Fairies’ heartbreak as winning run ends

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Gala Fairydean 1

Heriot-Watt University 2


KEVIN JANIAK reports from Netherdale

IT WOULD be easy to forget just how good a game this was, given the nature of how it was lost and won.

Superb interplay was displayed by both sides in a cracking end-to-end match which all at once proved Gala can mix it with the best teams in the league but also severely hampered their promotion prospects as a lapse of concentration in the fifth minute of injury time saw them lose what would have been a well-earned draw.

Gala also had chances to steal all three points early into injury time, but there was so little between the teams that it would have seemed like daylight robbery if they had.

As they did against Kelso the previous week, Gala were extremely hesitant in the early stages. It took 45 seconds for the Students to open their tally – a Gavin Main through ball finding Ricky Burke in acres of space as the entire home defence were still stretching their legs and the latter tucked the ball past Elliot Turnbull.

It was not so much a sign of things to come as a warning to Gala just how sharp their opponents were.

And to make matters worse, referee Peter Stuart’s adjudications in the first half were swung so far in the Students’ direction that it seemed the universe was conspiring against them. Four bookings to key Gala players in the first half for challenges that were so innoccuous they were barely fouls and a couple of moments of dissent.

And with playmaker Craig Tyson and several other first-choice names unavailable, moves tended to break down in the final third as Geri Rossi and Rob Hewitson struggled against the well-structured visiting defence.

Their best chance of the half came from Jack Hay, who took a free kick from almost the exact spot he scored against Kelso the previous week. This time, however, the shot fizzed over the bar.

Grant Gass, possibly Gala’s most enterprising player, hit the crossbar from 35 yards and Turnbull did well to stop the Students from adding to their tally on several occasions.

Hewitson did not come on in the second half and a chance was given to Gala Hotspur youngster Scott Nightingale, who instantly provided a bit more attacking intent.

Fairydean equalised in the 56th minute, Greg Hay crossing to Rossi, who managed to head the ball home despite being a little off balance, leaning back to provide enough power to beat the keeper.

Heriot-Watt hit a bit of a purple patch, with Erik Thomson, Brendan Napier and Sean Muhsin all to the fore, but they could not get past the defence, Turnbull also showing off with a crackign double save.

Into injury time, Gass forced Craig Saunders into making the save of the match and Jack Hay shot agonisingly wide, before the visitors snatched victory cruelly with almost the last kick of the game. Thomson was lurking at the edge of the box when the ball broke loose and he took one touch before beating Turnbull with an unstoppable shot.

Uni boss and former Hibs star Michael Renwick said: “It was an incredibly tight game, but we are delighted with the result. Maybe a draw would have been fair, but the quality of the strike at the end was good enough to win any game.”

It was the end of a promising looking run of victories at the 3G arena and coach Fraser Lothian cast a forlorn figure at the end.

He told TheSouthern: “The same thing happened when we played them up at Riccarton, only they saved a draw by scoring in the last minute.

“Everyone is disappointed but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of our season.”

Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, G. Hay, A. Brown, P. Young, G. Lothian, B. Hunter, J. Wilson, G. Gass, G. Rossi, J. Hay and R. Hewitson (S. Nightingale 45 mins).