Gretna 2

Gala Fairydean Rovers 4

Rob Fairburn

at Raydale Park

A SEASON which started with five consecutive league defeats ended on a high note for Gala Fairydean Rovers at Gretna's Raydale Park.

The 4-2 victory enabled the Braw Lads to finish in a very respectable eighth position in the highly-competitive Lowland League.

Despite being on top for most of the match, the three points were only guaranteed with a last minute free kick from top scorer Ruari Paton.

Gala were cruising until shortly after the hour mark when skipper Darren Smith reacted after being bundled into the perimeter wall by his opponent and was shown a red card.

Being reduced to 10 men in the sweltering heat took its toll on the visitors as they were forced to defend deeply.

But they still looked a threat with Paton and Phil Addison menacing up front.

However, Gala also had goalkeeper Paddy Martin - on loan from Hibernian - to thank for a string of fine saves after the sending off.

Gala raced into the lead with only two minutes on the clock with Addison's cut back picking out Tommy Patterson who cut onto his right foot before slotting the ball into the corner of the net.

In 11 minutes, Gretna could only clear a corner to the edge of the box where Addison was lurking and he unleashed a tremendous shot into the roof of the net.

Inexplicably Gala let the home side straight back into the game almost immediately when Ricky Miller tripped Gretna captain Kevin Connolly in the box and Ashley Kelly netted the penalty.

Gala should have restored their two goal advantage on the half hour mark when Addison's cross was rammed against the bar by Paton from close range.

However the visitors eventually made it 3-1 in 52 minutes when Scott-Taylor MacKenzie curled a glorious free kick past the stranded Gretna keeper Alistair Ferguson.

Ferguson produced a fine save to stop a thunderbolt from Paton and Patterson was inches away from getting his second but could not get on the end of Addison's cross.

But Gala's dominance ended with the sending off of Smith and they were made to work work in the hot conditions for the final half hour.

With Miller and Pat Scullion dominant in the centre of defence, Gala looked comfortable but also had the re-assuring hands of Martin to rely on.

But even he was helpless four minutes from time when he was beaten by a bullet header from Daniel Smales.

However it was Gala who had the last word when Paton - also on loan from Hibs - fired home a free kick in the final minute to make it 4-2 and record his 17th goal of the season.