Gala Fairydean 1
North Shields 1
KEVIN JANIAK reports from Netherdale
OF COURSE, this was a pre-season friendly, and the result should not have mattered.
It was supposed to be nothing more than a glorified training session, preparing players for the season ahead, using match conditions against similar opposition.
The fact that Jack Hay was back on form – taking one touch to slot home a 16th-minute screamer from a Grant Gass pass – should have, at most, put a smile on the faces of supporters, but the elation from the fans felt like the goal really mattered.
And it should have been of mild disappointment when a mix-up in defence allowed Keith Douglas to batter home a 57th-minute equaliser, but it hit a fair bit harder than that for the players.
It is probably a good sign that they are hungry and ready to get stuck into the campaign ahead, hoping to make up for last season’s angst after missing out on promotion only through points differential.
It’s also good that the home side felt comfortable enough in their own skin to show a little of the tricky footwork and panache that makes them so eminently watchable.
And there is a good mix of youth and experience in the side, with old hands Craig Tyson, Paul Sutherland, Jay Wilson and Geri Rossi bringing on the raw talent of players such as Ben McGregor, Scott Nightingale and David Bonnar – swift passing moves allowing the youngsters a bit of time on the ball.
But the bad signs are also there – the hesitation in defence that allowed that leveller and several openings that North Shields substitute hitmen Bobby Howe and Andy Bowman really should have tucked away were cases in point.
Certainly, the frailties at the back are not anything to worry about in matches such as these, but the abject disappointment felt is perhaps down to the knowledge that the new season is but a heartbeat away and time to iron out defensive problems is running out at a rate of knots.
And this week saw them draw Ayrshire side Irvine Meadow in the first round of the Scottish Cup – a tricky wee tie if ever there was one – and that match, too, is closer on the horizon than is completely comfortable.
There is a lot of work to do, but little time to fit it in.
Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, C. Tyson, A. Brown (C. Jeffrey 85 mins), G. Lothian, P. Sutherland, B. McGregor (D. Bonnar 62 mins), J. Wilson, G. Gass, G. Rossi, S. Nightingale (M. Berry 85 mins) and J. Hay (R. Hewitson 73 mins).