Gala Rovers 6
SOUTH CUP SECOND ROUND
KENNY PATERSON reports from Netherdale
THIS was a game of two halves - as well as a sending off, an injured referee and a Gala Rovers side who demonstrated why many believe they are set to enjoy a silver-lined season.
Rovers had struggled to break down a Newtown outfit who sit top of Division A until Craig Strathdee’s sending off for handball and the resultant penalty on 35 minutes, coverted by Des Sutherland, eventually saw Rovers stroll to a comfortable win.
The Gala men travel to Carluke BAPS in the next stage of the coveted competition this Saturday, the Lanarkshire side having knocked out Jed Legion in the first round.
Player/coach Steven Noble expects a tough encounter, but with his team finally back to action after a three-week weather-related lay-off, the Division A side will be in confident mood of progressing further in their efforts to reclaim the South Cup, last won in 2007/08.
Noble told TheSouthern: “We don’t know a lot about Carluke, but any team from the west is always tough. We will need to be switched on.
“I would not say the sending-off changed the game, but it did make it a bit less of a contest.
“Newtown were stuffy and we knew they would give their all, as they always do.
“The guys were desperate for a game. We have been training hard and we have a good team spirit, so we have been sick not being able to play.
“It was great to get a game on the 3G and get all our subs on to contribute to the win.”
It is not hard to see why Gala are tipped for success this season.
Rovers’ starting XI against Newtown included seven players who have all had East of Scotland League experience, while striker Sutherland went into the game with 34 goals in just 10 games.
However, the hosts were largely kept at bay by the Villagers, with the experienced Steven Makepeace marshalling Newtown’s defence well, despite the club having not played a match since November 10.
Gala were reduced to long-range efforts through Craig Gow and Callum Jardine, both well saved by Gareth Weatherson.
Of course, Sutherland was not far away from the action, and he fired in two efforts which Weatherston palmed to safety.
Rovers lacked a cutting edge and it was thanks to the intervention of referee Eddie Walsh that the homesters took the lead 10 minutes before the break.
Craig Middlemass appeared to be ready to put the ball into the net until Strathdee’s handball, which Walsh ruled was a clear penalty and sending off.
Newtown’s bench didn’t agree, but Sutherland’s emphatic spot kick meant Brian McGowan’s team faced an uphill battle.
Walsh was forced to order himself to an early bath at half-time due to a calf injury, with onlooking ref Bruce Crockett stepping out of the stand to replace his colleague.
Crockett’s first act was to signal a second goal a minute into the second period as Middlemass netted from close range.
Noble and co-manager Bryan Templeton introduced 17-year-old Jamie Collins to play alongside brother Kyle in midfield, and it was the latter who grabbed the third on 51 minutes with a fine strike from the edge of the area.
It was 4-0 two minutes later as good work by winger Jardine saw his cross converted by Middlemass.
Neil McVicar’s 10-yard shot was saved by Rovers’ stopper Michael Fenton – the only effort he had to save during the 90 minutes – but normality was resumed on the hour as Sutherland weaved through three tackles only to shoot just over the bar.
Sutherland’s frustrating afternoon continued when his 30-yard free kick struck Weatherston’s crossbar with five minutes left.
Jamie Collins got on the scoresheet with a left-footed half volley with three minutes left, and Sutherland finally added his 36th goal of the season thanks to Jamie Collin’s perfectly-weighted through ball.
Gala Rovers: M. Fenton, S. Mackenzie (B. Lochrie 63), S. Harkness, S. Noble (S. Clark 63), S. Greene, K. Collins, C. Jardine, A. Hardie, D. Sutherland, C. Middlemass (C. Macdonald 61), C. Gow (J. Collins 49).
Newtown: G. Weatherston, S. Deacon, D. Richardson, S. Makepeace, C. Strathdee, N. Todd, S. Swanston, N. McVicar, S. Leitch, J. Hunter, B. Purves (K. Shafto 90).