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  • Rob Fairburn





A MOMENTARY lapse in concentration resulted in Gala Fairydean Rovers suffering their first defeat of the season against high-flying Spartans at Netherdale on Saturday. Such is the competitive standard of the Lowland League that sometimes all it can take is a temporary switch-off to prove costly. And so it proved in the 20th minute when the GFR defence was caught napping with a short corner. Spartans full back Craig Stevenson was not picked up and he took a couple of strides before curling a glorious right foot shot into the far corner of the net.

But this game will be remembered for the home side being denied a blatant penalty five minutes from time. Sub Rhys Craigie played a slick one two with Stuart Noble to slice through the Spartans and as he rounded keeper Blair Carswell in the six yard box he was clearly taken out. Referee Simon MacLean was the only person inside Netherdale who didn't think it was a penalty and waved play on much to the despair of the home players and support. Five minutes earlier GFR had another glorious chance to equaliser when a Darren Smith corner picked out centre back George Windram. His downward header bounced up and struck the underside of the bar before being cleared.

GFR manager Steven Noble said:"In the first half Spartans were the better team. But in the second half we had a real

go at them and created several decent chances. "I have just watched the video and it is a stonewall penalty. Even the Spartans guys would admit that but it was not given which is very disappointing."

Spartans started the game very strongly and dominated possession. They could easily have taken an early lead but were denied by a couple of fine saves by 17 year old keeper Lewis Muir, a development loan signing from Rangers. Stevenson got the only goal of the match in the 20th minute and although GFR forced a series of corners they never looked like penetrating a rock solid Spartans defence.

GFR skipper Billy Miller had the home's side best moment of the first half with a shot from 12 yards which was destined for he top corner only for Carswell to produce a brilliant one handed save.

In the second half Ross Allum - normally a thorn in Gala's side from his Edinburgh City days - had chances to put the game beyond GFR's reach

but fired wide on two occasions. The introduction of Craigie produced a spark for GFR and it was an uncomfortable closing period for the visitors who were relieved to hear referee MacLean's final whistle.

Spartans manager Dougie Samuel said:"It is a magic three points for us. "I thought we played really well in the first half and could have gone in more than one up. "We had chances to get the second but didn't take them and that put us under pressure. "Gala hit the bar with a set piece which they are always dangerous from. "To be honest I thought there should have been two penalties in the game - one for them and one for us but sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't."

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