Gala Fairydean Rovers were runners-up to North Lanarkshire Leisure (NLL) in GFR’s own 2019 Walking Football tournament at Netherdale Stadium last Sunday.
Twelve sides from throughout Scotland took part in the annual event, the largest number so far, and the teams were divided into two groups following a formal draw made by Hibernian, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Scotland legend Alex Cropley.
Group A consisted of a Lauder/Gala select, Tranent, Linlithgow Rose, NLL ‘B’, Tweedvale and Hawick.
Group B was composed of Gala Fairydean Rovers, NLL ‘A’ Gretna 2008, Kelso, Midlothian and Heart of Midlothian.
After 10 sets of fixtures, Linlithgow Rose won Group A with Tranent finishing in second place. NLL ‘A’ won Group B, with Gala Fairydean Rovers finishing runners-up. Previous winners Gretna 2008 finished in in third place, despite only conceding one goal in the five games.
The semi-final between Gala and Linlithgow was the outstanding fixture of the day, with play raging from end to end and both clubs creating chances.
Gala took the lead with a goal to grace any game after a seven-touch move, which ended with Gordon Rae curling a sensational 20-yard strike which flew into the top corner of the net, leaving the ‘keeper helpless.
Rose fought back and equalised before John Dodds looked to have secured victory. But a late penalty from Linlithgow took the tie to a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Jim Watters, Gordon Rae, John Dodds, Howard Edge and Mike Godsman all scored, while Ross Buchan saved the final effort from Linlithgow.
NLL ‘A’ beat Tranent in the other semi-final with a controversial goal, which was hotly disputed by the East Lothian players.
Tranent beat Linlithgow Rose in the third-fourth place play-off before a hard-fought final between Gala and NLL ‘A’ ended goalless.
Gala had the better chances but Lanarkshire’s keeper was in outstanding form, which continued into a penalty shoot out – where he saved twice to secure victory.
After the game, Gala coach John Dickson said: “Congratulations to North Lanarkshire, who performed to a high standard throughout the tournament.
“It was a fantastic day and I was proud of our players, who gave their all. It reminded me of the Scotland World Cup campaign in 1974, when we exited the tournament undefeated.”
John ex tended thanks to “all the volunteers at Gala Fairydean Rovers who gave up their time to help run the event and, in particular, the referees Rob Fairbairn, Stewart Robertson, Fred Blackie, Derek McGill, and also Ed Jackson from Melrose, who all performed their duties admirably and to a high standard. Plus club secretary Paul Gray, who kept track of all the results and acted as a timekeeper.
“Without their help, the tournament could not have taken place. Also Scottish Water, who provided enough water to keep everyone hydrated, which is very important, and the staff of the Red and Black Café, who kept everyone fed and watered.
“In addition, it was reassuring to have the St Andrews First Aid team of Neil and Jennifer on site and, thankfully, they were not kept too busy.
“Finally, Lynne Marshall of Scottish Borders Council, who has been instrumental in bringing walking football to the Scottish Borders.”