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  • Graeme McIver



GRETNA 2008 0


A first half Stuart Noble goal was enough for Gala Fairydean Rovers to take all 3 points in this mid-table clash at the 3G Arena last Saturday. With only a handful of points separating the teams between 7th and 13th position in the Lowland League the win was vital for the Netherdale club’s ambitions to finish as high up the table as possible. The visitors were looking to extend their recent unbeaten run to 5 games and would have been encouraged by the fact that they had never previously lost in Galashiels. However a good first half performance and a solid defence display from Steven Noble’s side meant that the Fairydean Rovers leapfrogged their opponents into 8th place in the table.

The home side’s bench contained a number of local youngsters and one of them, 18 year old Lewis Swaney was called into early action following an injury to the experienced Scott Main. Both teams were trying to play football and it was the home side who broke the deadlock on 23 minutes following a fine move. Former Airdrie player Darren Smith played in Noble with a superb defence splitting pass and the former Fulham striker finished well beyond the despairing Michael Ballantyne in the visitors goal.

Noble could have doubled his total just 90 seconds later but this time Ballantyne was alert to save well. Gretna had plenty of possession but only came close to scoring just before referee Alan Hogg blew for half-time when Scott Norman fired narrowly past.

In the second half the home side had several chances to increase the lead but could not find the killer goal. On 75 minutes Stuart Noble sprang the offside trap and fired a dangerous ball across the face of the goal only for it to be cleared by the Gretna defence. From the resultant corner, Lewis Swaney rose highest but saw his header cleared off the line. In the final 10 minutes the visitors pilled forward in search of an equaliser but time after time the home side held firm. Former Berwick Rangers defender Kieran Ainslie in particular made several blocks and important tackles to deny Matt Henney’s visitors and secure the points.

A delighted Steven Noble said afterwards,

“I’m pleased to get the win as we battle to finish as high up the table as possible. Today was a historic win, the first time that a team from Gala has beaten Gretna here at Netherdale. I thought we played very well in the first half and deserved our one goal lead. Unfortunately we didn’t take our chances to increase the lead and in a tight game we had to defend very well to take all three points. I thought our back four were brilliant today. They all played well including Lewis Swaney who came on to replace the injured Scott Main, but Kieran Ainslie was superb, a real man of the match performance. Kieran has improved with reach game as he gets fitter. It was also pleasing to see so many local youngsters on our bench today. We had three 16 year olds and an 18 year old. Two of them, Lewis Swaney and David Brown came on and did very well in a fast paced, competitive Lowland League game. Last week we organised a training game with several trialists and local youngsters playing. All of them did very well and showed a high degree of technical ability. The future for Gala football looks very bright. ”

Man of the Match Kieran Ainslie said;

“I thought we played very well in the first half but had to battle to keep a clean sheet. The Lowland League is a very good standard, especially those teams in the top 10 of the table. I think there is more football played in this league than in the SPFL League 2.”

The Netherdale side travel to Broadwood Stadium next Saturday to face 5th placed Cumbernauld Colts for their final league game in a bid to try and secure a place in the top half of the final table.

Gala Fairydean Rovers: K Wright, L Stephen, S Main (L Swaney 20), G Windram, K Ainslie, D Bonnar, D Smith, B Miller, S Noble, S Paliczka (D Brown 75), R Aitchison. Subs not used: S Bonnington, G Brown, J Temple.

Gretna 2008: M Ballantyne, J Brannan, D Wadge, J Hunter, J Little, A Kelly (O Moxom 55), S Norman, J Simpson, R McCartney (J Hope 35), L Studholme, E Pearson (J Smith 65). Subs not used: J Wood, J Dickson

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