Gala Fairydean Rovers 3  Selkirk 1


BILLY Miller capped a memorable return to Gala’s ranks with a timely third goal in a thrilling New Year’s derby at Netherdale.

The vice-captain had been sidelined for most of the season with injury.

But a spirited performance in the middle of a solid Fairydean Rovers midfield and a stunning late goal earned Miller the man-of-the-match plaudits.

Gala manager Steven Noble said: “I thought Billy was magnificent. It has been a hard season for him with all the injuries but it was like he’d never been away today.

“As a team we’ve not been at our best of late but we were excellent today, especially in the first half.”

Selkirk arrived at Netherdale without a string of their better-known players, including captain Conan McDiarmid, his regular defensive partner Scott Ritchie, and former Dundee United ace David Robertson.

With Ross Gray having also departed for Spartans, Garry O’Connor, who was also out due to a groin injury, was forced into fielding a young team to face the neighbours.

Gala were also without the experienced duo of Daryl Burdett and Ross Aitchison, but the return of Miller was a timely boost for manager Noble.

It was the Fairydean Rovers who settled into the frantic derby the quickest with Ross Lamb, David Bonnar, Dean McColm and Miller gaining the upper hand across midfield.

Jamie Gibson’s pace down the left flank appeared to the home team’s best early option - twice firing over after surges from wide.

The captain’s squared cross on 15 minutes almost led to the opener but Stuart Noble poked the ball inches wide from 12 yards.

The pressure paid off on 18 minutes as McColm’s deep freekick was headed back across the area and Gibson did well to control the ball on his chest before volleying past an outstretched Jamie Newman.

It brought jubilation from the majority of the 340-crowd.

Miller almost added an unlikely second just a minute later as his swirling cross landed on the bar.

Selkirk looked dangerous enough on the break with Jamie Butler showing imaginative touches and Jack Hay chasing down every loose ball.

Mark Wilson was forced into a couple of saves by the strike partners as the half wore on.

But it was Newman who was by far the busiest.

Taylor Hope rattled the bar with a 25-yard thunderbolt of a shot approaching the half hour, and Noble shot a foot wide of the target.

Scott Main did make a vital clearance at the front post to prevent Hay sneaking in an equaliser, and Phil Addison was denied by an excellent save from Wilson as the visitors looked for an unlikely equaliser before the interval.

But it was the hosts who were to stretch their advantage before the teams could enjoy their 15 minute break. Murray Christie failed to cut out a long ball and Noble took full advantage by side-stepping past Jamie Pyper to rattle home a powerful low shot.

O’Connor needed a response in the second half – and he got one.

Leith McKenzie and Connor Handren began to win a few of the midfield duels and suddenly Selkirk were on top.

The closing down and new-found energy was rewarded with a fantastic goal on 54 minutes.

Hay weaved his way through two challenges to draw a third tackle before stabbing the ball into the path of an unmarked Addison for the simplest of finishes.

Hay almost equalised on 70 minutes as he again sped past three defenders, only this time he poked the ball inches wide of the post.

Just two minutes later Addison’s cross was headed past his own post by McColm as the Yarrow Park club sensed an equaliser amidst the rain and gloom.

But up stepped Miller.

The midfielder had understandably looked like he was tiring as the half wore on, but he produced a telling pass on 82 minutes for Noble to dart towards the byline.

Miller’s continued charge into the area was picked out by the striker and the returning hero capped a memorable match by firing home from 15 yards.

Selkirk never gave up and they should have pulled a goal back on 89 minutes as Hay, again, did exceptionally well to draw defenders and square to the unmarked Butler but he completely miskicked with the goal at his mercy.

Despite still searching for his first win as manager Garry O’Connor remained upbeat at the final whistle. He said: “I’m proud of the boys for that second half.

“We needed that second goal when we were on top but it didn’t happen.

“We had a depleted squad today for a big game and it’s a hard one to take when the players put so much into the match.”

Gala FR. M Wilson, L Stephen, T Hope, S Main, C Galbraith, B Miller (T Aitchison 86), D McColm, D Bonnar, S Noble, J Gibson & R Lamb.

Selkirk. J Newman, J Pyper, M Christie, M Collin, J Easton, J Hay, J Butler, L McKenzie, P Addison, C Handren & J Harley.