A second-half Jamie Gibson brace helped Gala Fairydean Rovers complete an unlikely comeback against Edinburgh University.
Early strikes from Ross Patterson and Fraser Thomson had put Uni in a commanding position, but David Bonner pulled one back before Gibson’s double won it at the death for the Borders side.
Uni boss Dorian Ogunro had no complaints with the final result. “First half was good, second half awful. We deserved to get beat,” he said. “Even if we hadn’t scored again and had just played at about 75 per cent of the level we did in the first half then we probably win the game. When you are 2-0 up at half-time at this level, you should win the game.”
The students wasted no time in establishing an advantage, opening the scoring after five minutes. Some lovely interplay between Dan Ward and George Nikolaidis allowed the former to release Patterson on the left, who took the ball in the his stride before slotting past Gala keeper Stephen King.
Things were looking even better for the hosts just two minutes later. Jack Guthrie brought Fraser Thomson into play on the right and the right-back strode forward before unleashing a stinging effort into the top corner at King’s near post.
It should have been three and very nearly game over after just 11 minutes. Patterson’s inswinging free kick was met by Ward with no Gala defender near him, but the midfielder volleyed over from eight yards.
Uni continued to pass an attack at a high tempo and looked like scoring just about every time they went forward. Guthrie’s pace in particular was causing Gala problems and the striker shot narrowly wide after getting the break of the ball on 26 minutes. He went close again just after the half-hour, outpacing the visitors’ back line before screwing his shot across goal.
It was something of a relief for Rovers to get in at half-time only two down and there had been little evidence to suggest what happened after the break was possible.
Bonner started the comeback on 52 minutes, tapping in after Sean Paliczka’s long-range effort was spilled by Scott Hainey.
The Netherdale side grew in belief and confidence after that and a second goal seemed inevitable. It came from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining. Gibson knocked the ball past the grounded Aitken before colliding with the defender and going over. He then picked himself up to send Hainey the wrong way and square things.
The home side were hanging on as Gala increased the pressure in the closing stages and it finally told in stoppage time.
The Uni defence failed to deal with a corner that Hainey flapped at and Gibson threw himself at the ball, bundling it over the line along with the keeper to complete a dramatic turnaround.
Uni have now lost four on the bounce and Ogunro did not spare his players when analysing how his team had contrived to throw away their lead after an impressive first half.
“At the moment we’re just not good enough at this level, that’s a fact,” he said. “We’re halfway through so I think we have 11 or 12 league games left. When you look at where we are it’s not the fact that we’ve lost games, it’s how we’ve lost them – we’ve either been on top and not taken our chances or like today we have done and then thrown it away.
“We’re not good enough, and until we realise that and make ourselves better, we’re going to suffer every week.”
Edinburgh University: Hainey, Thomson (Aitken 64), Maelger, MacFarlane, Black, Daniels-Yeoman, Ward, Willaghan, Guthrie, Nikolaidis, Patterson (Evans 84).
Gala Fairydean Rovers: King, Stephen, Common, Miller, McBride, Robinson, Aitchison, Bonner (Lough 74), Gibson, Paliczka (Anderson 84); Langford (Noble 64)