Vale of Leithen 5-1 Gala Fairydean Rovers

By David Knox 
at Victoria Park

VALE produced one of their best performances of the season on Saturday to drag rivals Gala Fairydean Rovers into the relegation dog-fight.

A disappointing first half of the campaign, which has been plagued by a lengthy injury list, has seen Chris Anderson’s team stuck in the bottom two or three.

But on this latest showing, and with Vale now back to full-strength, the onus of avoiding a bottom two finish would seem to now be with their neighbours from Galashiels.

The only surprising outcome of Saturday’s derby was that Vale didn’t bang in a few more goals during an hour-long demolition.

Victoria Park manager Anderson said: “The players deserve credit as it was a really good team performance.

“We’ve not had a good start to the season but we’ve added to the squad and I now believe we have a squad capable of competing with anyone in the league.

“We’re not out of the woods yet but I’m confident we will climb away from any danger in the weeks and months ahead.”

Gala keeper Lewis Muir was forced into a good save to deny Andy Martin as Vale started the derby on the front foot.

But, against the early run of play, it was the visitors who hit the net first.
Billy Miller collected a loose ball on 13 minutes before unleashing a spectacular 25-yard curling effort into the far corner of the net.

The goal did lift the Fairydean Rovers who enjoyed a spell of possession and pressure.

But, without talisman striker Stuart Noble and having lost out in the midweek bidding war to land the highly-rated Josh Morris, Gala didn’t carry much threat in front of goal. And it was the away goal where the vast majority of chances were being created.

Sean Stewart pulled a shot inches wide of the target on 20 minutes after being threaded through by Kerr Allan.

But just after the half hour the ever-dangerous Stewart made amends by firing a low shot beneath Muir and off the goal-line defenders for the equaliser.

Vale could have had the game out of sight by the break as Darren Smith and Fraser Neave both made goal-line clearances and Muir made another fantastic save before Stewart eventually made it 2-1 after reacting first to smash Jack Blaikie’s low free kick high into the net.

Stewart went from scorer to provider just three minutes after the interval. The 22-year-old’s cut back was fired into the net, at the third attempt, by Lyle Smith.

Muir kept the Fairydean Rovers in the game with some eye-catching saves, but he was beaten again on the hour.

Stewart’s pace again opened up the visiting defence allowing Cameron Dawson to fire in a fourth from close range.

Vale’s fifth was almost a carbon copy of the fourth with Stewart gliding through the gaps to cut back for the unmarked Dawson to hit the net.

Apart from a Smith shot from 25 yards that Gilpin gathered, Gala didn’t trouble the home goal in the second half. Fairydean Rovers assistant manager Garry Fraser told us: “We did okay for the first half hour but once they scored our heads went down.

“We struggled to cope with Sean Stewart throughout the match and we didn’t learn any lessons as he was given far too much space time and time again.

“We have a lot to work on ahead of our next game.”

Vale of Leithen: R Gilpin, S Alexander, A Smith, S Lynch, J Blaikie, A Hunter (C McBride 76), S Stewart, K Allan, C Dawson, A Martin (J Scott-Mercer 76) & L Smith (T Patterson 67).

Gala FR: L Muir, G Windram (C Riddell 67), S Main, S Guiney, K Ainslie, D Smith, R Craigie, B Miller, G Rose, F Neave (A Crawford 62) & R Aitchison.