Cumbernauld Colts 2

Gala Fairydean Rovers 2

Graeme McIver

at Broadwood Stadium

A STUNNING late strike by Rhys Craigie was enough to give Gala a share of the spoils on a windy, wet, Friday night at Broadwood Stadium.

The home side had twice taken the lead only for Steven Noble’s side to battle back and grab a valuable Lowland League point.

Youth was to the fore in this encounter with the home side listing Under 20s player Paul Nash and 17-year-old Community Club graduate Liam Running in goal.

Meanwhile the Fairydean Rovers fielded four under 20s in their starting line-up.

The forward pairing of trialist Liam Kelly and Grant Rose are both 17 whilst Calum Riddell and goalkeeper Patrick Martin are not yet 20.

The visitors should have taken the lead on 25 minutes when persistence from Grant Rose saw him dispossess Running in the home goal.

The on-loan Berwick Rangers youngster kept his cool and squared the ball for Liam Kelly but the youngsters shot flew agonisingly over the bar.

Gala were playing well and creating chances thanks to the energy of the front pairing of Rose and Kelly and the hard work in midfield of Calum Riddle, but fell behind on 38 minutes.

Darren Smith appeared to win the ball cleanly on the edge of the Gala box but referee Ross Hardie blew for a foul.

Colts midfielder Gavan Lauchlan flung an inviting ball into the centre of the area and former Stirling Albion defender Scott Davidson was quickest to react to open the scoring.

Within a minute the visitors were level. Once again referee Hardie awarded a free-kick for what looked like a clean tackle 25 yards from the Colts goal.

Gala’s Billy Miller stepped up and hit a sweet strike into the top right hand corner leaving Running with no chance for a well-deserved equaliser.

With half time approaching there was still time for Nash to let fly from distance on on-loan Hibs youngster Patrick Martin who comfortably saved and for Darren Smith to fire an excellent corner across the face of goal where Ross Aitchison just missed out on putting Gala into the lead.

The home side started strongly after the break and re-took the lead on 54 minutes when Craig Murray fired high into the net after Martin had saved from a Nash drive.

The goal seemed to galvanise Cumbernauld Colts and Gala had to defend well to stay in the game.

The introduction of Stuart Noble gave the visitors a boost and the former Fulham striker looked like he would equalise just minutes after joining the fray.

The Gala striker latched onto a long ball over the top and attempted to chip the keeper who had advanced to the edge of his area. The young goalie managed to get a hand on the ball and prevent the goal.

With the clock ticking down it looked like Steven Noble’s side would leave Broadwood Stadium empty handed, however Rhys Craigie had the final say.

Colts defender Greg Pascazio had an opportunity to clear the ball but Craigie won possession on the edge of the area and hammered a shot high into the net much to the relief of the large travelling support.

Manager Noble said: “I thought we played very well in the first half, particularly our young guys.

"Grant and Liam are only 17 and they were up against a good Cumbernauld defence but caused them a few problems.

"In midfield we’ve had to draft in young Calum Riddle and Andy Crawford from our Amateur team because of injuries and they have done very well for us.

"Billy scored a great free-kick to equalise and I was happy with our first half display. Credit to Cumbernauld who were very good second half but we defended well after their goal, kept pushing right to the very end and got a deserved equaliser thanks to Rhys.

"It was a good point in difficult circumstances against a good side.”

Gala Fairydean Rovers: P Martin, S Guiney, S Main, R Aitchison, K Ainslie (A Crawford), B Miller, D Smith. R Craigie, G Rose, L Kelly (S Noble), C Riddell (S Paliczka).