Gala Fairydean Rovers 0, Spartans 1
A momentary lapse in concentration resulted in Gala Fairydean Rovers suffering their first defeat of the season against high-flying Spartans at Netherdale on Saturday.
Such is the competitive standard of the Lowland League that, sometimes, all it can take is a temporary switch-off to prove costly.
And so it proved in the 20th minute, when the GFR defence was caught napping with a short corner.
Spartans full back Craig Stevenson was not picked up and he took a couple of strides before curling a glorious right-foot shot into the far corner of the net.
But this game will be remembered for the home side being denied what seemed a blatant penalty five minutes from time.
Sub Rhys Craigie played a slick one-two with Stuart Noble to slice through the Spartans and, as he rounded keeper Blair Carswell in the six-yard box, he appeared to be clearly taken out – but referee Simon MacLean waved play on.
Five minutes earlier, GFR had another glorious chance to equalise when a Darren Smith corner picked out centre back George Windram. His downward header bounced up and struck the underside of the bar before being cleared.
GFR manager Steven Noble said: ”In the first half, Spartans were the better team. But, in the second half, we had a real go at them and created several decent chances.
“I have just watched the video and it was a stonewall penalty,” added the boss. Even the Spartans guys would admit that, but it was not given, which is very disappointing.”
Spartans started the game very strongly and dominated possesion.
They could easily have taken an early lead but were denied by a couple of fine saves by 17-year-old ‘keeper Lewis Muir, a development loan signing from Rangers.
Stevenson got the only goal of the match in the 20th minute and, although GFR forced a series of corners, they never looked like penetrating a rock-solid Spartans defence.
GFR skipper Billy Miller had the home side’s best moment of the first half, with a shot from 12 yards which was destined for the top corner, only for Carswell to produce a brilliant one-handed save.
In the second half, Ross Allum – normally a thorn in Gala’s side from his Edinburgh City days – had chances to put the game beyond GFR’s reach but fired wide on two occasions.
The introduction of Craigie produced a spark for GFR and it was an uncomfortable closing period for the visitors, who were relieved to hear referee MacLean’s final whistle.
Spartans manager Dougie Samuel said afterwards he thought each side should have had a penalty in the game, adding: “Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t.”