Gala Fairydean 3
Preston Athletic 1
KING CUP FIRST ROUND
KEVIN JANIAK reports from Netherdale
GALA FAIRYDEAN celebrated the completion of their new 3G pitch by completely outplaying the league leaders in this, their first proper home cup win since they beat Newton Stewart in February 2008.
Having had the luxury of a training session on the unfamiliar but remarkably true surface on Thursday, it took the Fairies no time at all to find their feet, giving the 450-strong crowd – or at least the section of it that were not shouting for Preston – something to cheer about.
Two goals from Jack Hay – who really should have had twice as many – either side of a Jay Wilson strike was enough to see them through. Matt Costello’s lone score for Preston was little more than a niggle as there seemed to be no way they were about to spoil the party.
Gala boss Fraser Lothian was delighted to finally be able to play at home and said the new pitch suits their style of play perfectly.
He told TheSouthern: “We like to pass the ball a lot and this is the perfect surface for that.
“Also, the players worked hard for each other, we are playing as a team and we are not carrying anybody. It augurs well for the rest of the season.”
Preston manager Stevie Myatt – a former Fairydean player himself – was full of praise for the way the home team played.
He said: “Perhaps Gala had a wee bit of impetus in terms of the opening of their new park and they were fairly confident of getting a win today. A few frailties were shown in my team today, we had a couple of guys missing and we had to alter the shape of the team, but I have no excuses.
“Taking eveything into account, I would say Gala were deserved winners.”
Indeed they were.
Preston had the first chance – a Phil Hobbins free kick was rattled into the side netting by Fraser Henderson – but from then on it was the home side who ruled the show.
Fierce pressure 10 minutes in forced three back-to-back corners – the third of which ended in an acrobatic strike from Hay which sent the ball soaring into the net. The youngster was so delighted to be the first player to score on the pitch he ripped his top off, earning him a stern admonishment from referee Alan Hogg, who also reminded Hay what a yellow card looked like.
Then, four minutes later, a fantastic defence-splitting through-ball from Craig Livingstone sent Wilson scampering into the box and he slid the ball past the advancing Ross Gilpin in the Preston goal. It was 2-0 and Gala were making the runaway league leaders look like mere runaways.
Soon after, Livingstone was through on goal on his own. Gilpin threw himself between player and net and blocked the shot. But in doing so he took a knock to his shin and said he couldn’t feel or move his toes. He was taken to hospital as a precaution, and luckily found to have no serious injury.
Preston slowly came to terms with the surface, and pulled a goal back through Costello, who put the finishing touches to a Brian Wilson corner in the 38th minute.
Livingstone had a cracking chance to extend the gap just before half time, but hooked his shot well wide from 25 yards.
The second half took on the same pattern, as Hay forced replacement keeper Shaun Thompson into making a save before making it three. This one was as simple as they come, a throw-out by Elliot Turnbull, booted up the left touchline by Craig Tyson, flicked on by Livingston to Hay, who motored half the length of the pitch to slam the ball home.
Preston did show some of the class that has taken them to pole position in the First Division, Wilson slamming the ball off the crossbar and Henderson actually finding the net, albeit from an offside position.
The Fairies should have really killed it off late on, but Hay endured two glaring misses in his search for a hat-trick that was never going to happen.
Thankfully, it mattered not a jot.
If the Fairydean can hold on to this form with 13 home games on the bounce to come, and considering the fact that none of their opponents play on a 3G surface, it is clear their challenge for promotion is far from over.
And, looking forward to a home tie against Ormiston in the second round of the King Cup, their search for silverware does not have to start and stop with the league.
Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, G. Hay, C. Tyson, P. Young, G. Lothian, G. Gass, J. Wilson (A. Jackson 87 mins), A. Brunton, G. Rossi (A. Brown 72 mins), C. Livingstone (R. Hewitson 78 mins), J. Hay.