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  • Rob Fairburn | GFR





David Knox

at Islecroft Stadium

GALA produced their best performance of the season to deservedly dispatch of Dalbeattie and reach the second round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. Neil Hastings may have travelled to Islecroft without half-a-dozen of his regular starters, but the makeshift eleven who took to the park hardly put a foot wrong all afternoon.

The manager told us: “I am absolutely delighted with the way the boys went about things today.

“We had a game plan and every one of them stuck to it.

"We defended well and hurt them when we went forward.

“We knew Dalbeattie would make things difficult for us at times but I don’t think there could be anyone in the ground who could deny we deserved the victory.”

The home team did start on the front foot and forced a couple of early corners. But apart from a penalty claim, which saw Connor Graham booked for diving, they couldn’t make any inroads in and around the Gala area.

The movement and pace of the Fairydean Rovers midfield and forwards soon began to expose frailties in the Star defence. On 15 minutes Niall Kelly raced clear only to be denied by the feet of keeper Vinnie Parker. Yrik Galantes, who has recently returned from World Cup qualifier duties with his native Philippines, weaved his way into the area five minutes later only to have his shot blocked.

Dalbeattie’s best chance of the first half saw Connor Graham’s effort charged down by Kelly in front of goal.

But just a few minutes later Gala went in front as Galantes expertly steered a deep angled freekick from Scott Mackenzie Taylor back across goal and into the top corner. Zander Murray almost doubled the advantage on the half hour but Parker saved well. The keeper, though, went from hero to villain in the 34th minute as he needlessly raced from his area to tackle Murray and the loose ball was calmly fired into the empty net by Kelly.

Dalbeattie had already tested referee Calum Scott’s patience with persistent complaining and arguing. And it was Lee Wells who overstepped the mark in the 44th minute with abusive language to collect a straight red card.

Gala continued to dominate after the interval with captain Mackenzie Taylor leading by example in the middle of the park. Despite the visitors going close a couple of times to increasing the lead, it was 10-man Dalbeattie who found the net in the 63rd minute. Lewis Sloan curled a terrific freekick inside the near post from 25 yards out.

But any hopes of a comeback were dashed by debutant striker Murray. The new signing from Pumpherston Juniors turned his marker well on the edge of the area to rifle a low shot into the far, bottom corner.

Marc Berry twice went close to making it four in the closing stages, but the tie was already won. While every Fairydean Rovers player deserved credit, manager Hastings was quick to praise his new striker.

He added: “Zander isn’t fully fit and we were taking a chance with him, but I thought he was terrific for us today.

“The good thing is we know he’s going to get even better with each game.”

Gala Fairydean Rovers. F Morton, L Kinchant, A Chingwalu, L Grant, B Herman, N Kelly, Y Galantes (P Addison 88), S Taylor Mackenzie, Z Murray (F Mendes 77), R Mayer & M Berry.

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