Pollok 4 Larkhall Thistle 0 – 8th June 2016

Newlandsfield Park, Glasgow
Pollok v Larkhall Thistle
Euroscot Eng Central League Cup semi-final

Thistle were bidding to reach their first cup final since they played Bellshill in the 2001 Sectional League Cup and it looked on paper to be a monumental task, against the Scottish Cup finalists and Superleague Premier Division fifth-place finishers. The Jags lined up with no changes from last week’s win in Rutherglen – although Paul Burns was available and started on the bench.

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The game started at a fast pace with both sides looking to get forward but it was Pollok who took the lead with what was the game’s first effort on goal.  A simple cross from the right found Winters unmarked six yards out in the middle of the goal and he swept the ball in with ease.

Thistle had a hopeful penalty claim turned down a minute later when Gracie went down too easily and Pollok went right up the park and nearly doubled their lead with a shot across goal that went just past the post.

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Thistle got their first shot away after 13 minutes when Matty Clarke fired wide from a Graham Gracie lay-off and three minutes later Gracie ran on to a return from Brian Jack and sprinted in on goal, only to turn back when closed down rather than try the early shot.

There was no sign of the early pace letting up but the pressure was nearly all in the direction of the Jags goal with only the occasional breakaway providing some relief in the heat. Twenty five minutes into the game Thistle could have considered themselves lucky to still be in the game when Pollok went close after an intricate piece of play.

The Jags however showed they weren’t going to go quietly when David Reid got himself into the game, first forcing keeper Longmuir to scramble the ball off the line, then to get down and make a good reflex save at his near post from a whipped-in shot.

Stewart Thomson in the Jags goal produced a brilliant save 10 minutes before half-time from a curled effort that was struck from the edge of the box – it was the home side’s last chance of the half and Thistle forced a couple of corners just before the interval as they fought hard to get back on level terms but couldn’t capitalise on them.

Half time: Pollok 1 Larkhall Thistle 0

Larkhall began the second half brightly, with early efforts from Scott Nicholl and Reid which were off target, however Jordan Marshall was lucky when a misjudged attempt to beat an opponent on the halfway line left him exposed. The referee saw the tackle as a foul with the Pollok man clear with a run on goal.

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As it was in the first half though, it was Pollok who got the early goal. This time it was through Hepburn from an overhead kick eight yards out after the Thistle defence had failed to clear.

Fifteen minutes into the half it was all over for the Jags as Pollok produced the best move of the game.  A ball down the right channel was met and swept across the six yard area leaving McCabe with an easy tap in at the back post for 3-0.

Midway through the second half Thistle won a free kick 25 yards out when Gracie was brought down but his effort was well over the bar. It was a rare break though as Pollok continued to force the game and they went straight up the park and brought out another great save from Thomson.

The keeper looked to be struggling with a knock five minutes later but he stayed on before eventually being replaced by namesake David who managed one excellent save himself.

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Substitutes Burns and Doyle replaced Nicholl and Payne after 75 minutes and moments later Gracie combined well with Reid on the left before hitting a shot that the keeper could only parry on to the goal line, unfortunately there was nobody following up for what would have been a certain goal.

With five minutes left Pollok made it 4-0 – a precise curled effort into the top left corner from Monti. Thistle nearly got a late consolation when Reid set up Gracie but his low effort hit the post.

A resolute first half performance by the Jags kept the score down to 1-0 but in truth it could easily have been 4-0 at half time and the final score more or less reflected the gulf between the teams – Pollok were fitter, faster and trickier as could be expected from a team challenging at the top end of the junior game.

Full time: Pollok 4 Larkhall Thistle 0

Booked: Nicholl

Larkhall Thistle: S Thomson; Reynolds, Marshall, Brown, Nicholl; Jack, Innes, Payne, Reid; Gracie, Clarke Subs: D Thomson GK, McKeever, Doyle

Pollok: Longmuir, Hanlon, McCabe, McLennan, Sideserf; MacKenzie, Frye, Bradley, Winters, Hepburn, Winters

Website MoM: Almost as difficult as last week but sadly for the opposite reason, the team never got going as a whole although nobody could have been faulted for effort and commitment. Keeper Stewart Thomson though made several very good saves and couldn’t have been faulted for any of the goals so he gets the final MoM of the season.