Gala FR frustrated by late leveller

Gala Fairydean Rovers boss Steven Noble (picture by Stuart Cobley)

Gala Fairydean Rovers boss Steven Noble (picture by Stuart Cobley)

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Gretna 2008 1, Gala Fairydean Rovers 1

A late smash and grab by Gretna 2008 denied Gala Fairydean Rovers a deserved win in a Lowland League match they dominated from start to finish at Raydale Park last night.

Steven Noble’s men somehow contrived to miss a raft of chances, while at the other end, the only shot on target the home side had during the 90 minutes found its way into the visitors’ net to secure a share of the spoils for the managerless Gretna side.

With Rangers temporarily recalling on loan ‘keeper Kieran Wright before kick-off, Noble was forced into handing a debut to new signing Michael Fenton in goal.

Meanwhile, Gretna’s chief executive, Stuart Rome, took charge of the home side after Steven Rudd resigned from his role as head coach earlier in the week because of work commitments.

Interested onlookers at Raydale included former Gretna FC boss Rowan Alexander, who led the now-defunct original club to the 2006 Scottish Cup Final, and Gavin Skelton, the player who missed the penalty that handed the cup to Hearts in that game, as the present Gretna team took the field having lost in its previous five league outings.

The visitors took control of the game almost from the first minute and dominated possession without carving out too many early chances.

They took a deserved lead, however, on 12 minutes, when Taylor Hope side-footed home a corner past Danny Armstrong in the Gretna goal.

The home side seemed content to sit in and allow Gala plenty of possession while trying to hit back on the break.

Rob McCartney on the left hand side proved a handful for the Gala defence but the Gretna winger could not deliver a telling final pass and debutant Fenton had very little to deal with in the first 45 minutes.

The game was delayed for around five minutes just before half-time following a bad knee injury to Gretna’s Dan Wadge, which resulted in an ambulance being summoned to for the defender.

Gala started the second period in determined fashion and should have doubled their advantage on numerous occasions.

In 50 minutes, Danny Simpson found himself through on Armstrong but he shot straight at the home keeper.

Just five minutes later, Ross Aitchison blazed over following good work by Dean McColm and then the same player saw his attempted chip of the keeper fall just past the wrong side of the post. Simpson had another shot well saved just after the hour mark before Aitchison charged down a clearance by Armstrong, but the ball flew just wide of the goal.

Given Gala’s profligacy in front of goal, it was perhaps inevitable that Gretna would equalise with their first and only shot on target all night.

Gala conceded a free kick on the edge of the area on 76 minutes and captain Josh Simpson sent a well-placed shot over the wall and past the despairing Fenton into the bottom right hand corner of his net.

On 80 minutes, the visitors thought they had regained the lead thanks to good work down the left by substitute Stuart Noble, whose cross was turned in at the back post by Sean Paliczka. However, the far side assistant deemed the former Newtongrange Star man was in an offside position. In a dramatic finish, Gala struck the underside of the bar following a Darren Smith free kick, which proved to be the final kick of the ball on a frustrating night for Steven Nobles’s men.

The exasperated Gala gaffer said afterwards: “We are really disappointed not to win a game we dominated in terms of possession and chances.

“But, when you are only 1-0, up there’s always a chance the opposition can get back into it.

“We need to dust ourselves down and try and pick up the three points on our travels to Hawick on Saturday.

“Draws in games we should be winning are killing us this season but we can take a number of positives from our performance.

“I thought the back four did well in restricting the home side to only one shot on goal all night.”

Gala Fairydean Rovers: M. Fenton, L. Stephen, B. Miller (captain), S. Main, T. Hope, D. McColm, D. Smith, R. Aitchison (A. Nicol 80), D. Simpson (S. Noble 73), S. Paliczka, D. Bonnar. Unused subs: George Windrum, Ryan Clapperton.

Gretna 2008: D. Armstrong, J. Brannan, D. Wadge, J. Dickinson, B. Murray, C. Casey, D. Wood, J. Simpson (captain), C. Murray, R. McCartney, J. Hope.

Elswehere last night, Gala FR’s opponents this Saturday, Hawick Royal Albert, overcame a revived Selkirk by 4-3, while Vale of Leithen are due to visit BSC Glasgow tonight (Wednesday).