Vale of Leithen 1
Gala FR 0
Birthday boy Ryan Sclater celebrated in style as his superb free kick proved to be enough to put Vale through to the third round of the Image Printers Cup, writes Dave Ryce.
The ex-Gala Fairydean youth player, listed as a substitute after work commitments had prevented him from training during the week, was introduced to the action in the 23rd minute due to an injury to Vale striker Alan Flanagan.
And the defender, on his 22nd birthday, went from blowing out candles to blowing away the opposition with an exquisite strike from 25 yards.
This was the third attempt to play this fixture after previous postponements and heavy rainfall on the Friday night made conditions tricky, meaning that silky soccer was off the menu, in favour of a roll-your-sleeves-up and get-stuck-in approach.
Therefore, the first half saw plenty of effort, but little in the way of clear-cut chances until Gala should have gone ahead on the half-hour mark. A corner found Stuart Noble deep in the area and when he pinged the ball back towards goal, Craig McBride astonishingly directed a free header wide from a few yards out.
Jamie Gibson then knocked an effort straight at Vale keeper Mark Wilson before sending another whizzing wide, while at the other end, Kenny O’Brien grazed the crossbar with a free kick.
Only a timely intervention early in the second half by Jordyn Gill prevented Noble from turning the ball in as Gala found a way through the hosts’ backline. Vale replied with a thunderbolt of a free kick from Jack Blaikie, which was heading for the back of the net until Gala keeper John Dodds brilliantly leapt across the goalmouth to beat the ball away.
The game was seeing an extraordinary number of corners and free kicks and both managers could at least be content with the fact that they had survived so many set pieces.
When Grant Robinson clipped O’Brien at the edge of the area to award Vale yet another one, there was no reason to think that this one stood any more chance of finding the net than the others before it.
But Sclater had other ideas, magnificently curling the ball beyond Dodds’ despairing dive and in off the post.
The goal spurred Gala into pushing forward with renewed purpose, but a David Bonnar drive that dipped narrowly over the bar was the closest they came to taking the tie into extra time.
Jason Stevens could have put the result beyond all doubt when the ball was deflected into his path and he found himself with only the keeper to beat, but a weak finish resulted in an easy pick for Dodds.