Gala Fairydean 3
Peebles Rovers 1
EoS FIRST DIVISION
KEVIN JANIAK reports from Netherdale
THE true worth of Gala’s 3G pitch was never more apparent than it was on Saturday.
As the morning went on, fixture after fixture was called off due to snow enveloping the area. Even at Netherdale, it was touch and go – players, coaches and committee members worked tirelessly to clear the lines and get the worst of the snow off the new surface, but some of the rubber pellets not yet bedded in were lifted along with the clumps of ice.
Referee Wes Boulstridge gave the thumbs up and Gala were hosting the only match to be played.
It was the Fairies’ first home match in the league and they showed that their new facility could become something of a fortress for them.
After beating league leaders Preston Athletic the previous week, albeit in the King Cup, they proved that they were certainly still in with a shout for a promotion place, despite their midtable position.
It is not all rosy in the plastic garden, however. Fairydean were dealt a huge body blow last week as influential front man Craig Livingstone announced on Facebook that his career was all but over after his latest injury to his leg.
He underwent a scan yesterday but he is not optimistic on the outcome. However, boss Fraser Lothian was not ready to accept the loss of the playmaker just yet.
He told TheSouthern: “I know Craig feels gutted about it right now, because he was really enjoying his football, but we will see what the scan says and take it from there.”
In the early stages on Saturday, Fairydean were missing that spark up front that Livingstone normally provides.
Lothian has previously stated that he wants his players to go all out in the first 20 minutes of home matches to completely take their opponents out of the game as they try to come to terms with the surface.
But the freezing conditions, and perhaps the doubt so close to kick-off that the game would go ahead at all, served to force a hesitant start.
Once the Fairies found their feet, however, they were able to bypass the gap left by Livingstone and they served up some nice passing football.
Craig Tyson took on the playmaker mantle for the home side, while Nicky Cairns looked the most dangerous out of an ever-improving Peebles line-up.
But it was left to talented teen Jack Hay – who looks like he could score goals in a sleeping bag – to find the net.
The first came from a Grant Gass pass, Hay thumping home from the edge of the area. John Nisbet in the Peebles goal did get a fingertip to it, but not enough to deflect it from its course.
Then Peebles defender Jason Girdwood was a whisker away from heading Geri Rossi’s cross into his own net, and Craig Tyson brought off a good save from Nisbet.
But just before half time, the Fairies went two up. Tyson provided him with the ammunition and the Peebles defence backed off, allowing the youngster to look up and pick his spot with a perfectly exectued drive.
Into the second half, Rossi, Gass and Jay Wilson all had good efforts before Peebles got one back against the run of play. Scott Watson sent in a decent cross which was sent goalwards by Jimmy Telfer. Elliot Turnbull was able to block the shot, but Telfer was quickest to react to the loose ball and slammed it home.
This was one of the few times Turnbull had been tested as, although Peebles had enjoyed a fair bit of the ball with Gary Knox and Telfer to the fore, the home back four were fairly solid and marshalled the visitors’ attacks well.
As was the case last week, Hay had a chance to hit his hat-trick but rattled the crossbar instead, before Gala regained their two-goal lead.
A free kick was quickly taken before Peebles had a chance to reset and Jay Wilson was clean through to slot the ball past Nisbet.
It was all Gala after this, but they couldn’t find the net again, Hay coming closest with a shot tipped away by Nisbet.
Lothian was just happy to get the three points.
He told us: “All the players did well today, even though it was not a great game. We just need to keep plugging away with these home games.
“We can make this pitch a bit of a fortress. We can make it difficult for other teams to come here and win.”
Peebles boss Stuart Robertson believed the two sides were closer than the score suggests, but said they have not had much luck in the past few games.
He told us: “We had as much of the ball as the Fairydean did in the first half, but we lost two bad goals. And for their third, the referee said that sometimes he would have stopped the play, but he decided to let this one go.
“I can’t complain about our commitment today, but that is what has happened over the past few games. We lost a last-minute penalty against Eyemouth and at Duns we missed a penalty.
“We will turn it round, though, I am sure.”
Gala Fairydean: E. Turnbull, G. Hay, A. Brown, P. Young, G. Lothian, G. Gass (A. Jackson 75 mins), C. Tyson, A. Brunton (B. Hunter 78 mins), G. Rossi, J. Hay and J. Wilson.
Peebles Rovers: J. Nisbet, G. Young, D. Knox, J. Girdwood (S. Joyce 75 mins), R. Fleming, S. Watson, N. Cairns, M McKenzie, C. Edgar, J. Telfer and G. Knox (D. Learmonth 85 mins)