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  • Graeme McIver





Back at the beginning of December these two sides met in the league at Netherdale with the visitors racking up 10 goals in the Fairydean Rovers heaviest ever Lowland League defeat. There was never a chance of a repeat of that scoreline as Steven Noble’s men produced a battling performance which pushed their high-scoring hosts all the way. Ultimately it was clinical finishing by the Shire that proved to be the difference in an evenly matched and entertaining affair. The game remained in the balance until late on when a couple of contentious decisions went the way of the home side. Heavy fog had covered Netherdale in that pre-Christmas meeting but it was a red mist that descended over the Gala bench when late in the match and trailing 2-0, a superb 25 yard Darren Smith strike appeared to get the visitors back in the game. However, referee David Munro consulted Assistant David Doig and the goal was chalked off as Stuart Noble was considered to be obstructing the goalkeepers view in an offside position. The Shire’s own TV replay showed the decision was a harsh one indeed. Gala’s misery was compounded just minutes later when a soft penalty award on 87 minutes allowed the home side to put the game beyond Steven Noble’s men.

Darren Smith returned to the visitors’ line-up after serving a one match suspension whilst the home side welcomed back the prolific Andy Rodgers who had missed Shire’s previous home game against Whitehill Wellfare. The Fairydean Rovers came flying out of the blocks in a bid to regain some pride from the previous encounter. The visitors forced a series of corners with some neat passing play. On 4 minutes Stuart Noble fired narrowly past from a free-kick just outside the box and then good link up play between the former Fulham striker and Lee Stephen forced a corner from which a Noble turn and shot was saved by home keeper Jamie Barclay. On 17 minutes a superb back-heel from Noble played in Sean Paliczka but the former Bonnyrigg man’s shot flew past the post. The homeside always looked dangerous on the counter attack and on-loan Rangers keeper Keiran Wright had to be sharp to save from both Grant and Rodgers. As half-time approached both teams had chances to open the scoring in an end to end encounter.

John Sludden’s side emerged from the break in determined fashion in a bid to score the Shire’s 100th competitive goal of the season. On 47th minutes a corner from the left was headed across goal by Michael Oliver, knocked on by Brisbane and then volleyed home in spectacular fashion by the prolific Andy Rodgers. It was the former Falkirk man’s 29th goal of the season. His strike partner David Grant went one better on 62 minutes when he scored his 30th of the campaign following a Jamie Glasgow cross. Grant is the first East Stirlingshire player to reach that milestone since Jackie Cockburn achieved the feat in the 1962/63 season.

Gala continued to create chances and home keeper Barclay made two tremendous saves to deny Ross Aitchison. The first from a back post header and the second from a volley inside the area. The other loan Ranger at the Netherdale club, Jason Krones, was a stand out as the visitors tried their best to get back into the game. Smith’s long-range volley on 85 minutes looked to have given Gala a life-line only for the stand side assistant to rule Noble offside. Just seconds later referee Munro pointed to the spot when he adjudged that either Ross Aitchison or George Windram had fouled Brisbane in the area. Windram appeared to take the ball cleanly but up stepped Rodgers to complete the scoring.

Steven Noble was proud of his players battling performance and bemoaned the two decisions that went against his side. “I think 3-0 was harsh on us. We matched a very good team and created a number of good chances. When Darren hit the net with 5 minutes to go I thought we might have a chance to grab something from the game. We are at a loss to understand how what looked a perfectly legitimate goal could have been disallowed. Fair play to them for taking their chances. They have been the Lowland League’s highest scoring team this season and their quality in front of goal showed. If we can play like that in our remaining league games then I’m sure we will get the results we deserve.”

Home coach John Sludden told his club’s website, ““They showed they were a good football team and they tried to play the game the right way. It proves just how well we played that day down there to take ten off them. They demonstrated today they are a good team and for us to be able to do to them what we did down there is credit to us, and how good our performance was.”

Gala Fairydean Rovers: K Wright, S Bonnington, L Stephen, J Krones, G Windram, B Miller, S Pringle, S Noble, S Paliczka, R Aitchison.

East Stirlingshire: J Barclay, G MacGregor, D Ramsay, A Grant, M Oliver, K Faulds, A Rodgers, D Ure, D Grant, S Brisbane (C Greene 72), J Glasgow.

Man of the Match: Jason Krones

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