Spartans 1, Gala Fairydean Rovers 1
Steven Noble’s Fairydean Rovers emerged on Saturday with their first ever Lowland League point from a sun-drenched Ainslie Park.
Despite falling behind to a Jack Beesley thunderbolt, the Borders side battled hard to grab a second-half equaliser and, following their fine 3-2 home victory back in November, the Netherdale side have remained unbeaten in the league against Spartans this season.
Prior to the game, both teams had to deal with a number of injuries to their respective squads, with Noble drafting new signings Kieran Ainslie and Lewis Swaney in to his defence.
The home side almost got off the perfect start in the capital sunshine when a short backpass from Ainslie was intercepted by Ross Alum, who bore down on goal. The normally lethal former Edinburgh City striker fired in a low shot, only to be thwarted by a superb one-handed stop by Kieran Wright in the visitors’ goal.
Billy Miller and Lewis Swaney both went close for Gala FR, as both sides attempted to get the ball down and play in the unseasonably warm March weather.
With half an hour gone, Stuart Noble tangled with Spanish midfielder Igor Gabiola on the edge of the area and Jack Beesley stepped up to fire an unstoppable free kick high into the net, behind Wright in the Gala goal.
Spartans should have extended their lead just before the break when on-loan Rangers defender Jason Krones’ pass was intercepted by Allum, who tried to chip Wright from the edge of the area. The young keeper just managed to get his hands on the ball to keep the half time score at 1-0.
Early in the second half, Gala midfielder Darren Smith lofted a free-kick high into the penalty area. Spartans keeper Blair Carswell seemed to lose the flight of the ball in the blazing sun and the visitors were delighted to see it nestle into the net, without any other player getting a touch.
The home side were determined to regain the lead and Gala were relieved to see another Beesley free-kick narrowly clear the bar.
Dougie Samuel introduced one of his U20 players for Spartans just after the hour mark and Cameron Dawson almost scored with his first touch of the ball. The youngster, who was making his senior debut, managed to clip the ball over the onrushing Wright but his delicate chip landed on the roof of the net.
The introduction of Sutherland on 65 minutes increased the visitors’ attacking options and they battled hard all over the pitch to ensure they emerged with at least a point.
With the clock ticking down, Craig Stevenson fired in a cross following a sweeping move but substitute Cameron Dawson’s header cleared the bar, just when it looked like Spartans might grab a late winner.
Afterwards, a delighted Fairydean Rovers boss Steven Noble praised his players’ performance: “That was certainly a hard-fought point, our first ever here in the Lowland League.
“I thought our back four were excellent throughout. While it was a collective effort, with everybody working hard, I have to mention both of the Kierans – Wright and Ainslie. Kieran Wright, in goals, has been fantastic for us all season and, despite one early mistake, Kieran Ainslie proved he can be a valuable signing for us.”
Gala captain Billy Miller added: “We’ve now taken four out of six points against a great Spartans side this season. We have been playing well in recent weeks but we had to work very hard in the heat.
“Although we only gained a point, it feels like a victory to come from behind and take something from the game, especially at Ainslie Park.”
Gala Fairydean Rovers: K. Wright, L. Stephen, L. Swaney, J. Krones, K. Ainslie, B. Miller, D. Smith, S. Bonnington, (D. Sutherland 65) S. Noble, S. Paliczka, R. Aitchison; Unused subs: S. Main, S. Noble, J. Shiel, Trialist.