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  • David Knox | Border Telegraph






IF anyone needed reminding of the potential of the new Gala Fairydean Rovers squad, they got it on Saturday. Despite the defeat to league leaders Kelty the performance of Neil Hastings’ team was proof that they can now compete with the very best in the Lowland League. And with a signing or two over the summer, there’s nothing to stop the Netherdale club commanding a permanent place in the top six, at least.

After giving up a one-goal lead in the second half, manager Hastings was disappointed at the final whistle.

He said: “I’m really disappointed not to get anything from the game.

“We have to give credit to Kelty for turning the game around and I can’t fault my players as they put in a good shift.

“If there is one thing we can improve on it’s what we do with the ball when we have it, but we are building something here and it will come.”

Kelty have been raising the Lowland League bar all season along with Bonnyrigg. And between the frontrunners, they have set a benchmark for other clubs to aim for. On Saturday Gala did have to survive an early onslaught as the title favourites pressed high and prodded away at the home defence. But the central defensive pairing of Ben Herdman and Gareth Rodger were more than a match for the normally lethal Nathan Austin.

Approaching 20 minutes Gala began to turn the tide. Ross Aitchison turned away from his marker to fire beyond the far post. And in the 25th minute Niall Kelly smashed Zander Murray’s lay-off against the bar. The pressure on the Kelty defence finally paid dividends in the 32nd minute with Danny Galbraith being clipped in the area as he raced onto a one-two with Jacob Cambpell. The industrious midfielder picked himself up to tuck away the penalty.

Kelty responded with Austin sprinting onto a through ball but debutant keeper Kit McRitchie made a terrific save. Galbraith almost doubled Gala’s advantage five minutes into the second half as he steered Marc Berry’s cross inches wide off the far post.

And the miss was to prove crucial as just three minutes later a deflected cross fell into the path of Austin and the former Inverness striker fired into the net from 10 yards. The introduction of Matty Flynn gave Kelty an added impetus in midfield – and for the next quarter of an hour they were well on top. The ever-dangerous Dylan Easton shaved the bar with a swerving shot before Stephen Husband weaved his way into the area in the 65th minute to poke the ball beyond McRitchie.

Gala were far from being an unbeaten team, though, and it took a brave block from Ben Mackenzie to deny Berry a near post equaliser. Although the home team continued to press it was the visitors who went closest to scoring again with McRitchie doing well to tip over a powerful Easton shot. It was an impressive fightback from Kelty, but Gala's performance is perhaps a sign of better things to come.

Gala Fairydean Rovers. K McRitchie, L Grant (L Kinchant 68), A Chingwalu, B Herdman, G Rodger, R Aitchison, M Berry, N Kelly (Y Galantes 63), Z Murray, D Galbraith & J Campbell.

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