Gala Fairydean Rovers 2
Morpeth Town FC 3
THEY are rightfully regarded as the best non-league team in England after lifting the FA Vase less than two months ago.
Morpeth Town rattled four goals past Hereford in front of over 40,000 supporters at Wembley in May.
Having beaten Hawick Royal Albert 5-1 on Friday evening, Nick Gray’s team managed to pull off the double on the 3G at Netherdale the following afternoon.
But the Craik Park club were made to work hard for their victory by an improving Gala team.
Midfielder Ross Aitchison admitted the scoreline could easily have been different after his side carved open a few late chances. He told us: “We held onto the ball well and defended pretty well but we didn’t take our chances.
“They are really strong in the air and they were difficult to defend against. “They had a physical threat that we don’t normally get in our own league.”
Perhaps Friday evening’s exertions were to blame but Morpeth struggled in the opening period to adjust to the pace of the 3G surface.
Debutant Danny Simpson took full advantage as he headed Dean McColm’s cross home after only eight minutes for the Fairydean Rovers.
But the powerful and well-drilled visitors were soon on level terms through Liam Henderson following great build up play through the middle of the park. The 17th minute equaliser swung the game in Morpeth’s favour with Gala being stretched. Carr edged the Northumberland team in front on 24 minutes.
While Morpeth were by far the stronger and taller, Gala had the edge for pace with Ross Lamb and McColm both proving troublesome for the visitors but only a couple of excellent saves from Jamie Newman kept the Fairydean Rovers in the game approaching half time.
Gala almost drew level early in the second half after Lee Stephen charged to the byline to deliver a fantastic deep cross which was met by the head of Jack Hay, but Jim Provett produced an equally good reaction save with his legs.
Lamb was also denied by a good block from the Morpeth keeper as the game began to open up.
On the hour Provett went from hero to villain as his dreadful goal kick was pounced upon by Simpson to calmly run in on goal and slot home the equaliser. Town responded with Stephen Forster hitting the bar from 25 yards out and Henderson’s follow-up header being cleared off the line.
The winner arrived just a minute later as towering substitute Paul Johnson climbed above the defence to head home a corner.Only a goal line clearance from Michael Allan prevented Danny Lay scoring with an almost identical header from a corner on 73 minutes.
Whatever training methods Steven Noble is using, they are certainly working as yet again in this pre-season the Fairydean Rovers finished the game the strongest. On 84 minutes Aitchison picked out Hay with a terrific cross but the striker’s effort was blocked in front of goal by Chris Reid.
Allan headed a Scott Main corner inches over just two minutes later, and with injury time approaching Provett produced a wonder save to tip McColm’s volley over the bar.
Gala Fairydean Rovers. J Newman, L Stephen, D McColm, M Allan, S Main, B Herdman, D Smith, R Lamb (S Robertson 70), D Simpson (M Berry 70), J Hay & R Aitchison.