IMAGE PRINTERS CUP THIRD ROUND
Gala Fairydean 0, Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale 2
GALA’S opponents on Saturday may be sitting pretty in the top flight of East of Scotland football, but in real terms, the city men are only eight places above the Fairies.
And on the park, the only real difference between the two sides was that extra edge of sharpness, that belief in themselves that is difficult to grasp when you know your opponents play a better quality of football week in, week out.
Lothian Thistle came at the home side like a pack of hyenas, if only to prove the above, and it worked brilliantly. Craig Stevenson and Jordan Finnie were creating the majority of the visitors’ chances and it was from a Finnie cross that the first goal was gifted in the 11th minute.
Tall striker Alan McDonagh actually had to duck to flick his backward header over Elliot Turnbull and into the net, such was the lack of anything resembling a challenge.
Fairydean, in an attempt to stun the Premier Division side with their lack of fear, had decided to with three men up front. But this left holes in midfield which Thistle did not hesitate to fill.
It meant that the flow of play was cut and the home side’s front men suffered from a lack of service.
However, whenever they did manage to get the ball, they passed it well, and pushed forward, only losing their resolution with the final ball or the shot on goal. Fairydean are not shy at hitting the net – they have done so at an average of nearly two goals every game in the league this season – but it just wouldn’t come.
A grand total of three chances came their way in the first half. First, Billy Miller blasted high and wide following a nice build-up started by Rob Hewitson, enjoying his first start for a while.
Then, Mark Berry shot straight at Hutchie keeper Kevin Swain from a Jack Hay corner, before Hay made Swain go full length to save just before the break.
The Fairies had improved steadily over the course of the half, but all their good work was slapped away by Lothian’s second goal in the 55th minute. It was the simplest of strikes, McDonagh crossing from the left and Stevenson tapping it in beyond Turnbull.
Nine minutes later, the Fairies had their best chance of the match, with Hewitson through on goal, but he belied his excellent display overall with a blinder of a miss. Hay also worked his way into a couple of good positions, but showed an unfortunate hesitation in releasing his team-mates at the right moment.
Fairydean’s Dean Boyne was given a red card by referee Gavin Kennedy, for what the whistler called “deliberate contact to the midriff”, but they upped their game to cancel out the shortfall.
As time ran out, sub Scott Nightingale’s shot whizzed by the wrong side of the post, and Turnbull kept the scoreline from becoming embarrasing with a couple of fantastic stops.
Gala boss Garry Fraser told TheSouthern: “I thought, first half, they dominated the game and we were out of it for long periods.
“It took us a while to get into it, but the last 20 minutes of the half, I thought we picked it up.
“Into the second half, the goal they scored, we should never have let in, it was bad defending on our part, but when we went down to 10 men we still had chances.
“All in all, we played a team that are beating sides resoundingly, and although we are not happy at getting beat, there are still positives to take from the game.”
Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, M. Fairbairn, D. Boyne, P. Young, G. Lothian, B. Miller, J. Wilson, G. Rossi (A. Brown 74 mins), M. Berry, J. Hay and R. Hewitson (S. Nightingale 68 mins).