Gala Fairydean Rovers 1, East Kilbride 2
Despite a valiant effort against the reigning Lowland League Champions, Gala Fairydean Rovers narrowly lost this engrossing encounter last Saturday at Netherdale’s 3G Arena.
Even though they were missing a number of regulars, Steven Noble’s side took a well-deserved lead just after the break but two late goals saw Billy Stark’s champions take all three points.
Gala have now faced all of last season’s top four Lowland teams in successive weeks and must be encouraged by their performances in each, defeating University of Stirling, drawing with East Stirlingshire and losing narrowly to Spartans and East Kilbride.
Gala started brightly and on-loan Hibees Jamie Gullan and Adam Watson were causing the visitors’ defence problems, while captain Billy Miller went close on a couple of occasions.
Kilby showed why they are unbeaten, however, and Gala were lucky not to fall behind on the quarter of an hour mark, when Declan Hughes crashed a shot off the woodwork from the edge of the area.
Gala harried and pressed all over the park and never gave the visitors an opportunity to settle into a rhythm. Just after half-time, their hard work paid off when former Airdrie midfielder Darren Smith smashed home a thunderous 30-yard drive which hit the inside of keeper Jacob Kean’s right hand post and flew into the back of the net.
The Fairydean Rovers were not content to sit on the lead and Gullan and Watson both came close. The home side were undone, however by a breakaway goal on 73 minutes.
Gala had a corner on the right that was cleared to substitute Kieran Campbell. The youngster, on loan from Celtic, drove into the box and his cutback found Michael Anderson, who fired past the despairing Lewis Muir in the home goal. The equaliser galvanised the visitors who began to take control of the match. With eight minutes remaining, youngster David Brown was penalised for a foul on Campbell inside the area and referee Daniel Graves pointed straight to the spot. Adam Strachan made no mistake to fire Kilby in front.
Gala rallied once more and were desperately unlucky not to take something from the game. First, Billy Miller beat two players on the right before firing a vicious shot goalwards that Kean did well to parry behind.
Then, in the final action of a pulsating game, Kieran Ainslie’s header just clipped the top of the bar from a corner kick on the left.
Manager Steven Noble was frustrated not to take at least a point: “I feel we have the best squad of players here at Netherdale since the Lowland League started,” he said. “We have gone head to head with last season’s top four these past few weeks and have given every one of them a game.
“Despite having a few regulars missing, we performed very well against the reigning champions. East Kilbride are a very good team who have defeated Queen of the South and Stenhousemuir in this season’s league cup, so we knew they would be a quality team. Credit to them for taking their chances and defending well when they had to.”
Gala Fairydean Rovers – L. Muir, L. Stephen, G. Windram, S. Guiney, K. Ainslie, D. Bonnar, D. Smith, S. Paliczka (D. Brown 75), B. Miller, J. Gullan, A. Watson.