They had no points to show for their efforts, but Gala Fairydean Rovers at least had the words of Gretna 2008 manager Stuart Rome to comfort them on the long drive back up the A7, writes Kenny Paterson.
Rome felt the game – played at Annan Athletic’s Galabank due to floodlight damage at Raydale Park – was a superb advert for the growing reputation of the Lowland League, and praised the second-half response of the visitors, who had conceded three goals before the break.
“We were well on top in the first half, but I thought Gala were outstanding in the second half. They ran us ragged and it was like a cup tie.”
Gala boss Stevie Noble lamented his team’s slow start, which saw them lose two goals within the first 10 minutes, and it could have been a heavier deficit at half-time were it not for some wayward finishing by Gretna, who now sit just two points behind Lowland League leaders Edinburgh City.
Scott Milligan tapped in the opener after just two minutes when Iain Anderson had hit the post, and it was 2-0 when unmarked Brandon Longcake found the net through a ruck of bodies in a crowded penalty area.
Adam Main’s deflected 20-yard shot made it 3-0 six minutes before the break and it could have been much worse had Anderson and Longcake found the net with superb openings.
A dressing room rollicking and changes to formation and personnel made an immediate difference.
Gala pulled themselves back into the game when Dean McColm finished off a nice move involving Billy Miller and Stuart Noble five minutes after the break.
Longcake struck the post with a curling effort and Anderson should have scored with a close-range header, but the best chances were created by Gala, with their centre midfield trio of Miller, Kyle Collins and David Bonnar impressing.
Gibson found the net, but was flagged offside, with the striker later claiming the decision was wrong. Stuart Noble headed wide from just six yards out and substitute Craig McBride saw a downward header bounce over the bar as the visitors failed to find a second goal.
“If we could have got it back to 3-2 they would have become nervous and we could well have got an equaliser,” added Stevie Noble.
“Gretna were desperate to get the win, but we restored some pride in the second half.”