Gala Fairydean Rovers 5

Lothian Thistle 7

(after extra time)

David Knox at Netherdale

FAIRYDEAN Rovers fans almost witnessed the Great Escape on Wednesday evening.

And just like the film, the celebrations were cut short by some dastardly deeds from the enemy.

This Qualifying Cup clash provided thrills and spills on a blockbuster scale as well as a few unexpected twists.

Lothian's highly-alert trophy guards twice raced into a three goal lead only for Steven Noble's underground heroes to emerge level in the dying seconds.

In the end, and after half an hour's extra time, it was Thistle who earned their place in the draw for the next round.

Gala manager Noble said: "We showed great character to come back the way we did.

"Playing most of the second half with ten men, and with the effort we'd made to get level, we were always going to tire in extra time.

"Lothian are a good team and I can't complain with the effort we showed."

Without four or five regular starters Noble was forced into a few pre-match adjustments.

But the changes to personnel and formation didn't stop Gala taking an early lead.

Stuart Noble's chested down ball was driven into the far corner of the net by teenager Gavin Brown on six minutes.

Thistle enjoyed plenty of possession without causing too many problems for keeper Lewis Muir.

And Darren Smith was unfortunate not to add to the home tally on the half hour with a sweetly struck shot which deflected just wide.

On 32 minutes, though, the East of Scotland side pulled level.

A neatly played through ball was fired low and hard into the net by Jamie Devlin.

Sean Wringe went close to adding a Lothian second before David Brown forced a finger tip save from Kevin Swain at the other end.

Devlin headed Louis Swanson's cross home on 40 minutes for the Edinburgh team to take the lead for the first time.

And seconds before the interval Wringe ran onto a Swanson pass to lob Muir for a third.

Dean Cummings made it 4-1 just 90 seconds into the second half.

Veteran striker Stuart Noble threw his team a lifeline just seven minutes later with a clinical finish from inside the area.

But within a minute Swanson restored the three goal advantage from the penalty spot after Wringe was tripped inside the area.

What happened next was never in the script.

Gavin Brown found enough space on the edge of the area to rifle a shot beyond Swain and make it 5-3.

And Muir produced a couple of fantastic saves to keep Gala hanging on by their fingernails.

But, just to make things even more difficult, Darren Smith was shown his second yellow card with more than 20 minutes still to go.

Game over? Not yet!

On 85 minutes debutant Kerr Scott held off a couple of challenges to smash the ball into the far corner of the net and make it 5-4.

And with almost the last play of the match the youngster from Melrose, who was released by Selkirk earlier this month, rose at the back post to head home a corner for the equaliser.

There was still time for shell-shocked Lothian to race up the other end only for Anthony Muir to smack the post.

Just like Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, et al, Gala's players had pulled off the impossible.

But just like the depicted events from Stalag Luft III it wasn't to have a happy ending.

During the additional half hour Devlin scored his third to make it 6-5.

And Hutchison squeezed the ball beyond Muir to make sure the Saughton side would progress.

Gala FR. L Muir, L Stephen, B Miller, S Main, S Guiney (G Windram 55), D Bonnar, D Smith, G Brown ( K Scott 63), S Noble, D Brown & S Paliczka (K Ainslie 115).