block a shot from Smillie who was put clean through on goal by Dan Kindlan.

 

The Jags took full advantage as they broke quickly to pull a goal back through Canning with sixteen minutes left on the clock. Canning started the move when he knocked the ball forward to Gracie who set off on a run after a one-two with Reid. The big striker got a lucky break as he tried to take the ball past the last defender and it broke back into his path but he unselfishly squared it to Canning who kept cool to roll it into the corner.

 

 

The remainder of the game was virtually one way traffic as the Jags laid siege to the Wishaw goal but a combination of good defending, desperate last minute blocks and good luck thwarted their best attempts at getting level.

 

Thistle also had a shout for a penalty denied when the ball was played off a Wishaw defender’s arm but in truth it was too close to award a spot kick and couldn’t have been considered as deliberate.

 

The Jags finally ran out of time and tasted their first league defeat of 2017. Despite a much improved second half there is no doubt that Wishaw were the better team on the day and fully deserved their win. Cambuslang were held to a shock home draw by Forth so if ever there was a day to lose a game this was probably it. The real winners were St Roch’s who saw the two teams above them lose a bit of the advantage they had. It is now a genuine any two from three with Cambuslang possibly looking the most precarious at the top.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Wishaw 3

 

Scorers: Gracie, Canning

 

Website Man of the Match: On a day where nobody really reached the heights they are capable of, Josh Payne plugged away well and provided the Jags only real moment of quality in the game.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl 61); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack (Kelly 61), Reid; McKeever, (Clarke 72), Gracie. Subs: D.Thomson (GK), Doyle

 

Wishaw:
Thomson; McIntyre, Goodall, Watt, Eley,; McCafferty, Grant, Dean Kindlan, Smillie, Dan Kindlan, Collinder, Bannerman

 

** Sorry no video this week, camera failure at Thistle’s first goal so not worth doing

Larkhall Thistle 2 Arthurlie 2 (3-5 pens) – 1st April 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Arthurlie
Central League Cup – Second Round

 

Thistle’s current 9 game unbeaten league run stretches back to Cambuslang on Guy Fawkes day, but their cup form hasn’t been quite the same losing out to Fauldhouse and Craigmark Burntonians at home. This however was a free hit at the Super Premier big boys with the Jags not expected to get past the tie.

 

It was a young looking Arthulie team that took the field but they showed that they had junior level grit with a first minute challenge that left Ryan Innes reeling on the deck. It wasn’t to be the last go at him either as later on he had to go off for treatment with a head knock that left him bleeding.

 

The Jags got off to a dream start with a goal inside the first three minutes, Garry McStay took a great touch and rolled the ball into the path of Graham Gracie who kept a cool head to slot it in low past keeper Hay.

 

 

Gracie had another chance to score minutes later but this time couldn’t find the net as he put his shot past the post.

 

Arthurlie gradually came into the game though and after 18 minutes drew level when Liam Mushett misjudged a ball in the air and Deas ran through to score easily with a low shot to Thomson’s right from 14 yards out.

 

Arthurlie had the best chance of taking a lead into the break with a close range header but Thomson produced the first of his brilliant saves to somehow throw out a hand and tip the ball over the bar.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Arthurlie 1

 

The first chance of the second half fell to Thistle from a corner, David Reid put over a good ball and it found its way through to Mushett who placed his header wide of the post when he really should have done better.

 

Thomson was called upon again with another great save, coming out of his goal and blocking a shot when the Arthurlie player was through on goal.

 

The visitors were awarded a penalty in an incident that Niall Reynolds will want to forget, he called for a ball then didn’t make it, handing possession to an opponent who broke clear. Reynolds chased him, determined to win the ball back but in his eagerness to make up for his mistake needlessly brought him down just inside the box. Tommo again came to the rescue with a stop from Lie’s Smith to keep the scores level.

 

Going into the last ten minutes the game was evenly poised with the Super Premier team never looking two leagues above Thistle. Both teams were playing a similar type of game with long balls out of defence.

 

The game looked like it was heading for penalties but Arthurlie got their noses in front again when sub Murty was too strong for Josh Payne, then the big number 10 Smith outmuscled Andy Brown to put the ball through to McLernan who got the wrong side of Mushett and slotted low into the net.

 

 

Thistle kept pushing for the equaliser they had deserved on the day and it came in the last minute of normal time when Payne score direct from a corner kick.

 

Full time came and Arthurlie scored with the first penalty. As Reynolds went to take Thistle’s first, the referee wasn’t happy with the position of the ball and made him re-spot it then fussed around him – clearly putting him off his kick which was saved.

 

The rest of the penalties were scored by both teams and Arthurlie won 5-3, a poor way for the Jags to go out and the referee needs to take at least a bit of the blame.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Arthurlie 2 (3-5 pens)

 

Scorers: Gracie, Payne

 

Website Man of the Match: Graham Gracie had a good first half and took his goal well, in contrast Stewart Thomson had a shaky start when he dropped the ball a couple of times but settled after a great save to put in a man of the match performance.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; Kelly (Nicholl 70); Payne, Innes, Jack, Reid; McStay, Gracie. Subs: Clarke, Stewart, Rutherford, D.Thomson (GK)

 

Arthurlie:
Hay. Convery, Brennan, Chisholm, McGregor; Deas, McKie, Leyden, Carroll, Smith, McLernan. Subs Graham, Mundy

 

Larkhall Thistle 5 Vale of Clyde 0 – 18th March 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Vale of Clyde
Central League First Division

 

Thistle went into today’s game looking to maintain their good recent record that has seen them put themselves into a realistic title challenging position. With Cambslang Rangers losing again today, it now looks like a genuine three-way title race with St Roch’s only a point behind in second and Thistle six points behind with four games in hand.

Manager Dunky Sinclair rested Mark McKeever and replaced him with Matty Clarke in a front pairing with Graham Gracie in the only change from last week’s win.

The Jags got off to the best possible start with a goal after just three minutes, Graham Gracie following up to pounce on the rebound when a shot from Clarke hit the post after good work from Josh Payne on the right.

 

 

Thistle extended their lead in the thirteenth minute after a defensive mix up saw the ball fall into the path of Matty Clarke who lobbed it back into the empty net.

Brian Jack had to go off with a head knock midway through the half but it looked to be more of a precaution than a forced move, he was replaced by Hugh Kelly.

At 2-0 up the game should have been all but done but to their credit Vale rolled up their sleeves and battled back into the game, which settled into a dour physical midfield tussle.

Thistle were having most luck when they got the ball out wide to Reid and Payne but despite good work from both there wasn’t much of an end product and the score stayed the same till the half time break.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Vale of Clyde 0

 

The second half was more of the same until Thistle got the breakthrough twenty minutes in, Nicholl and Gracie exchanged passes on the left before the striker whipped in a low cross that struck a Vale of Clyde defender three yards out and left the keeper with no chance.

 

 

The third goal effectively killed off any hopes of a revival from the visitors and for the remainder of the game it looked like a case of how many Thistle would get. As has happened on several occasions this season though, a few good chances went unconverted especially in light of Vale having to play the game with an outfield player in goals. This season especially given how tight the top of the league is, let’s just hope that the missed chances don’t come back to haunt them.

The Jags did go further ahead six minutes from time with a move that was started from a long pass out wide from substitute Scott Nicholl, the other substitute Gary McStay received the ball and put in a great pass across the six yard box for Gracie who rolled in past the helpless keeper.

Thistle rounded off the scoring with a goal from Gracie to complete his hat-trick with what turned out to be the last kick of the game.

A good win and a few goals to boost the goal difference, but the Thistle management will be just as pleased with the rare clean sheet.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 5 Vale of Clyde 0

 

Scorers: Gracie 3, Clarke, o.g.

 

Website Man of the Match: Great to see Graham Gracie looking more like his old self and showing that he still has the ability to be the best striker in the league with a hat trick and the assist for the o.g.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
D.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl 54); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack (Kelly 24), Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Doyle, McKeever, S.Thomson (GK)

 

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Cambuslang Rangers 1 – 11th March 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Cambuslang Rangers
Central League First Division

Thistle went into this crucial top of the table clash knowing that only a win would realistically keep their prospects of winning the league alive. Twelve points behind with four games in hand would have stretched to fifteen with the prospect of having to cram midweek games into a tight schedule so the three points were essential.

The Jags got off to the best possible start when after just eight minutes midfielder Brian Jack pounced on a loose ball in the box to swing his boot high and send a great shot crashing into the roof of the net. The Cambuslang coaching staff set the tone for the rest of the day as they appealed loudly for a foul against Jacko for a high kick, despite the fact that there wasn’t a defender close to him. Their protests were as fruitless as they were ridiculous and the constant cries for offside every time Thistle went forward were correctly ignored by the referee.

 


The Cambuslang players showed there was more about them though and came back to grab a quick equaliser eight minutes later. A ball was swung in from a corner on the left and Lang’s Nolan converted at the near post with a free header.

The goal lifted the visitors as they took control of the game for a spell and made a few chances, going close on one occasion with a cross/shot that clipped the post and a volley that would have burst the net if it had been on target. Thistle also had their moments, Graham Gracie replied with a low shot across the goal that went just wide, Mark McKeever brought out a good save and a goalmouth scramble resulted in Liam Mushett nearly poking a shot home but keeper Stewart managed to save again.

Chances at both ends then but the half time whistle came without any further addition to the scoring.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Cambuslang Rangers 1

After the break, both teams made it clear that they were going all out for the win, resulting in a real old fashioned end-to-end contest that turned out to be more like a cup tie. Thistle had the best of the half and put the Cambuslang defence under heavy pressure for most of it, albeit without creating too many clear cut chances. The visitors also had their moments though and came close just after the restart when they hit the bar with a header.

Graham Gracie looked set to put the Jags ahead but a Lang defender managed to throw himself in front of the ball and block his shot – it was probably a legitimate challenge despite the calls for a penalty.

 

The game turned on a penalty decision that predictably the visiting bench didn’t entirely agree with. A cross from the left hit a defender on the arm and it is one of those decisions that some referees will give and some won’t, it was entirely open to interpretation whether the defender was too close to have been able to do anything about it but the referee was in a better position to judge than those who were giving him abuse. One of the Cambuslang players took his protests too far and was sent off in the aftermath.

Captain Mark Canning took responsibility and stepped up to slot the ball home for what proved to be the winning goal.

There were more half chances at either end as the teams went at each other right to the wire but neither keeper was really troubled too much. Credit to both teams for a great contest played in the right spirit – on the park at least.

The win keeps Thistle in touch and although there are some games to catch up, the destination of the title is in their own hands for the first time.

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Cambuslang Rangers 1

Scorers: Jack, Canning

Website Man of the Match: !00% effort from all of the players today but none more so than Mark McKeever who plugged away tirelessly up front.

Larkhall Thistle:
D.Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds (Nicholl); Payne, Innes, Canning, Jack, Reid; McKeever (Clarke 85), Gracie. Subs: Kelly, McStay, S.Thomson

Cambuslang Rangers: Stewart, Gebbie, Halliday, Nolan, Bishop, Haye, Bohme, Simeon, Gormley, Kilmartin, Hastings. Subs: Kerr, Houston, Brown, Gemmell, Collinder

 

Video highlights of the game (sorry Cambuslang goal is missing, some of their supporters walked in front of the camera just as they were scoring)

Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1 – 18th February 2017

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Johnstone Burgh
Central League First Division

After last week’s disappointing exit out of the West of Scotland Cup, Thistle looked to bounce back and keep their league challenge on track.

As they have done for most of the season, the Jags controlled most of the early part of the game and created a couple of good chances, two David Reid crosses in quick succession from the left almost produced goals – firstly from a Johnstone Burgh player who was lucky to deflect the ball off the post and not into the goal, then from a Hugh Kelly header from point-blank range that keeper Kelly did brilliantly to save.

What should have been the turning point of the game came midway through the half when Brian Jack lunged into a tackle from behind after having just been booked, he was duly sent packing and Thistle had 70+ minutes to try and see out with ten men.

Larkhall were forced into a change shortly after when Gary McStay hobbled off to be replaced by Hugh Kelly, a change that might have been going to take place anyway to cope with the man disadvantage.

Burgh couldn’t take advantage of the extra man though and although there were good chances at both ends, somehow the teams got to half time goalless.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Johnstone Burgh 0

Johnstone were first to show in the second half and they scored within three minutes of the restart with a goal that the Jags players must have been very disappointed to lose. Mark McKeever couldn’t prevent winger Fitzpatrick from getting his cross in after some fancy footwork on the left and it was met with a free header in the middle that keeper Thomson got a hand to but probably would have felt he should have kept out.

The fact that Thistle were a man down didn’t seem to have any effect at all on the game and they kept up the onslaught on the Burgh goal all the way through the second half. The pressure produced an equaliser ten minutes into the half with a cracking strike from Mark Canning that rivals Niall Reynolds overhead kick for goal of the season at Gasworks.

The main criticisms of the team this season have been the failure to convert enough of the chances they create and not being able to hold on to a lead. The first one was certainly true today and it could have easily been five or six before Ryan Innes hit the winner with a low drive across the keeper.

They did however manage to hold on to the lead this time and get the win. Both teams had some great chances with Liam Mushett heading over the bar from six yards and keeper Kelly having a couple of great saves.

As the game drew to a close, Johnstone pressed hard for a winner but some great defending kept them at bay and Thistle held on for the win that they deserved.

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Johnstone Burgh 1

Website man of the match:
Ryan Innes who dug in brilliantly. His energy made up for the man short in midfield, topped by the winning goal.
Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Reynolds; McKeever (Doyle 87), Jack, Canning, Innes, Reid; Gracie, McStay (Kelly 27). Subs: Payne, D. Thomson (GK)

Johnstone Burgh:
Kelly; McCormick, Nugent, Perrie, Carson; Usher, McIntyre, McBride Hewitt, Docherty, McGonigal, Fitzpatrick. Subs: Gaddi, Ramsay, McStay, Wilson (GK)

Scorers: Canning, Innes

Booked: Gracie, Sent off: Jack

Video highlights below

Larkhall Thistle 1 Greenock 1 – 17th December 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Greenock
Central League First Division

 

The cold weather, run up to Christmas and lack of visiting support took its toll on the crowd today as Thistle started with Canning, Innes and Brown all on the bench and McStay and Jack starting in central midfield. The Jags went into the game on a run of three wins as well as having recently won away at Greenock, so it looked like being a home win as long as the attitude and application were right.

For the first 10 minutes the Jags lived up to the pre-match promise and had all of the play, Greenock literally never got our of their own half. However all that changed as they gradually came into the game and their passing football looked much more likely to produce something than the hopeful long balls Thistle were firing up to Gracie and Clarke.

Thistle’s first real attempt at goal was from a Liam Mushett header that went just over the bar from a Josh Payne cross from the right but that was about as close as they came to a goal in the first half.

Greenock thought they had the lead 15 minutes in when a floated ball caught Thomson out of his goal and came down off the bar, it looked like it might have crossed the line but the referee said he wasn’t 100% sure it was in so couldn’t give it. The follow up effort hit the bar and when the got the ball a third time, Donnelly fired well wide wasting a good opportunity.

Thistle weren’t to be outdone though and went right up the park and did the same, a cross from wide right coming off the inside of the post and back into play.

There was another major let off for Larkhall just before the half time whistle when Craig ballooned the ball over the bar from point blank range.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Greenock 0

 

Manager Dunky Sinclair was obviously not entirely pleased with the events of the first half and the way that Greenock had taken control so he replaced McStay and Kelly with Canning and Innes at half time. McStay could count himself a bit unlucky as he showed some great touches in the first half.

 

Thistle turned the game around in the second half and came close with a close range effort from Ryan Innes and a smart shot on the turn from Graham Gracie, followed by a spectacular attempt on the volley from Matty Clarke that would have eclipsed even Niall Reynolds’s effort from last week if it had gone in.

 

Greenock were handed a huge chance to take the lead with just 14 minutes left when Thomson dived at the feet of their striker and was judged to have fouled him, picking up a booking for his troubles. The young keeper had been having a bit of a difficult afternoon at times so it was one of the highlights of the day to see him pull off another save from the resultant penalty, the follow up effort going well past the post.

 

 

Thistle took the lead 10 minutes from time with a goal that came about from a Greenock attack. Niall Reynolds robbed the Greenock substitute with a brilliant last ditch tackle inside the box and set up the move that eventually found Gracie wide on the left. He put in a great cross that was met by Jack who had made a perfectly timed run to meet the ball at the far post and slide it in.

 

 

Gracie almost doubled the lead minutes later with a chip that incredibly also came back off the inside of the woodwork as it looked certain to find the net.

 

It looked like all was going to plan but Greenock pulled back an equaliser that on the day they probably just deserved with a free kick out of the very top drawer, McClune hitting an unstoppable effort into the postage stamp top left corner beyond the flailing Thomson.

 

Thistle pushed hard in the last five minutes for a winner while Greenock looked to have settled for a point and David Reid almost snatched it right at the end with a shot that fizzed across the face of the goal only for keeper McWilliams to get a vital touch.

 

It was a real end to end game that both teams can be reasonably content at not having lost, although the draw brought the Jags run of wins to an end and lost them a bit of ground on the leaders. In a shock turn of events today St Roch’s won at Cambuslang to really stir things up at the top while fourth placed Wishaw also won but stay 6 points behind Thistle.

 

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Greenock 1

 

Website man of the match: The defence were all excellent today but Niall Reynolds just shaded it from Mushett and Nicholl.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack (Innes 45), McStay (Canning 45), Payne, Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle,

 

Greenock:
McWilliams; Orr, Doherty, McLaughlin, Mitchell; Gormley, Donnelly, McBryde, Brown, Craig, McClune

 

Scorer: Jack

 

Booked: Gracie, Innes, Thomson

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Rossvale 1 – 10th December 2016

Gasworks Park, Larkhall
Larkhall Thistle v Rossvale
Central League First Division

After last week’s rout of Bellshill, Thistle faced what looked like it would be a far sterner test today in what was effectively a battle for third place in the league. Rossvale have been on a good run and had only lost once in their last eight games.

Thistle started the game without three big players; Mark Canning and Ryan Innes who were injured and Andy Brown who dropped out in favour of Scott Nicholl who came back in at left back. Missing their influential captain, half their regular midfield and their best defender meant it looked like being an uphill task and so it proved to be. Gary McStay and Brian Jack were recalled to midfield while David Thomson started in goals again.

larkhall-thistle-v-rossvale-1

The game started in a familiar pattern with the Jags having the majority of possession, but although they pressed the visitors defence there were no real chances to speak of in the early part of the game. Rossvale had less of the ball but when they did break, the twin threat of Osadolar and Trussler up front gave the Thistle defence plenty to contend with as they produced more clear chances and looked more like scoring.

As the half wore on Rossvale took command of the game and Thistle would have been happy to go into the interval on level terms but the referee did his best to try and change it with one of the worst penalty awards you’ll see anywhere. Osadolar found himself one on one with the young Jags keeper and as he went round him, appeared to have been hit by a sniper as he went down with nobody near him. Justice was done though as the striker took the penalty himself but his tame effort was easily stopped by Thomson.

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 0 Rossvale 0

Once again there was an early goal at the start of the half and this time it was the Jags who appeared a bit sluggish after the break. Holmes produced a moment of real quality for his team as he turned Josh Payne out in the right back position and cut inside, drilling a low shot through a clump of players into the bottom corner.

Rossvale looked to be happy with their lead and their coaching staff were encouraging time wasting tactics with half an hour still to play. In the end it came back to bite them severely as they might well have been able to build on their lead rather than try and kill the game as instructed.

larkhall-thistle-v-rossvale-2

Scott Nicholl had taken his time getting back up to speed and he would admit the first half wasn’t his best but the second period was a different story altogether with some tremendous efforts at goal including a rasping free kick that rattled the post and a tremendous 25 yard drive that drew the best save of the day from keeper Donnelly.

The game looked like it might be drifting away from Thistle until the most unlikely of equalisers with three minutes left to play. Graham Gracie took a long throw on the right and although the tactic has come in for criticism over the years, this time it produced a goal when it mattered. The ball bounced once just past the penalty spot and Niall Reynolds watched it go over his head then swung and hit a brilliant overhead kick over the keeper and into the net.

The Jags now had the momentum and pushed for the winner which came a minute into stoppage time. Gracie drove forward on the other wing this time and picked out Jack at the back of the box, he took a touch inside the defender and scrambled the ball to substitute Matty Clarke who rolled it into the corner.

After the late losses to Fauldhouse and Lesmahagow the Jags supporters were delighted to see the tables turned this time in what was a significant result as it took them six points clear of Rossvale in fourth with a game in hand. It also took them level on points with St Roch’s who lost today, but leaders Cambuslang Rangers emphasised that they mean business with an incredible 9-1 win at Benburb.

league-table

Full time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Rossvale 1

Website man of the match: Good displays from Kelly in midfield and the Gracie/McKeever partnership up front but Liam Mushett gets the virtual bottle of champagne this week with a commanding performance in the middle of the defence.

Larkhall Thistle:
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack, McStay (Clarke 70), Payne, Reid; McKeever, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle, Burns

Rossvale:
Donnelly; Tart, McDowell, Doherty, Leadbetter; Holmes, O’Brien, McGrath, Dickie; Osadolar, Trussler

Scorers: Reynolds, Clarke

Booked: Gracie, Kelly