Darvel 3 Larkhall Thistle 1 – 19th August 2017

Recreation Park, Darvel
Darvel v Larkhall Thistle
McBookie.com Super First Division

 

Thistle made their way to Ayrshire for their first game in the Super League for eight years, after their previous brief visit to the First Division on the way down the leagues. Darvel is a familiar ground in recent years with the Jags playing there in pre-season friendlies and they have just been promoted from the regional division like Thistle. Darvel won the Ayrshire District League last season and were given a round of applause by the Thistle players as they unfurled the league champions flag before the game.

 

After a bitterly disappointing exit from the Sectional League Cup in midweek, the Jags were looking to get off to a flyer with a game that should have been one in the winnable category. The Thistle squad had been bolstered with some good pre-season signings and the three main ones started the game today, Jonny McStay, Craig Forbes and Billy Robb.

 

Darvel started the game well and were on the attack early on. There were worrying early signs of what was to come when it got to the five minute point before Thistle even managed out of their own half and the first half was a dour, scrappy affair played in a strong wind that Thistle were shooting into. The game descended almost into farce as rain of biblical proportions battered down halfway through and as the players skidded and slipped around on the wet surface there was little football played at all.

 

 

Darvel did hit the bar midway through and had an attempt ruled out for offside, while Thistle’s best effort was a good hit from Graham Gracie that brought out a diving save from the home keeper.

 

Darvel could have taken the lead just before the break when the came close with a triple effort, the first shot coming off the bar then the rebound bringing out the save of the match from Thomson as he flung himself to his left to keep out a viscious drive, the rebound was fired in once more but flew across the face of the goal and wide.

 

Half time: Darvel 0 Larkhall Thistle 0

 

The second half started with a break in the weather that let the players actually play a bit of football but unfortunately for the Jags it was mostly coming from the home team. Darvel took the lead in the 6th minute of the second half when the referee ignored what looked like a blatant free kick to Larkhall, the ball then played across the box to Henderson who gave Jags keeper Thomson no chance with a well placed drive into the top corner.

 

Three minutes later it went from bad to worse as the lead was doubled when Armour was put clean through and hit a low shot that went under Thomson.

 

It took until they were two goals behind for Thistle to react and get themselves back into the game and in fairness they battled well and produced their best spell of the game. They could have had a goal back midway through the half when the Darvel defence failed to clear their lines and the ball bobbled about in the box but the Jags just couldn’t get a shot through the crowd.

 

Darvel should have scored again when the centre was put clean though and just had to pick his spot, unfortunately for him the spot he picked was a yard wide of the goal but they did put a seal on proceedings when they wrapped up the game with a third goal ten minutes from time. A cross in from the right wasn’t defended properly, Davidson found himself in acres of space and rolled the ball into the corner.

 

 

Thistle pulled back a consolation goal with a minute of normal time left with what was a very good, if ultimately meaningless goal. Thomson kicked long and the defender’s clearance only went as far as Forbes on the right wing, he charged forward and played the ball into the six yard area where McStay ran onto it and took it in his stride to slot it in at the near post.

 

A rude awakening for Thistle as they were handed a stark introduction as to what they can expect from life in the Super League. There are no easy games ahead of them and any points won in this division will be hard fought.

 

Full time: Darvel 3 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

Larkhall Thistle: Thomson; Robb, Reynolds, Nicholl; Jack; Payne, Forbes, Innes, Reid; J McStay, Gracie. Subs: Brown, Clarke, Mushett, Duncan (GK)

 

Scorers: J McStay

 

Booked: Nicholl, Gracie

 

MoM: Not much to work with today, Scott Nicholl did well apart from one or two rash moments but Josh Payne was always lively and willing and gets MoM this week.

 

Video highlights below:

 

 

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.

 

Lesmahagow 2 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 5th August 2017

Craighead Park, Lesmahagow
Whitletts Victoria v Larkhall Thistle
Central Sectional League Cup Section 1

 

Thistle went into today’s game in good form and just behind Forth in the section table after Forth’s 5-2 win over Royal Albert. This was Lesmahagow’s first game of the competition. The two McStays were unavailable for the game and David Reid was on the bench with a niggling injury. Scott Nicholl was preferred to Niall Reynolds at left back while Liam Mushett started in front of Billy Robb.

 

 

Larkhall got off to a confident start, playing the ball around and keeping possession early in the game. The closest the Jags came to scoring early on though was from a shot by Josh Payne after cutting in from wide right but he sent his effort right across goal and past the other post.

 

Lesmahagow shooting up the hill in the first half offered very little in an attacking sense and all of the chances were created by Thistle, the home keeper performing miracles at times to keep his team in the game.

 

The game’s first major incident came after 20 minutes when Scott Nicholl got into a shoving match after a bad tackle on him, both players sensibly shown yellow by the referee. However two minutes later Nicholl let his temper get the better of him as he wrestled an opponent to the ground, via the unfortunate Thistle official Ross Dunn’s jaw on the way down.

 

Nicholl was shown a second yellow and Mark McKeever dropped to left back to cover.

 

The loss of a man however didn’t upset the Jags tempo in any way and they continued to dominate the game, creating chance after chance that the Gow defence did well to keep out. Thistle did take a deserved lead in 35 minutes when a long ball out of defence from McKeever found Craig Forbes on the left inside the box. Forbes cut inside and squared the ball to Graham Gracie who took his time and composed himself before slotting it into the bottom corner.

 

It took Thistle less than five minutes to double the advantage, Matty Clarke picked up the ball in the middle of the park and played it out wide to Payne on the right, the winger set Gracie away and he rolled it into the path of Ryan Innes who turned and fired a first time shot past the keeper.

 

 

As the Jags coasted towards a well-earned half time break the referee threw Gow a lifeline with a highly contentious penalty award for a clash of heads between a Gow forward and Andy Brown. The penalty was converted and the lead was cut to one goal at the break.

 

Half Time: Lesmahagow 1 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

The second half had just started when the referee gave his third match-changing decision to Lesmahagow by awarding them another soft penalty. Jags keeper Thomson had no chance with the spot kick and now Thistle were up against it for the first time in the game, hitting up the slope and with the momentum now firmly with the home side.

 

 

Thankfully however the Jags are a better team than Lesmahagow and the team spirit is second to none. Without the award of any further penalties the Gow didn’t really have much to offer and it always looked likely that if there was to be a winner it would be Thistle.

 

Gracie was put through on goal a couple of times, albeit with still a lot to do and on another day could have had three or four goals. One that new boy Forbes will want to forget could have put the Jags ahead in 70 minutes but after great work from subs Mark Canning and David Reid to set him up he managed to sclaff it out for a throw-in from inside the six yard box.

 

Big Craig will tell you these are always harder than they look.

 

Thistle got the breakthrough with eight minutes left although the goal did carry a shade of luck. Gracie picked up the ball just outside the box and laid it off to Innes on the right who mishit it into the path of Reid. Div took a touch then drilled a low shot that found the net off the post.

 

Full Time: Lesmahagow 2 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Thistle’s winning run continues with a tremendous fighting performance by all involved, in particular Gracie, Forbes and Andy Brown. Mark McKeever though is the Man of the Match for stepping in and driving the team forward when they were down to ten men, the win was as much down to him as anybody else.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Mushett, Nicholl; Jack; Payne (Canning 65); Innes, Forbes, McKeever (Reynolds 56), Gracie, Clarke (Reid 56) Subs: Robb, Doyle

 

Booked: Forbes

 

Sent off: Nicholl

 

Whitletts Victoria 0 Larkhall Thistle 2 – 29th July 2017

Dam Park, Ayr
Whitletts Victoria v Larkhall Thistle
Pre-season friendly

 

Thistle continued their pre-season programme with a visit to Ayr to play Whitletts Vics. Whitletts had finished fourth in the Ayrshire District league last season, just outside the promotion spots and roughly equivalent to Thistle so it was going to be a good test for both teams.

 

 

The Jags started with three of their new signings on show, Billy Robb at centre half, Craig Forbes in midfield and Jonny McStay up front in a 3-5-2 formation and totally dominated the early play. Thistle could have led from shots by Graham Gracie and Brian Jack from almost identical spots on the left side.

 

Whitletts should have scored themselves though with their first real break out of defence when they beat the offside trap with a burst down the left wing and a cross for an easy tap in that was somehow put past the post.

 

 

Larkhall took the lead they deserved in 25 minutes when Robb won the ball and gave it to Forbes who ran at the middle of the defence before slipping the ball right to Gracie whose low sort across the keeper found the bottom corner.

 

Vics came more into the game in the last fifteen minutes of the half and hit the bar with a curling shot from outside the box, however the rest of half was characterised by some very sloppy passing from both sides that stand-in Larkhall manager Tam McLaughlin would have been keen to cut out in the second period.

 

Half Time: Whittlets Victoria 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

Thistle had a strong looking bench that shows a good depth to the squad and made four substitutions early in the second half. Crowd-pleaser Scott Nicholl swapped places with Niall Reynolds as he has done in most of the friendly games and gave the team more of an attacking option down the left side.

 

The second half carried on where the first had left off with the Jags having the lion’s share of possession but the home side looking threatening on the odd break they manged to carve out.

 

 

Whitletts almost took the lead just after the hour mark when they hit the post and from the resulting break of the ball managed to bring out an excellent save from Jags keeper Thomson.

 

Thistle’s Brian Jack went close in the 73rd minute with a shot from the edge of the box from a knock-down by Matty Clarke after Jag’s best move of the game but they did get a second six minutes from time when Gracie latched on to a loose ball and lobbed the keeper.

 

Full Time: Whittlets Victoria 0 Larkhall Thistle 2

 

Another good result for Thistle that should keep the confidence levels high going into the season, let’s hope they can keep the winning habit going when the serious stuff starts.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Brown, Robb, Reynolds (Nicholl 55); McKeever (Doyle 55), Forbes, G.McStay (Mushett 60), Jack, Reid; J McStay (Clarke 60), Gracie.

 

Larkhall Thistle 2 Rutherglen Glencairn 1 – 16th July 2017

Valefield Park, Kilbirnie
Larkhall Thistle v Rutherglen Glencairn
Kilbirnie Ladeside tournament 2017

 

 

Glencairn kicked off this tournament in the first game yesterday with a 2-1 win against a young Stranraer side before Thistle beat the hosts Kilbirnie in the second game to set up today’s final.

 

Thistle started the game looking full of confidence after their big win yesterday and almost took the lead in second minute when Graham Gracie and Jonny McStay combined to set up Mask McKeever for a shot that the keeper did well to save.

 

After a period of early Larkhall domination, Glencairn slowly came into the game and were unlucky not to score when they hit the post after a good move.

 

Thistle got the lead that their play had deserved when Garry McStay did well to win a high ball and get it under control before it broke to Johnny McStay who hit it low into the net off the keeper.

 

The Jags thought they had made it 2-0 three minutes later with Johnny McStay involved again, this time linking up with Brian Jack before finishing well but he was adjudged to be offside

 

Glencairn looked certain to equalise on the half hour mark but Jags keeper Thomson pulled off a great save from the close range bullet header to keep Larkhall ahead at the interval.

 

Half Time: Larkhall Thistle 1 Rutherglen Glencairn 0

 

Thistle manager Dunky Sinclair made the first of five second half substitutions when he brought on Scott Nicholl for Niall Reynolds. Glencairn found an equaliser eight minutes into the half when a cross from the left wing drifted high over Thomson and looped down into the net, the Rutherglen man will of course claim he meant it as a shot!

 

Further Jags changes came in the way of Ryan Innes for Mark Canning, Liam Mushett replacing Andy Brown then new right back trialist Billy Robb replacing Declan Doyle. The changes, along with the effort the team had put in the day before, made it hard for them to get any real rythm going and the second half was a bit scrappy.

 

Thistle got the winner though fifteen minutes from time and it was half defensive howler but half great pressing and opportunism from Jonny McStay. He latched on to a sloppy pass out from the keeper to intercept it and slot the ball home leaving the Glens fans up in arms at the error.

 

The Jags closed out the game and there was no further scoring despite a couple of half decent chances for both sides.

 

 

Jonny McStay was deservedly awarded the Player of the Tournament and few if any who watched the games would disagree with the decision.

 

Full Time: Larkhall Thistle 2 Rutherglen Glencairn 1

 

A great weekend’s work for Thistle with the added bonus of a trophy on the board, the team looks like it’s taking shape very nicely with fitness levels already at a very good level. The main problem as it stands for the manger is how to fit all of the players into the team, there looks like some real selection headaches coming up for Dunky.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
Thomson; Reynolds (Nicholl 45), Brown (Mushett 60), Doyle (Robb 65); Canning (Innes 53); McKeever (Thomson 80), G.McStay, Jack, Reid; J McStay, Gracie.

 

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

Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 3 – 15th April 2017

Rockburn Park, Springburn
Bellshill Athletic v Larkhall Thistle
Central League First Division

 

Bellshill’s new ground maybe reflects the troubles that the club has gone though since they moved from their old park in the town centre, a bit of fenced off spare grass at the bottom of a scheme but at least they’re back in Bellshill. It’s hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for them in their current situation but it is a reminder of how much of a struggle it is to keep teams like them (and indeed Thistle) going, great credit is due to everybody who gives up their time to make it happen.

 

The two teams both had everything to play for but for different reasons, Thistle knew if they kept winning the league title was in their own hands but their hosts were fighting to avoid relegation. Mark McKeever and Ryan Innes were recalled to the starting line up in place of Gary McStay and suspended captain Mark Canning.

 

 

 

The Jags got off to a flyer when they took the lead after 10 minutes, McKeever latching on to a through ball to confidently roll it past keeper McGraw. The rest of the half was one-way traffic as Thistle took the game to their hosts without much in the way of reply.

 

Graham Gracie had the chance to make it 2-0 before the break when he was put in on the keeper and only a great save denied him.

 

Half Time: Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 1

 

The second half was more of the same, the ball generally heading in the direction of the Bellshill goal. There were few real chances but the best of Thistle’s fell to Innes who inexplicably put the ball past the post from five yards out. There was a scare at 1-0 when ‘Hill full back Chalmers strode forward and hit a tremendous long range dipping effort that thhe home supporters thought had gone in but had just cleared the bar. It was to prove their only real threat of the 90 minutes.

 

Larkhall finally got the breakthrough in 72 minutes when David Reid snatched a goal, the ball bobbled in the box and fell to Ryan Innes who slipped it through to Reid for an easy finish. The relief was written all over Div’s face at finally getting a goal and his reaction was typical of this Jags team who now know they are in with a real chance.

 

Div got his own second and Thistle’s third six minutes from time, after being unselfishly set up by substitute Gary McStay he shimmied the Bellshill defence to create space for himself in the box before drilling the ball low past the keeper.

 

The combination of a poor uneven surface and a howling wind meant that there wasn’t much silky football on show but any that there was came from Thistle. Although Bellshill battled hard, this was as comfortable a win as Thistle could have hoped for, the Jags were in truth fitter, faster and stronger all over the park.

 

With Cambuslang not playing and St Roch’s only drawing with Wishaw, the league position has been strengthened and the Jags are now level with St Roch’s on 44 points with a game in hand and five points behind Cambuslang with three games in hand.

 

Full Time: Bellshill Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 3

 

Website man of the match: Josh Payne had a great first half and Hugh Kelly controlled the midfield. Andy Brown however never put a foot wrong and is probably overdue a MoM so he gets it today.

 

Larkhall Thistle:
S. Thomson; Brown, Reynolds, Nicholl; Kelly; Payne, Jack, Innes, Reid, McKeever (McStay 75), Gracie (Mushett 85). Subs: Rutherford, Stewart, D.THomson

 

Bellshill Athletic: McGraw; Chalmers, Shaw, Simon, Howarth; Peat, Smith, Nichol, Brunton; Simpson, Brown

 

Scorers: McKeever, Reid (2)

 

Booked: Nicholl