Saturday’s Opponents – Gala Fairydean Rovers

Shire travel to Netherdale for the first time in almost 30 years on Saturday for a Lowland League match against Gala Fairydean Rovers (kick-off 3:00pm).

The last visit in the 1987/88 Scottish Cup ended in a 5-3 Shire victory over the then-East of Scotland League Gala Fairydean in a season the club reached the last 16 of the competition.

Since then the Galashiels club become founder members of the Lowland League and effectively became a new side after merging with the amateur Gala Rovers.

In that first Lowland League season Gala finished tenth out of twelve, but in 2014/15 they improved to eighth out of fourteen competing teams although last term they had to settle for eleventh from fifteen.

In the current season their season has mirrored Shire’s somewhat in that they prefer home comforts to their travels. They are unbeaten in their last five league games at Netherdale but have only claimed one point in their last six Lowland League away fixtures.

However, their home scalps include Vale of Leithen, who they beat 4-2 in their last home fixture, and Spartans who also went home with no points at the start of November.

Rovers’ home exploits have also included a tidy victory over one the the top sides in the Highland League. Fraserburgh travelled to Netherdale in round one but were beaten 3-1 by a Gala side who were then rewarded with a trip to League 2 Elgin City.

With that kind of record, even though Rovers sit fourth to bottom, Shire will know they will face a tough game against a set of opponents who know how to win on their own patch.

They certainly do not lack experience in their ranks either. Shire fans and players will be familiar with a number of the players in the opposition ranks this weekend.

In recent weeks they have lined up front with Stuart Noble and Sean Paliczka, both in the latter stages of their careers but who have played at a very high standard of league football – Noble with St. Johnstone, Airdrie, Alloa and Berwick Rangers and Paliczka with East Fife.

Former Hibernian man Darren Smith had a number of years at Airdrie and Berwick before joining top junior side Bonnyrigg Rose.

Goalie Jamie Newman was with Shire in 2008/09 as a youngster and was thrown in at the deep end when an injury crisis forced head coach Jim McInally to give him his Shire debut in a Scottish Cup game against Dundee United at Ochilview.

Manager Steven Noble has also taken advantage of the development loan system and has taken some youngsters from SPFL clubs too.

It certainly won’t be an easy ask for Shire and the club is appealing to fans to travel in numbers to help the team maintain its good recent run of form.