Ref’s decisions fail to put Souters in the doldrums

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EOS FIRST DIVISION

KENNY PATERSON reports from Yarrow Park

WHEN is throwing the ball to an opponent an act of violence and when is it a sign of sportsmanship?

In referee Michael Banks’ view, Jamie Higginbottom’s casual toss of the ball into the stomach of Gala Fairydean striker Jack Hay three minutes before half-time was the former, and he was sent off in a moment which overshadowed the rest of this feisty derby.

Both coaches were in agreement that it was a harsh red card. But it appeared to galvanise the Souters, who, despite being a man down and a goal behind at the break, dominated the second period.

Despite the spirited fightback, it was the sending off – as well as a handball appeal against Gala’s goal by that man Hay again – which home manager Mike McKinnon focused on.

McKinnon said: “The two decisions in the first half cost us the game.

“I think Jack stuck his hand out for the goal and the sending off killed us.

“Jamie threw the ball towards Jack and the referee has red-carded him for violent conduct.

“It spoilt the match, but to be fair to my team, we battered them in the second half.”

Gala had not played on a grass pitch since the start of November and it showed, with the young Fairies taken aback at first by the intensity of Selkirk’s tackling.

But they created the initial opening as, not for the first time, a lofted pass beat Selkirk’s static backline and Scott Nightingale rounded John Dodds, only to scuff his shot, allowing Ryan McManus to easily clear.

One of the more intriguing match-ups was Gala teenage winger Marc Berry versus 37-year-old home left back Kenny Munro, with Berry showing no respect for his elder with a jinking run and fierce shot that forced Dodds to tip over.

The first talking point came in the 24th minute with Hay’s goal. Higginbottom’s clearance was fired into Hay from close range, and although the ball appeared to strike his hand, referee Banks allowed the frontman to play on and slide his shot beneath the advancing Dodds.

Selkirk’s fury at the decision led to assistant coach Aaron Biggs being ordered to leave the bench, although he claimed he was not directing his comments at the whistler.

The homesters at last sprung to life and Michael Holness and Jonny Watt were both denied within 10 seconds by Gala stopper Elliot Turnbull. The Dean number one made an even better contribution later on.

Higginbottom’s red card got the home masses wondering whether a Souter had planted horse meat in referee Banks’ Friday night lasagne.

But their side almost responded six minutes after the break, only for Gary Lothian’s superb tackle to deny Watt as he prepared to shoot 12 yards out.

Selkirk continued to belittle their numerical disadvantage, as Gala visibly tired in the second period, leading to the substitution of the exhausted Berry, who put on his best show in a Gala 
top.

Former Hawick Royal Albert man Andy Noble forced Turnbull into a save, but the Gala goalie made two superb stops which sealed the visitors’ victory.

Firstly he blocked McManus’ effort from close range and then produced an unbelievable stop to claw away Jason Inglis’ net-bound header.

The latter was called a wonder save by McKinnon, while Gala manager Garry Fraser described it as world class.

The win made it two in a row for a youthful Gala side, who have released Paul Sutherland, Dean Boyne and Jay Wilson as they re-build for next season.

Fraser said: “We were carrying a couple of injuries and just had to hold on in the second 
half.

“We gave Elliot a round of applause at the end because he kept us in it.

“Playing on grass took it out of the boys’ legs, they all felt it at the end.

“We have released a few players and brought some young guys in, and are actively recruiting for more.”

As for the Higginbottom sending off, Fraser added: “It was very harsh. There was no intent in the throw of the ball.”

Selkirk: J. Dodds, K. Munro, L. Stephen, J. Higginbottom, J. Inglis, D. Johnson, A. Noble, R. McManus, J. Watt, M. Holness, D. Battle (R. Pepper 89).

Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, S. Davidson, A. Brown, D. Bowie, G. Lothian, B. Miller, M. Berry (B. Lochrie 71), G. Gass, J. Hay, S. Nightingale (R. Hewitson 75), M. Fairburn (C. Jeffrey 45).