Gala Fairydean Rovers 1

East Kilbride 6

Kenny Paterson

at Netherdale

GALA boss Stevie Noble tipped East Kilbride to make it all the way to the SPFL after the South Lanarkshire side sealed the Lowland League title at Netherdale.

A fired-up Kilby proved far too strong for Fairydean Rovers, with Joao Victoria’s first half hat-trick ensuring Martin McLauchlan’s men eased to the league crown.

With league experience in David Proctor, Victoria and the hugely impressive Adam Strachan, East Kilbride will fancy their chances of following Edinburgh City into League Two.

For Gala, Noble admitted his side were second best on Saturday, but still has ambitions for the remainder of the season.

He said: “Congratulations to East Kilbride – they deserve the title and I think will make it through the play-offs.

“They have been the best team all season and have no weaknesses in their side.

“They were highly motivated and started really well and deserved their win.

“We have two league games left and if we can finish the season well we can still achieve our highest ever placing.”

Ex-Partick Thistle and Ross County midfielder Strachan has had off the field issues in his career but there is no doubt the 30-year-old has plenty of ability, which he showed in an outstanding first half display.

After Victoria tapped in Paul Woods’ low cross on six minutes, Strachan’s superb free kick was headed in by Craig Howie.

Two nil up after just eight minutes. McLauchlan’s men could not have dreamt of a better start when sleeping at the Cardrona Hotel the night before in preparation for the game.

And it was 3-0 after a quarter of an hour as Victoria, who looked offside, was send through on Gala goalie Kieran Wright to find the net again.

Des Sutherland led from the front for Gala and forced the visiting defence to scramble away his cross, before Kieran Ainslie screwed a shot wide from a corner.

But it was East Kilbride who killed the game off completely three minutes before the break in comical circumstances as Darren Smith’s back pass was played directly to Victoria, who showed plenty composure to find the net past Wright and two retreating defenders.

Ainslie almost pulled a goal back with an overhead kick that Matt McGinley tipped over a minute after half-time.

But Kilby continued to dominate. Woods’ somehow headed over from six yards out but finished well on 63 minutes for 5-0.

And the same player headed in a sixth with 20 minutes to go.

Gala at least got on the scoresheet, as Smith’s thunderbolt 20 yard shot found the net, the homesters’ 200th goal in the Lowland League.

Noble also gave a debut to 16-year-old Jack Temple, who looked lively during his 13 minutes on the pitch, but it was East Kilbride who were celebrating at full-time.

A delighted East Kilbride manager McLauchlan added: “I came into the job a year ago and we were 25 points off the lead. We brought in a number of new players and have managed to claim the title in a difficult league.

“I don’t want to think about the play-offs yet – we want to celebrate our success first.”

Gala Fairydean Rovers: K. Wright, L. Stephen, G. Windram, J. Krones, K. Ainslie (L. Swaney 79), B. Miller, D. Smith, R. Clapperton (S. Paliczka 45), S. Noble, D. Sutherland (J. Temple 77), R. Aitchison.