Vale of Leithen1
Once upon a time, games between Vale and Gala were rather pugnacious affairs.
Excitement levels tended to be measured in terms of controversial incidents, red cards and how many punches were thrown during the obligatory post-match dust up in the tunnel.
But that was then and this was a Borders derby as it should be – two in-form teams providing a high-octane, rip-roaring, end to end feast of football. That it finished all-square was absolutely the correct outcome, but Gala were undoubtedly the happier side as a point saw them qualify for the next stage of the Lowland League Cup.
An explosive start by Gala saw Keith Lough fire just over with 35 seconds on the clock, before Stuart Noble burst down the left and squared for Sean Paliczka with the goal gaping in front of him, but the ex-Vale man didn’t catch the shot right.
At the other end, Ainslie Hunter found Kris Mitchell in a great position, but his shot was off-target, while a defensive slip by Daryl Devlin let in Vale’s James Elliot, but John Dodds spread himself well to deflect the ball wide.
More chances came for the home side as Hunter toe-poked a chance wide, and a spectacular overhead kick by Jason Stevens just cleared the bar. But as the first half wore on, Gala seemed to be gaining the upper hand and five minutes before half time converted it into a goal as a corner was cleared only as far as Lough who, from the edge of the area, struck a volley high into the net.
The second half saw another explosive start, and this time it was Vale who provided it. Seconds after the restart, Kenny O’Brien burst through the Gala backline and Dodds took his legs in the area. There was a brief moment of tension as referee Simon MacLean reached for his pocket, but thankfully decided on just a yellow for the stopper.
O’Brien picked himself up to send Dodds the wrong way from the spot. There was no let-up as Vale’s Hunter and O’Brien sent shots just wide and Gala had Sebastian Pyda to thank for a well-timed tackle as Kris Mitchell prepared to pull the trigger.
An awkward, bouncing ball into the area from Devlin reached Paliczka, but a point-blank save from Vale keeper Mark Wilson kept things level.
Some late chances saw both sides fail to find the net, but that was fair enough as it would have been a shame for either side to lose.