GALA gaffer Dean Shanks was adamant that his team would have to be at their very best if they were to reach the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. Thankfully, for the vast majority of the 300-plus crowd at Netherdale on Saturday his Fairydean Rovers couldn’t have played much better. From the impressive calmness of keeper Patrick Martin through to the non-stop running of strikers Josh Morris and Ruari Paton, this was a display that deserved the commercial rewards a third round tie brings.
Gala assistant manager Scott McKenzie was in no doubt about his team’s performance. He told us: “They were absolutely magnificent.
“Everybody played their part and that includes all of the boys that came off the bench.
“There were times in the game when East Stirlingshire came at us and we had to defend for our lives but we did and we got the rewards.” After soaking up some early pressure from the visitors, Gala began to get on top with the pace of Tommy Patterson and Dale Baxter continually turning the full backs. And the liveliness of Paton and Morris in the middle made sure the Shire defence wasn’t given a moment’s rest. An angled cross from Darren Smith on 17 minutes was narrowly missed by Paton in front of goal with the ball bouncing inches past the far post. Just three minutes later Patterson cut in from his left flank to force a good save at the near post by Jamie Barclay. But Gala were given a stark warning just before the half hour as Andy Rodgers held off the challenge from Scott Main to lob the outrushing Martin with the ball bouncing inches wide.
Gala’s opener, though, came just four minutes later. Morris appeared to be fouled inside the area as he latched onto a Sean McKirdy through pass, but before the penalty appeals could begin Paton stroked the loose ball home from 15 yards. The on-loan teenager had a great chance to double the advantage two minutes later as he ran onto a Morris flick-on but he scuffed his shot wide.
Shire finished the half strongly with Ricky Millar and Reece Donaldson having to make some vital challenges around the area. And there were strong claims for a penalty in the 40th minute as Steven Brisbane looked like he was brought down inside the box by Martin. The keeper also produced a tremendous save on the stroke of half time to deny David McCaughie equalising.
East Stirlingshire continued to press during much of the second half with Miller making a tremendous block in the 51st minute to deny Rodgers.
Martin also made a fantastic one-handed save as he rushed from his goal to keep a Rodgers’ header from reaching the net.
And Patterson’s timely intervention in front of goal stopped Adam Murray from pulling the trigger from just eight yards out.
It was resilient stuff from Gala – and their efforts were to be rewarded as the industrious McKirdy and Kieran Watson helped turn the game back in the home team’s favour.
Morris almost added a second in the 79th minute as his shot was deflected onto the roof of the net. And just four minutes later Netherdale erupted as Miller powered a Sandy Cunningham corner past Barclay.
Gala Fairydean Rovers. P Martin, S Main, R Donaldson (S Conaghan 60), R Miller, D Smith, D Baxter, T Patterson (S Cunningham 82), K Watson, J Morris (C O’Reilly 85), R Paton & S McKirdy.