Following a series of defeats against the top sides in the Lowland League, Gala Fairydean Rovers managed to secure a point in difficult circumstances at the 3G Arena on Saturday.
While the Netherdale gaffer, Dean Shanks, was disappointed his side surrendered a two-goal advantage, he was pleased with the way his team battled through adversity and played well in an entertaining match.
The injury and suspension list at the Gala club has reached epic proportions in recent weeks.
The line-up on Saturday included emergency signing Mark Walters in goal and 16-year-old Charlie Green in midfield.
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Meanwhile, Tommy Patterson, Phil Addison and Ricky Miller played the full 90 minutes as they recover from injuries which have restricted their appearances in recent weeks.
Watching from the sidelines were on-loan Hibs keeper Paddy Martin, recovering from a head knock in training, and Scott Main, who hobbled out of the previous game against Spartans – plus the suspended duo of Darren Smith and Reese Donaldson.
Yet Shanks’ patchwork team started well and took the game to the visitors, whom they had already beaten twice this season.
The energy of captain for the day, Sean McKirdy, and midfield duo of youngsters Kieran Watson and Charlie Green meant Derek Ure’s East Stirlingshire could not establish their passing game, which has seen them win successive matches in recent weeks.
In the early stages, Gala came close, with Tommy Patterson trying his luck from the edge of the area and Kieran Watson stinging the hands of Jamie Barclay in the Shire goal.
Half-way through the first half, the home side were awarded a penalty when Barclay flattened Sean McKirdy in the box. The Netherdale supporters could have been forgiven for feeling nervous about the spot kick, having seen two missed in the previous couple of games.
However, the calmest man in the 3G Arena was Ruari Paton, who stepped up to fire home.
Former Edinburgh City favourite Ross Allum came close to an equaliser for the visitors but his effort was cleared off the line by Pat Scullion. The former Clyde man who, has over 400 Scottish League appearances to his name, was a rock at the heart of the Gala defence as the visitors showed their quality.
As half-time approached, Gala almost doubled their lead but Sandy Cunningham’s drive from the right just shaved Barclay’s post.
The Shire emerged from the break determined to get back on terms and enjoyed the majority of possession.
However, on 73 minutes, Phil Addison evaded a number of challenges to fire a magnificent shot beyond the despairing Barclay.
It was the type of goal Addison regular scored during his time at Selkirk and Gala FR will be delighted to seeing him returning to fitness.
However, if Gala thought the points were safe, they were given a wake-up call just five minutes later when Allum managed to nip ahead of the home defence and fire past Walters from close range.
Just minutes later, the visitors were level, thanks to a back-post header from Conor Greene.
Derek Ure’s side were in the ascendancy as Gala tired and it took a magnificent save from Walters to deny Paul McAfferty at the death.
Dean Shanks said afterwards: “Before kick-off, I would have been delighted with a point. But to surrender a two-goal lead is disappointing.
“I can’t fault my players, however, who continue to battle through adversity.
“I am delighted that we have been unbeaten in three tough games against a quality side like East Stirlingshire and it shows we are improving here despite our injury list. “
Gala Fairydean Rovers: M.. Walters, R Stevenson, T. Patterson, P. Scullion, R. Miller, K. Watson, S. Cunningham, S. McKirdy, R. Paton, C. Green, P. Addison. Subs (unused) K. Ainslie, D. Bell, R. Cathcart.