Nightingale’s wonder strike sees Gala through tricky win

Gala Fairydean v Hawick Royal Albert
Gala Fairydean v Hawick Royal Albert
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Gala Fairydean 2

Hawick Royal Albert 0

EoS FIRST DIVISION

KEVIN JANIAK reports from Netherdale

GALA FAIRYDEAN did their promotion prospects no harm at all in this at times tense home league match.

The win, thanks to two very different goals from Scott Nightingale – one from four inches and the other from 40 yards – takes them up to fourth place in the table.

Thanks to a couple of results elsewhere, it is now in the Gala men’s own hands whether they go up or not. They are eight points behind leaders Preston Athletic who have been struggling of late, but they have three games in hand.

Hawick, who have been parading their own brand of resurgence lately, had their work cut out after losing two key players – goalkeeper Andy Jack, who was best man at a wedding on Saturday, and injured former Hearts midfielder Chris O’Neil. Their cause was not helped when Graham Clee had to leave the pitch on a stretcher in the 37th minute after going over on his ankle. He paid a short visit to the Borders General Hospital and was released by full time.

But despite this, they conducted themselves well, obviously buoyed by the travelling support of young lads who seem to have compiled a songlist that would rival any major club in just a few weeks. To the kids, it is probably a bit of fun, but it certainly adds a welcome touch of humour to East of Scotland football sidelines.

Hawick player/boss Lawrie Dunn felt a little hard done by.

He told TheSouthern: “The only difference between us and Gala Fairydean today was that Gala scored two goals.

“Missing Kris today was definitely a factor because he has been getting better each week, but Steven Hay (replacement keeper) was just outstanding and helped to keep us in the game. He’s just a young lad but we are looking to keep him for next year, he’s a different class.”

Hawick were certainly short on firepower and rarely threatened Elliot Turnbull’s goal.

Gala always looked dangerous on the attack, and they almost always were, starting out with a 4-3-3 formation – and it was the front three that combined for the first goal in thr 21st minute. Jack Hay was well through after a speedy sprint down the left. He could have shot, but elected to pass to where he thought Geri Rossi was. The skipper was a bit wider than expected, but the ball still fell to him and he squared the ball to Nightingale at the near post for a tap-in.

In reply, Andy Noble drove to the edge of the Gala box, where he was taken out of play by Bruce Hunter. Craig Beattie’s free kick was driven low, but straight at Turnbull for an easy save.

With 38 minutes on the clock, Nightingale added to his tally with a stunning strike from half way to Selkirk.

The former Gala Hotspur ace told us of his effort: “I got the free kick. I just told Craig (Tyson) to move because I saw the keeper standing on his penalty spot, well off his line. I couldn’t have hit the ball any better and it’s definitely the furthest goal I have scored. I should say I do that on the training ground every week, but I dinnae really ...”

There was no further scoring in the second period, although it wasn’t through lack of trying on Gala’s part.

Nimble Jack Hay and Nightingale were at the heart of the attack force, but the stand-in guardian Steven Hay put on a quite brilliant display of courageous goalkeeping to keep them out.

Fairydean played out the last half-hour with only 10 men as referee Gianluca Marini, who otherwise had a decent game, seriously blotted his copy-book, showing an extremely harsh red card to Gary Lothian.

The defender was tracking a ball that slipped over his head, so he pivoted and stuck out his foot to clear. He got the ball, and also, accidentally, the head of Noble, who was leaning forward on the run.

It was perhaps a foul at most, but Mr Marini decided it was dangerous play and Lothian was sent in for an early shower.

It enraged his father, manager Fraser, who said after the game: “That was a disgraceful decision by the ref, probably the second time we have had a bad sending-off that should never have been. Everybody in the ground saw it for what it was, and I don’t know what he saw. Terrible.”

But Lothian’s anger was balanced somewhat by the fact that his men had taken all nine points in eight days’ work, something he had asked his players to aim for.

He said: “We have seven games left and five of them are at home. We just need to keep up this run.”

Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, C. Jeffrey, A. Brown, G. Hay, G. Lothian, C. Tyson, B. Hunter, G. Gass, G. Rossi, J. Hay (R. Hewitson 88 mins), S. Nightingale (C. Gow 78 mins).

Hawick Royal Albert: S. Hay, G. Burnett, J. Wood, L. Dunn, J. McGhie, G. Clee (J. Paterek 37 mins), K. Paterson (S. Drummond 84 mins), C. Beattie, P. Power, A. Noble, M. Patton.