Largs Thistle 1 Luncarty 0

A MOMENT of magic midway through the second half turned this testing Macron Scottish Cup second round tie in Thistle’s favour as Jamie McKenna scored his first goal from open play — and it was a cracker.
Since signing for Largs at the start of the season, McKenna has had few opportunities to shine in the gold and black jersey, but boosted by a hat-trick in an Inverclyde Sports Centre friendly against Irvine Vics, he was determined to grasp his opportunity.
The former Winton and Port Glasgow striker netted a terrific header which was in the back of the net before the ‘keeper had an opportunity to move a muscle.
Up until that point, thoughts were turning to a possible tricky Tayside replay this coming Saturday as neither team had particularly looked like scoring, with Luncarty getting as many men behind the ball as possible, and their defensive strategy seemed to be working.
After netting three goals against Talbot, Thistle looked like they were heading for their second goalless stalemate at Barrfields after the disappointing draw against Rossvale.
It was also unexpected as both teams served up a competitive encounter in a pre-season friendly, which Largs won 3-2, in keeping with the spirit of both managers Stuart Davidson and Jon Kelly of Luncarty, who don’t want to lose a table tennis match against each other never mind a friendly. 
Their friendship was cast aside for 90 minutes.
Morton youth Ben Eardley replaced the injured Laurie McMaster in the only change from the side which defeated Troon 4-0 the week before.
Chances were at a premium but Luncarty had an early opening as Fraser Mills got in behind the defence on the right, and sent in an early angled drive which flashed over.
Luncarty’s Sean Burton burst through on the left-hand side of the box, and was willed on by the Luncarty management to have a shot.
The drilled effort was only partially blocked by Ross Lundy in the Largs goal as the ball bounced around the penalty area, with Eardley clearing off the line before Lundy managed to clear.
The only chance for Largs of note of a first half in which both teams cancelled each other out fell to midfielder Simon McBryde.
He had his head in his hands after he skied a relatively simple goalscoring opportunity presented by Eardley from the left byeline.
Fraser Mills’ hopeful backheel from an inswinging corner of the left hit the sidenetting for the visitors, while Ben Black slammed a volley wide of target after a good run and cross from Craig Forbes.
At half-time there had been very little sign of a breakthrough and the trend looked like continuing in the second half.
Another Morton on-loan player in Kieran Brophy showed dancing feet on the edge of the area and was chopped down for a free-kick, but Scott Adam’s effort was deflected and went well wide as Largs fans were beginning to wonder whether a clean chance, never mind a goal, was going to materialise.
Winger Black, who had been quiet in the match by his normal standards, nearly sniffed out an elusive chance as he raced on to a clever through-ball but was deemed offside as ‘keeper Ryan Mitchell blocked.
William Sewell and Jamie McKenna replaced Scott Adam and Black for the final 20 minutes, and immediately McKenna outmuscled a Luncarty defender who had no choice but to give away a corner.
The goal arrived on 72 minutes as a clever move through the middle saw Eardley send in a searching ball into the box and McKenna read it perfectly as he leapt out the air and sent a header into the back of the net in the blink of an eye.
There was a measure of relief about the goal as it certainly didn’t look like coming, and credit to manager Davidson for the crucial substitution.
His other substitute, Sewell, showed his electric pace down the right and fired in a piledriver which had to be beaten away to safety by Mitchell in a rare opening for Thistle — it was the ‘keeper’s first save in the match.
The Scottish Junior Cup is always the holy grail amongst the juniors — and there is no doubt that it helps lift the club’s spirits and puts the town on the map, with any win being important in the national tournament.
It may not have been pretty but Largs did just enough to get over the finishing line. 
Luncarty certainly made things difficult for Largs and put up the proverbial brick wall to limit their style of play and chances, but McKenna’s physical aura and aerial edge ended up making the difference in what was in the most part a very even contest.
The main thing is Thistle are in the hat for the third round draw which will be made on Monday. 
LARGS: Lundy, Forbes, Eardley, G. Sewell, Love, Faulds, Brophy, McBryde, Adam, Harkins, Black. Subs: McKenna, Mitchell, W. Sewell, George, McGowan (GK). Referee: Jordan Paterson.

Picture: John Keachie