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.
D. Thomson; Reynolds, Mushett, Nicholl; Kelly, Jack (Innes 45), McStay (Canning 45), Payne, Reid; Clarke, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Doyle,
McWilliams; Orr, Doherty, McLaughlin, Mitchell; Gormley, Donnelly, McBryde, Brown, Craig, McClune
Booked: Gracie, Innes, Thomson
Ravenscraig Park, Greenock
Greenock v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division
Andy Brown returned from honeymoon but started today’s game on the bench while Declan Doyle retained his place at right back and Scott Nicholl began his suspension, leaving a makeshift looking defence but fortunately Niall Reynolds has come into some good form and held it together well at the back.
Matty Clarke returned to partner Graham Gracie up front as Gary McStay dropped to the bench.
Thistle started with the majority of possession on the huge playing surface but there was hardly an incident of note for the first half hour of this game, the rest of the first half was a different story though as both teams made several good chances each.
Greenock brought the game to life with a mazy run that resulted in a shot that blazed well over the bar then Thistle replied with a drive from Reid cutting in from the left that was followed by a quick move that sent Gracie clear only for him to shoot weakly straight at the home keeper.
Stuart Thomson brought off a magnificent save just before half time to keep the Jags level, a ball was swept in from the left back position and found a Greenock player in space on the edge of the six yard box. It looked like he couldn’t miss but Tommo stretched brilliantly to palm it clear.
Thistle had hardly had time to let the relief set in before they ran straight up the park and took the lead. Reid and Gracie played the ball about on the left then Div swung in a great cross that Matty Clarke rose and met and lifted over the home keeper.
Half time: Greenock 0 Larkhall Thistle 1
Greenock had been out of the game for most of the first half but the second period was a different story. They began in search of an equaliser and their early early pressure paid off. Another run down Thistle’s left resulted in a perfect ball into the six yard box that was finished well by McClure.
Thomson had to get down well twice to keep the Jags level in this shaky early period as it looked like the home side were going to build on their momentum and get a lead and it stayed that way until midway through the half. Larkhall broke and Brian Jack fed Reid on the left, he drove on and hit a good shot that the keeper saved well and that was swiftly followed by Jack himself having a go with a curling effort that the keeper kept out of the top corner.
Thistle were on top again now and had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Reid again broke down the left and as he homed in on goal unselfishly squared it for Gracie but he shot straight at the keeper from eight yards. Reid had the ball in the net minutes later with a close-range header but was ruled offside then Hugh Kelly had to react quickly to cover up for some defensive slackness as he dived in to head the ball back to Thomson and keep the Jags level.
The Jags got the winner with three minutes to go with a route one special, Thomson booted the ball long and it was flicked on by Reid into the path of Grcie who lobbed it over the advancing keeper.
Matty Clarke gave his usual tireless performance and was replaced by Liam Mushett for the last few minutes as the manager looked to solidify the defence and hold on for the win.
On balance it was a win that Thistle just deserved although Greenock did very well to come back into it after a bad start and it keeps the Jags on the tails of joint leaders Cambuslang Rangers and St Roch’s who both also won today.
There were good performances throughout the team – Niall Reynolds had another good game and helped young Doyle who recovered from a few shaky moments. Kelly gave good protection to the back three and Reid also covered well at left back when required as well as bombing forward, Canning and Jack saw plenty of the ball in midfield and Josh Payne had his moments despite never hitting the highs of last month while Gracie took his goal well.
Full time: Greenock 1 Larkhall Thistle 2
Website man of the match: Thomson pulled off some great saves and was a close contender but David Reid was outstanding and used the pitch to full advantage as he constantly stretched the home defence and set up both goals.
S. Thomson; Doyle, Reynolds, Burns; Kelly, Payne, Jack, Canning, Reid; Clarke (Mushett 87), Gracie. Subs: Brown, McKeever, McStay
Larkhall Thistle’s 5-0 thumping of league leaders Greenock on their own patch has made the junior world sit up and take notice.
Our win last week sent shock waves throughout the First Division and beyond in the junior circles. To go to the home of the runaway leaders and win so convincingly was a remarkable achievement by any standards and the fact that it was one of the very few games that went ahead on a frozen day placed it even more in the spotlight.
The Evening Times ran a feature on the Jags triumph and you can see it here:Evening Times report of Greenock v Larkhall Thistle
The fixtures are out for the next four games, weather permitting of course.
East Kilbride Thistle v Larkhall Thistle
Larkhall Thistle v Shettleston
Larkhall Thistle v Port Glasgow Juniors
BENBURB v Larkhall Thistle **
** Note this fixture has been changed due to Port Glasgow’s facitity being closed for the Christmas period.
All kick off times 1:45pm
Today’s game at Greenock is OFF due to ice.
In an interview with the Greenock Telegraph, Greenock manager Stevie Mooney has thrown out accusations that Thistle are their bogey team – although the Jags have been the only team to beat Greenock in the league this season. Not only that but both of last season’s matches between the teams were drawn.
Fate has also thrown up a strange quirk in the run up to today’s game at Port Glasgow. Thistle went to St Anthony’s on the Saturday before the 5-2 win against Greenock in September and won the game 3-2 and last week the Jags once again beat the Ants 3-2 on the Saturday before playing Greenock.
So is fate set to repeat itself today? Mooney says “We mustn’t look too far ahead and need to fully focus on the game. It was certainly a bad day at the office for us when we lost at Larkhall in September.
“They were well up for it then and it will no doubt be the same again tomorrow, so we will need to be on our toes.”
Thistle travel to play Greenock on Saturday looking to do the double on the league leaders. The Jags produced their best performance of the season so far in the corresponding fixture at home in September, running out 5-2 winners. Read report of Larkhall Thistle v Greenock.
After back to back home wins Thistle are sitting handily placed in fourth and level on points with third placed Carluke Rovers, a win would see the Jags only three points from the top of the table.
Greenock are sharing Port Glasgow’s new ground at Parklea, just off the roundabout on the A8, while Ravenscraig Park is being upgraded for the Commonwealth Games. Kick off is 1:45pm