First point of the season for Gala Fairydean Rovers after 2-2 draw at Bo’ness United
Gala Fairydean Rovers left Bo’ness United’s Newtown Park last night, July 21, with their first point of the new Scottish Lowland Football League season.
Missing four players from Saturday’s opening-day defeat at the hands of East Stirlingshire, including three central defenders, through injury and suspension, it was always going to be a tough ask to take something from a game against Bo'ness their hosts having invested heavily in their squad in the close-season.
Neil Hastings’ Gala team weathered the storm with a makeshift defence, though, and had plenty of chances of their own in the second half to even go on and win.
However, Bo’ness could well have been out of sight by then as in the opening stages of the match, in front of a large crowd, they peppered the Gala goal with shots, only to be narrowly off target or foiled by saves by keeper Dean Beveridge.
Against the run of play, the Galashiels side took the lead in the 25th minute when Marc Berry broke down the left and his cross was bundled over the line by Zander Murray.
That settled the visitors’ nerves as they tried to get the ball down and play, but Max Christie’s side were dangerous going forward and missed a couple of further good opportunities to level.
They eventually equalised in the 41st minute when Nicky Locke's cross from the left to the back post spun out of the hands of Beveridge and dropped over the line.
Bo’ness continued to have the upper hand after the break, with a couple of shots whistling narrowly wide, but it was the Braw Lads who again took the lead in the 55th minute.
Berry again showed great footwork and pace down the left to skip past his defender and his cross was aimed for Murray at the back post, but a Bo’ness defender
dived in and diverted the spinning ball into the roof of the net.
Shortly afterwards, Berry had a great chance to make it 3-1 but he narrowly missed tucking away a great cross from trialist Alieu Badara Touray.
Bo’ness were back on level terms on the hour mark, however, with a controversial penalty award.
A free-kick from the right was floated to the far post and cleared for a corner, but in the melee of bodies referee Alastair Grieve ruled that Lewis Grant had infringed against an opponent and, to the surprise of even the home fans, pointed to the penalty spot.
Zander Miller tucked away the penalty to square the match at 2-2.
The heat of the evening took its toll on both sets of players, with play being scrappy and disjointed, but Bo’ness had a wonderful chance when they burst through the defence. Beveridge came to the rescue with a fine diving save to smother the ball, though.
Gala also had their chances in the closing stages, with Dary Healy firing a 20-yard thunderbolt inches past the post and then overlapping full-back Liam Campbell curling a shot narrowly over the top.
All things considered and with the player availability shortages before the match, it was a well-earned point on the road and Ross Aitchison and Lewis Grant deserve a special mention for filling in at central defence and performing admirably.
It was certainly a morale-booster after the disappointment of their first home game of the year four days earlier.
Saturday, July 17, was expected to be a red letter day for Rovers as they hosted their first competitive match at Netherdale since a 2-1 Scottish Cup defeat by Annan Athletic on Boxing Day last year and with fans present to boot.
Instead, though, it ended up being more of a red card day, with no fewer than four being brandished over the course of 90 minutes, leaving Gala and East Stirlingshire with only nine men each on the pitch come the final whistle.
Captain Gareth Rodger and fellow defender Ricky Miller were the players sent off for Gala as the hosts got their season off to a losing start, going down 3-0 to their visitors from Falkirk.
That was the same scoreline as for Shire’s last visit to Netherdale in August 2019, their scheduled game there in mid-January having been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rodger, named as captain following Danny Galbraith’s move to Bo’ness United in May, put in a fast-track appeal to the Scottish Football Association against his sending-off for denying the opposition a goal or obvious goal-scoring opportunity, claiming wrongful dismissal, but the 27-year-old’s claim was rejected at a disciplinary tribunal yesterday morning.
Kenny Barr and Dean Watson were the players sent off for East Stirlingshire, last in action against the Borderers on December 16 last year, drawing 2-2 at the Falkirk Stadium.
The visitors’ scorers were Andrew Rodden from a free-kick and Robbie Young twice.
All three of those goals came in the first half-hour of the game, as did three of the red cards shown.
Gala’s last league game prior to the weekend was a 2-1 away win at Bo’ness United on December 19 last year, a week before their Scottish Cup exit against Annan.
Next up for Gala is a visit to North Lanarkshire this Saturday, July 24, to play Cumbernauld Colts, 4-0 victors at nearby Vale of Leithen at the weekend. Kick-off is at 3pm.
That’ll be followed by a home game against Edinburgh’s Spartans next Tuesday, July 27, kicking off at 7.45pm.
Gala Fairydean Rovers last night: Beveridge, Calum Hall, Campbell, Grant, Aitchison, Scott, Berry, Chalmers, Healy, Murray(sub Lewis Hall 60 mins) , Touray(sub Addison 75 mins).
Subs not used: Gray, Roue, McRitchie.