Preston Athletic 3, Gala Fairydean Rovers 4
Six weeks ago, Gala Fairydean Rovers were staring at a potential relegation battle.
Now, after a run which has seen them pick up 10 points from their last four games, they are looking for their highest ever Lowland League finish.
Their latest win was the most dramatic yet, with Stuart Noble’s 90th minute goal securing a victory that the visitors looked to have thrown away, when Preston Athletic pulled themselves level after being 3-0 down.
And manager Stevie Noble is now preparing his team for the visit of fourth-placed Dalbeattie Star.
He said: “We are now aiming for that fourth spot and that makes the Dalbeattie match a huge game. They are a good team and it will be another tough match, but we are on a good run at the moment.”
Gala’s ranks were boosted by the capture of defender Jason Krones, on loan from Rangers, although he was on the bench at Prestonpans as Fairydean Rovers raced into a 3-0 lead.
Playing down the considerable slope at a sodden Pennypit Park, they went ahead after just two minutes when Des Sutherland started and ended a flowing move.
Fairydean Rovers went further ahead as a simple through ball beat Preston’s backline and allowed Noble to finish well beyond Craig Pennycuick.
Gala were now in complete control and Noble made it 3-0 before the half hour, as he superbly controlled a deep Darren Smith free kick and slammed the ball high into the net.
But basemetn club Preston refused to give up and, eight minutes after the break, the impressive Fabio Neto set up new signing Jason Young to score from close range.
Gala needed one more goal to kill the game but Pennycuick made two outstanding stops from Pringle and Miller, before David McLeod cleared off his own line in the same goalmouth scramble.
Wright produced a fantastic fingertip save from Daniel O’Rourke’s skidding long-range effort, before Preston’s Young made it 3-2 with 12 minutes left.
And the fears of the visiting supporters came to fruition with five minutes to go. Substitute Brandon Archibald’s outstanding crossfield ball was lashed home by Robbie Carter to send Preston players and supporters into wild celebrations.
The homesters now sensed three points rather than one but, instead, Pennycuick’s mis-hit clearance fell straight to Noble, who showed the composure of a player who was previously on the books of Fulham and St Johnstone by racing through and finishing well beyond the distraught keeper.
Shaun Conway was then sent off for a late tackle on Noble, to complete a painful afternoon for Athletic.
Gala Fairydean Rovers: K. Wright, L. Stephen, L. Swaney (J. Krones 72), S. Main, G. Windram, B. Miller, D. Smith, S. Pringle (S. Bonnington 82), S. Noble, D. Sutherland, S. Paliczka (R. Clapperton 82).