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  • Liam Marshall






Gala Fairydean Rovers can count themselves extremely unlucky not to be in the next round of the Football Nation Qualifying Cup, eventually succumbing to Hutchison Vale after a valiant effort following Darren Smith's red card for two bookable offences.

Hutchie Vale started on the front foot, keeping GFR largely in their own half in the opening exchanges, without really threatening Lewis Muir's goal. They were quickly hit with a sucker punch in the form of an excellently placed finish from Gavin Brown after six minutes. The ball was swept out to the Gala left for Sean Paliczka, who found Stuart Noble with a cross, who in turn cushioned the ball for Brown to place it past the despairing Kevin Swain in the Hutchie net. Muir was called into action very soon after the goal, with Louis Swanson firing a free kick straight at the Gala 'keeper after seven minutes.

Gala were handed a scare on fifteen minutes, with Grant Munro getting a free header from seven yards all wrong, thankfully for the defense, who appeared slow to react to the ball into the box. Vale were upping the ante in search of an equaliser and Gala were creaking, with the pressure eventually paying off after half an hour. The ball was clipped over the Gala defence into the onrushing Devlin, who chipped it over Muir who had come charging out towards the loose ball.

Sean Whinge fired wide from the center of the box following the free kick. Gala rallied, and marauded up the park, only to see David Browns wonderful curling effort from 20 yards out clawed over by Swain in the Vale net. Gala went behind on 40 minutes, with Jamie Devlin grabbing his second, this time a good, albeit unchallenged header from six yards. Vale would edge themselves further ahead on forty-four minutes through Whinge, who latched onto another chipped through ball from Swanson and once again the ball was chipped over Muir into the net.

Things went from bad to worse after the break for Gala, with Dean Cummings following in on a good save from Muir to deny Whinge his second. Cummings made a late run and the ball fell perfectly for him to roll it into the gaping net just fifteen seconds after the restart. The deficit would be reduced back to two for Gala through number nine Stuart Noble on fifty-two minutes, who reacted like any good striker would to a loose ball in the box and fired in from about five yards following a Gala free kick from halfway. Vale were then awarded a contentious penalty just a minute later, with Whinge going down rather easily in the box. Swanson took the penalty and emphatically placed it beyond Muir to restore the three-goal lead just as quickly as it was lost.

Anyone thinking this would deflate the hosts would be proved wrong six minutes later, with Gavin Brown grabbing his second of the evening following more good work from Noble up front, who held it superbly in the left channel before picking out Brown well who finished right into the bottom corner past Swain.

Another contentious decision went against Gala after sixty-eight minutes, with Darren Smith receiving his second booking for a late tackle, despite a seemingly clear foul on Stuart Noble just seconds earlier. Initially, Gala struggled with ten men, but they rallied and were rewarded after eighty-five minutes, with debutant Kerr Scott climbing off the bench to hold off a defender well and finish with aplomb. 4-5 with five minutes left, one last chance for Gala? Of course. Sean Paliczka swung in a corner in the ninetieth minute, and Scott was a man on a mission, timing his jump expertly and looping his header into the net to send the home fans wild.

From the kick off, Vale went up the park and struck the outside of the post from twenty-five yards, which would prove the last action of normal time.

In all honesty, the last thing Gala needed was another thirty minutes, with Paliczka and captain Miller both struggling by the end of the ninety. Nevertheless, they battled on, buoyed by the late equalizer.

Ten minutes into extra time Vale edged themselves ahead once again, and once again a ball was played over the top to Devlin, who gratefully grabbed his hat-trick. The trick was to be repeated once again by Vale, although this time the ball went to substitute Hutchinson, who chipped Muir among suspicions of offside.

GFR: Muir, Stephen, Miller ©, Main, Guiney (Windram 55'), Bonnar, Smith, G. Brown (Scott 62'), Noble, D. Brown, Paliczka (Ainslie 115')

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