Gala Fairydean Rovers 1

Selkirk 2

David Knox at Netherdale

IT was a derby in which several players had to climb out of their sick beds to take part.

And a few others were forced, perhaps a little too quickly, back into action from their injury recoveries.

But both Gala Fairydean Rovers and Selkirk still served up a classic encounter to kick off 2018.

The crowd of just under 400 were treated to 90 minutes of unrelenting action.

And it was the visiting contingent in the packed stand who were celebrating at the final whistle after Dale Baxter’s late strike secured the points for Selkirk.

Selkirk assistant manager David Bingham said: “We didn’t play nearly as well as we can – I thought Gala outplayed us at times and they can count themselves unlucky to have lost.

“But I thought our response after equalising was excellent.

“Towards the end of the game there looked like only one team who would win although it still took a great strike from Dale.”

Kieran Ainslie’s 16th minute header for Gala was cancelled out just after the hour by David Banjo’s low shot, allowing Baxter to grab the victory in the final minute.

But the goals were only part of this pulsating clash with both keepers making world-class saves, both teams forced into goal line clearances and the woodwork being hit at either end.

Gala boss Steven Noble told us: “On another day we could have been three or more up by the time Selkirk scored and we could have had the game out of sight.

“I can’t fault my players as I thought they played well and were in control – it was just the finishing that let us down.

“Credit to Selkirk for the way they came back and the boy’s shot was unstoppable at the end.

“Selkirk have a lot of dangerous players and they punished us.”

It was Selkirk who almost went in front after only six minutes as George Hunter flicked Daryl Healy’s cross against the post.

But Gala looked good on the counter with Adam Watson, Fraser Neave, Craig Heugh and Marc Berry breaking with pace at every opportunity.

Neave twice fired wide of target and Selkirk’s defence was forced into several desperate clearances during the opening quarter hour.

But the visitors still went close again to breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute as Callum Helm rifled a volley inches past the upright from the edge of the area.

Gala’s goal arrived just a minute later as a deep corner reached Neave, who dinked the ball back across goal for Kieran Ainslie to nod home at the near post.

Sean McKirdy scrambled a Ross Aitchison header off the line just a few minutes later.

And Berry should have done better when threaded in by Stuart Noble as the Fairydean Rovers continued to exploit space in the visiting backline.

But only a magnificent save from Lewis Muir maintained the home advantage after Ciaran Chalmers slipped in Hunter to shoot from 12 yards out on the half hour.

Gregor Amos also made an excellent block at the other end to deny Scott Main just before the interval.

Both teams had been forced into reshuffles during the first half with injuries to Lee Stephen and McKirdy.

But the action didn’t relent in the slightest after half time.

Muir made another fine save to keep Healy’s shot out just two minutes after the restart.

And Gala had several great chances to go further in front with Ainslie heading just over and Noble smacking the bar with a ferocious angled drive.

Several swinging crosses were narrowly missed and a couple of half chances deflected just wide as Selkirk’s goal led a charmed ten minutes.

Whether the home team’s ailments throughout the week – four players had been floored with a sickness bug – was a factor in Selkirk’s strong finish is up for debate, but after David Banjo’s equaliser on 65 minutes there only looked like one winner.

Just six minutes later Phil Addison’s shot was blocked in front of goal by Aitchison and a Helm freekick was brilliantly finger-tipped round the post by Muir.

The pressure on the home goal continued with Addison threading in Healy only for Muir to produce yet another top-class save.

But there was little the keeper could do in 89th minute as Baxter weaved into the area to unleash a powerful shot high into the net.

Selkirk assistant Bingham added: “Dale has struggled with injury since signing this season and hasn’t had a starting run in the team, but his strike rate is phenomenal and none of his goals are ever tap ins.

“We all know what he’s capable of and I’m pleased he delivered today.”

Gala Fairydean Rovers. L Muir, L Stephen (R Craigie 26), S Main, R Aitchison, K Ainslie, B Miller, A Watson, C Heugh, S Noble, F Neave & M Berry (G Rose 81).

Selkirk. G Amos, R Donaldson, M Christie, G Hunter (D Baxter 55), D Healy, C Chalmers, P Addison, D Banjo, C Helm, S McKirdy (R Miller 40) & R King