Vale of Leithen2
There are at least four weeks left in this season, but both Gala Fairydean Rovers and Vale of Leithen are already looking to next term.
While both have important cup games remaining, they have little to play for in the Lowland League, as was demonstrated at times in this end-of-season draw at Netherdale.
Yet, the two managers have been busy working on their squads for next season, both of which will have familiar looks.
Gala manager Steven Noble said: “We already have seven or eight signed up for next season from the current squad and I am confident the majority will sign up again.
“Our main focus will be players from the Borders, but we are watching games all the time looking for new players.
“We want to keep developing, keep improving.”
Among those set to play another season at Netherdale is Steven’s younger brother Stuart, who bagged two goals to save a point for Gala.
“Stuart has a number of years left in him and you can see today he is still a dangerous player,” added the manager.
Mark Lamb says seven of his players have already committed to returning to Victoria Park next season, but admits it is more difficult than ever to get new players to sign on the dotted line.
Lamb said: “It is hard because you tend to find now that more players want to play alongside their friends and don’t want to go to a new club. But my job for the remainder of the season will be watching players and trying to pick out that hidden gem that is out there.”
Lamb has already found himself a striker who appears to have a bright future, in the form of 18-year-old Shaun Stevens, who struck his fifth goal in four games with a fine strike on 55 minutes.
That was after team-mate Jason Stevens – no relation – had put Vale ahead, thanks in part to woeful Gala defending.
Just as it looked like Vale would collect their second win over Gala this season, Stuart Noble snuck a shot under Vale goalkeeper Andy McQueen to make it 2-1.
Noble and Sean Paliczka had missed a number of first-half chances and when Jason Stevens raced clear again, it appeared the experienced pair’s profligacy would be punished, only for the Vale man to fire just past the post. The miss proved vital, giving Noble the chance to head in a 77th-minute equaliser.
There were chances for both sides in an exciting finale, but the draw was the fair result.