Gala Fairydean 4
Edinburgh City 3 (aet – 2-2 at ft)
IMAGE PRINTERS QUALIFYING CUP
KENNY PATERSON reports from Netherdale
ROLL back to August this year, and the late Jimmy Savile was still a national icon, Craig Levein was promising the Tartan Army a World Cup spot in Brazil and Gala Fairydean were suffering a 3-0 thumping at the hands of Edinburgh City.
Two months later, and how things have changed.
Saville’s name has been forever disgraced, Levein is more likely considering a holiday in Rosyth rather than Rio and the Dean turned over the same Premier Division team with a gutsy Image Printers Cup comeback.
It can surely be no coincidence that Gala’s stunning extra-time win – thanks to a spectacular strike from substitute Rob Hewitson – is the team’s fifth game undefeated since new manager Garry Fraser took over. And it was by far their most impressive.
Fraser said: “I think Edinburgh City are one of the top four teams in the Premier Division, so I am delighted to come out on top.
“We rode our luck at times. City were sharper and quicker at times, but we took our chances. This result will give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”
For anyone depressed or out of pocket from watching Scotland in the days before – such as this reporter – this second-round tie was the perfect antidote.
There was plenty of passing football and loads of goals in 120 minutes of action-packed play – all for a fiver entry fee.
Spectators really should have got even more goals as both sides missed some great chances, starting off with Scott Nightingale who fired a shot straight at the advancing City keeper Andrew Stobie rather than over him.
Stobie was also relieved to not have to move to stop Paul Young’s volley on the turn, while Jack Hay’s free kick forced the goalie into action again.
But City are a decent team, having knocked out Shotts Bon Accord and Montrose in the Scottish Cup so far this season, and created plenty of openings, with Gala goalkeeper Elliot Turnbull making a great save to deny Grant Vansom’s 20yd strike.
The deadlock was broken in style six minutes into the second half. From 40 yards out, Ross Guthrie danced past three defenders and then brushed off Gala defender Darren Bowie to fire a 10yd effort high beyond Turnbull.
But thoughts of another comfortable City win were ended on 63 minutes.
Nightingale set up strike partner Hay, who sprinted clean through and touched the ball away from the onrushing Stobie to tap into the empty net.
City replied within two minutes as Peter Stenhouse was left unmarked from eight yards out to head into the bottom corner. The visitors, who introduced Earlston’s James Elliot at half-time, were in control until the 89th minute when Nightingale and Hay again combined, with the latter’s right-foot shot taking the game to extra time.
Gala looked knackered throughout the additional 30 minutes, and it was no surprise when Vansom reclaimed the lead for City in the 98th minute, albeit thanks to a fortunate deflected shot which spun past Turnbull.
Game over? Not in the minds of this rejuvenated Fairydean side. Firstly, Nightingale grabbed a deserved goal with a fine 14yd volley on 113 minutes.
And then striker Hewitson, who was asked to play right back because of an injury to Colin Jeffrey, struck a sweet 30yd volley four minutes from the end, which resulted in the 27-year-old being left at the bottom of a pile of jubilant Gala players.
Hewitson described it as his best ever goal afterwards, but just as important was the influence of the Dean’s strike duo Nightingale and Hay.
The pair have scored 17 goals between them this season, and with both in the starting line-up, the Netherdale side could go even further in this competition.
Fraser added: “I never fear going behind in a game because I know Scott and Jack can grab us goals.”
Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, C. Jeffrey (R. Hewitson 84), C. Tyson, D. Bowie, G. Lothian, P. Young (B. Miller 66), J. Wilson, G. Gass, M. Berry (D. Boyne 79), S. Nightingale, J. Hay.