Gala Fairydean Rovers 2

East Stirlingshire 2

David Knox

at Netherdale

IT was a day of mixed emotions at Netherdale on Saturday as Gala gave up a two-goal lead in the closing stages.

But, with half of his squad watching from the sidelines, manager Dean Shanks admitted the point was more than he’d expected pre-kick off.

A lengthy list of suspensions, injuries and non-availability left the Gala gaffer scrambling around on Friday just to field a team.

Former Berwick Rangers keeper Mark Walters answered the SOS to deputise between the sticks, and influential centre-half Ricky Miller accelerated his rehabilitation by a few weeks to pull his boots back on.

Teenager Charlie Green, who only recently turned 16, was handed his starting debut and both Phil Addison and Tommy Patterson were asked to attempt 90 minutes despite recovering from injuries.

Shanks told us: “I honestly had no idea if we were going to have enough players as we have so many out injured and suspended.

“One or two other boys are away just now as well – it’s been a major headache all week.

“I’m obviously disappointed to have conceded two goals late on as both were preventable – no team at this level should give up a two-goal lead – but I’ve got to try and look at the bigger picture.

“Rather than dwell on the negatives I’ll take a lot of positives from what I saw today.”

Despite all of the pre-match shuffling of the pack there was no shortage of confidence from Gala’s makeshift starting team.

Kieran Watson, Ruari Paton and Tommy Patterson all tested Jamie Barclay with powerful shots from outside the area.

The tenacity of Sean McKirdy and the energy of youngster Green made sure it was the home team who were in the ascendency.

And they were rewarded with a penalty – albeit fortuitous – in the 26th minute.

An innocuous through-ball looked to be heading towards the Shire keeper before taking a wicked bounce, allowing McKirdy to nip in and chest the ball before being clattered by Barclay.

Paton kept his cool to tuck away the spot kick.

Shire had created a couple of decent chances with Ross Allum being denied by Pat Scullion’s goal line clearance.

And Jamie Gallagher should have done better than head wide from a corner when unmarked at the back post.

But Gala were on top for most of the 45 minutes, and Paton thought he’d doubled the lead just after the half hour, following a terrific break from Addison and Sandy Cunningham, only to be flagged for offside.

Cunningham also drilled a low shot inches wide of the target just before the break.

Shire were vastly improved after half time with Andy Rodgers rifling an angled shot against the inside of the post in the 48th minute.

Walters also had to be lively with a couple of dangerous crosses.

But it was Gala who doubled their advantage in the 73rd minute. Addison danced his way into the area before unleashing a trademark blast beyond Barclay.

Shire, to their credit, came storming back.

And, with understandably tiring legs in the home camp, they pulled a goal back as Allum found room in the area to rifle a shot beyond Walters.

Gala had a penalty claim with four minutes remaining after Cunningham’s through ball hit the arm of a defender on the edge of the area – but the protests were waved away.

And just 90 seconds later Connor Greene headed home an equaliser at the back post.

Only a terrific save from Walters in the third minute of stoppage time prevented Paul McAfftery stealing a win for Shire.

Gala Fairydean Rovers. M Walters, R Stevenson, T Patterson, P Scullion, R Miller, K Watson, S Cunningham, S McKirdy, R Paton, C Green & P Addison.