Fraser Forrest says his young Gala Fairydean Rovers team-mates have what it takes to ensure Saturday’s clean sheet against Whitehill Welfare can become the norm rather than the exception.
While Stuart Noble grabbed a superb hat-trick to seal a convincing win, Forrest made an assured debut at the back alongside Andrew Common, Craig McBride and Jason Inglis for Gala’s first shutout of the season.
The 30-year-old, who retired from Alloa Athletic in January 2012 due to a back condition which has now improved, said: “The most pleasing thing was getting the clean sheet. The guys at the back have all the attributes to be able to defend, but are still young and maybe a bit quiet.
“I don’t want to take the credit, but maybe I have helped organise things a bit more and I thought we did well. John Dodds had two excellent saves as well.
“I thought we played some good stuff, especially in the second half when the game got a bit more stretched. We took advantage of that and Stuart took his goals well.”
This was Gala’s best showing of the season, as they outplayed last term’s East of Scotland Premier Division champions, who were poor through the majority of the match.
Welfare did create the first chance of the match, as Inglis was required to make an important header to deny Stephen Manson a chance to score from just six yards out.
But at the other end, Inglis was also a goal threat, with a superb 25-yard effort which Ryan McGurk tipped over.
Gala suffered a blow when captain Sean Paliczka was forced off with a shoulder injury, but Marc Berry proved a more than able replacement.
Whitehill lost top scorer Wayne McIntosh soon after to injury, but substitute Aaron Somerville almost opened the scoring within seven minutes of coming off the bench.
The former Vale of Leithen winger danced through the middle of Gala’s defence, only for Dodds to make a cracking stop.
It proved to be a vital save, as the home side notched the first goal on 39 minutes with a fantastic passing move. Dean McColm and Jason Inglis combined to set up Berry, whose first-time cross was toe-poked home by Noble.
Keeper McGurk was picking the ball out of net again on 52 minutes when Noble sidefooted the ball into the corner after battling through a number of challenges.
Whitehill pressed, but Gala always looked dangerous on the break, and should have sealed the victory after a fine Jamie Gibson run and cross, only for Berry to head over.
Noble missed a great chance after rounding McGurk on 84 minutes, but Berry more than made up for his previous error with a pass for his team-mate to complete his treble on 87 minutes.
Noble said: “I have not scored a hat-trick for around 10 years, but the main thing was to get the win. We had to defend well today and are going to have to be at that level for the rest of the season.
“Hopefully we can build from this and start winning more games.”
Gala Fairydean Rovers: J. Dodds, J. Inglis, C. McBride, D. Bonnar (D. Sutherland 68), F. Forrest, A. Common, A. Nicol, D. McColm, J. Gibson (C. Jardine 80), S. Paliczka (M. Berry 19), Stuart Noble.