GLENAFTON ATHLETIC 3 Larkhall Thistle 0
Scorers: Johnstone, Houston (2)
The Glens were cheered on to a bright but breezy Loch Park as the newly crowned Rockware League Cup champions. But what reaction would there be after the highs of Wednesday night? Back to earth with a bump, or a springboard for further success. As the first half progressed it increasingly seemed it may be the former, as the Glens struggled to turn their lion's share of possession into goals.
Chances were being created but most of them of the half-chance variety, the pick of which was Brian Blair's header from inside the Larkhall six yard box. Larkhall's only chance of note was a well struck free-kick which was dealt with effectively by Gary Matthews. Few highlights in the half but a major low-light was the forced substitution of John McCaig, who fell awkwardly after winning another aerial battle and was replaced by Davie Stewart.Half Time : Glenafton Athletic 0 Larkhall Thistle 0
The second half got off to the best possible start when Darrren Johnstone gave the Glens the lead in the 55th minute. The big striker was first to react to prod the ball home as it bobbled about a group of players packing the six yard box. It will surely not be the most elegant goal he will score in his Glens career, but it was his first. The smile on his face and those on the faces of his team-mates and the warm cheering applause of the home support all bearing witness to the fact 'the monkey had now left the building' and was finally off the big-man's back.
Larkhall now had to take a more positive approach to their attacking play, although this is not to suggest that they had set to their stall out for a 0-0 draw. Indeed for the next 10 minutes or so they enjoyed their best spell, with some success down both flanks. Thistle's best chance came from a cross from the right wing that flashed across the Glens' goalmouth, but the solid and sound Peter McAninch ushered the ball to safety, denying the incoming Jag. Liam Paterson too was having an outstanding game and eventually this wave of Larkhall pressure subsided. Nevertheless, the consensus appeared to be that the Glens needed a second goal to secure all 3 points. Paul Deeney, made way for Scott Houston and big Bella duly obliged. He was first to reach a through ball into the Larkie box, getting a touch before the advancing keeper who did well to block the shot, but Houston arched and headed the ball with such force that the Larkie defender on the line could only get a hand to it, before it crossed the line. A straight red card if the ball had not gone in!. With 20 minutes remaining the points appeared to be safe, until of course the corresponding fixture last season came to mind, when Larkall came back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3.
There had been a few tasty tackles in the game, Stevie Agnew's ankles are likely to be the same colour as the Larkhall strip by this time tomorrow. Willie Howie was booked as he won a 50-50 ball, but with his studs showing. Unfortunately, the Larkhall player required to be stretchered off. Scott Houston was then crocked and sidelined for several minutes and his game would surely have been over if the Glens had not already used all their subs. Incredibly Houston would score again, putting the finishing touch to a move that was reminiscent of the football on show in the Cup final. On the outskirts of the centre-circle and in his own half, Blair shrugged off the advances of the Larkie midfielder and squared the ball to Brian Miller on the right touchline, who quickly found Johnstone. Still on cloud nine, he held on to the ball allowing Miller to continue his run and completely wrong-footed the advancing defender with an exquisite lay-off to Miller, who sauntered into the box, past one defender and rolled it perfectly to Houston who crashed it home via the post, with his good foot!
Larkhall's woes worsened when they were reduced to 10 men, after a defender received a second yellow card , following another crude takcle from behind. This allowed Gerry Collins to bring the injured Houston off (to a standing ovation) and the teams were now 10 aside. Larkhall's spirit finally broke and they were fortunate not to concede any further goals in the dying minutes. Seven goals, three league points and a nice shiny cup in the cabinet ... not a bad week, not bad at all!
Glenafton: Matthews; McAninch, Paterson, McCaig (Stewart), Callachan; Miller, Blair, Howie (Bingham) , Agnew; Deeney (Houston), Johnstone
Brian Blair header in tbe first half nearly breaks the deadlock
Left : Darren Johnstone Right : John McCaig with Brian Miller and Peter McAninch looking on
Darren Johnstone opens the scoring (the ball's in there somewhere)
Celebrations as Darren opens his account for the Glens
Scott Houston heads home the second