Carluke Rovers welcomed their second team to the John Cumming Stadium from Larkhall in the space of a week. The visitors this Saturday being Larkhall Thistle. Last week the opponents were Royal Albert. On paper this should be a harder game with Larkhall just above Carluke in the league but as always in this Division nothing is predictable.
Interim Manager Mark Weir left himself on the bench again today but made a positional switch at the back. In came Douglas Frame at centre half for his first start which enabled captain Mark Cassidy to move into central midfield. It was hoped that this would give Carluke more going forward in supporting the strikers as well as a greater aerial threat further up the park which proved to be the case.
Carluke started the game with a real sense of purpose and it only took 3 minutes for them to get on the scoresheet. The ball was picked up in midfield by Greg Kane and he passed the ball through to new signing Jordan Conlon. Conlon still had a bit of work to do but evaded a tackle and calmly slotted the ball past the Larkhall keeper David Cherrie to make the score 1-0 to Carluke.
This early goal unsettled Larkhall and gave Carluke the impetus to go in search for a second. In the 7th minute Conlon was again involved when he found James Frame but this time Frame’s close range shot was well saved by the Larkhall keeper. This was followed in the 21st minute in a sweeping move when James Frame found Jamie Dickson out on the right and his first time low cross was met by the onrushing Conlon but a Larkhall defender managed to deflect his effort just over the bar.
After this whirlwind start things were to go from bad to worst for Larkhall Thistle when the industrious Frame was through on goal and got tangled up with Jack Adam of Larkhall. The Referee saw this as a deliberate act by the Larkhall defender and as the last man immediately brandished the red card much to the consternation of the travelling Larkhall support.
This setback seemed to have a positive effect on the Larkhall team though and they enjoyed a good spell of play which resulted in them scoring an equaliser. Carluke failed to clear the ball effectively and a low cross from the right by Warren Grenfell was bundled over the line by Taylor Scott to make the score 1-1. Scott was causing the Rovers defence some problems and had another effort on goal a few minute later for Larkhall which just went past the left hand post.
It was end to end at this stage and in 33 minutes a corner from Jamie Dickson found Mark Cassidy whose volley was saved by the feet of Cherrie in the Larkhall goal. It was next the turn of Carluke to escape from a corner when the ball was not cleared but Stuart Mitchell managed to deflect a shot from close range just over the Carluke bar.
In a spate of corners the next two were to have a bearing on the final outcome of the match. Firstly Larkhall were unlucky to hit the corner of the post and crossbar from an effort by centre half Kyle Stewart before Carluke were to finally break the corner near misses on the halftime whistle. Jamie Dickson fired in a great corner to the backpost and Mark Cassidy rose above the Larkhall defence to bullet a header into the Larkhall net to make the score 2-1 to Carluke at the interval. This was a blow to Larkhall on the stroke of halftime.
That said the second half started with Larkhall putting the disappointment of that late first half goal behind them and in the first 10 minutes pushed for an equaliser. Firstly it looked like they were denied a penalty when Taylor Scott was pulled down in the box but the Referee waved play on. The travelling Larkhall support were incandescent with what they believe was an injustice. Undeterred Larkhall created another half chance in the 55th minute when Adam Boyle crossed a ball in from the right wing which found Bartosz Mackiewicz who volleyed over from 15 yards out.
This was to prove to be Larkhall’s last effort on goal for quite some time as Carluke took control of the game in the middle of the park and made the extra man tell for the remainder of the game to create several great chances. Firstly in 62 minutes Jamie Dickson found Mark Cassidy out on the right. Cassidy bore down on goal and at the last minute squared the ball to Conlon whose first time effort from close range was brilliantly saved by the feet of David Cherrie. Then in the 72nd minute a great run by James Frame saw him in on goal and as he committed the Keeper to make a diving save he coolly chipped the ball over him for what looked like a certain goal until a Larkhall defender manager to get a despairing foot to it on the line to avert the danger.
Next Greg Kane in the 74th minute fed in Jamie Dickson whose shot was again brilliantly saved by Larkhall keeper Cherrie with his feet when the ball was destined for the bottom corner.
Just as it looked that Carluke were never going to get that third goal their play deserved they got two in quick succession. Firstly James Frame, who had tormented the Larkhall defence all afternoon, got to the byeline and cut the ball back to Jordan Conlon who blasted the ball into the back of the net at close range to make the score 3-1 much to the relief of the Carluke support and his teammates. It was the same player who was to net Carluke’s fourth and his first hat trick for his new club two minutes later in the 77th minute. He got on the end of a great low free kick fired in from the right hand side by Graeme Goodall following a foul on Mark Cassidy by the Keeper just outside the box.
This effectively ended the contest but Larkhall continued to plug away and got a late consolation goal in the 80th minute. After a good move substitute Shaun Gallagher slid the ball past Adam Brown to make the final score Carluke 4 Larkhall Thistle 2 in what was a pulsating game enjoyed by the larger than normal crowd.
This was an excellent result for Mark Weir and his coaching staff as the rebuilding process continues at pace. Next for this committed group of players is a tough away tie at Lesmahagow on Saturday 11th January at Craighead Park. Kickoff 1:45pm.Match Report by Stevie Kane
Photography by Kevin Ramage