A two goal lead earned inside the first fifteen minutes seemed like a distant memory by the time the final whistle sounded at Netherdale.
A Des Sutherland inspired Gala came roaring back after a nervy start by them allowed Vale to cruise into a seemingly comfortable lead. A freak own goal by George Windram was the first part of the self-inflicted damage before they conceded a penalty which Liam McIntosh converted to put Gala two goals down after only fifteen minutes.
But rather than licking their wounds, they bit back thanks to Sutherland’s opportunism. And then a much improved second half saw them punish Vale who looked shell shocked. Sutherland grabbed his second before Stuart Noble got their noses in front and trialist Sean Pringle wrapped it up.
Vale came into this derby missing three key men in Jay Stevens, Blair Atkinson and Kevin Motion but they started confidently and only five minutes had elapsed when Windram hit his own net. Galashiels native Tommy Paterson flighted a free kick forward which was won in the air by the smallest man on the park in Brad Raiker. Amid the commotion Windram got a boot on the ball but could only send it high out of the reach of John Dodds.
The bright start continued when Sean Stewart let fly with a volley from outside the box, but the net was bulged again after fifteen minutes. Raiker had to go off after hurting his foot in a heavy challenge, and was replaced by Ross Lamb. Playing against his old club, Lamb was immediately involved when he burst into the box on the left hand side and was shoved over. McIntosh did not mess about and was nerveless in sticking his quickly taken kick away.
There looked to be no way back for Gala, especially with the way they had started the match, but the deficit was halved five minutes later. Captain Billy Miller did most of the spadework in playing a one-two with Stuart Noble and homing in on goal, only to be stopped by a brave tackle from opposing skipper James Elliot. But the ball broke to Sutherland who made no mistake.
The excitement faded slightly, although both teams plugged away looking for what would be a vital goal in the fate of this tie. Keith McLeod stung Dodds’ palms after a clever ball by Robbie Manson and Ainslie Hunter combined with McLeod before volleying wide.
Noble flicked a header wide from Darren Smith’s corner and Gala were incensed when the far side linesman flagged Adam Watson offside when he appeared to be in the clear.
Smith’s deliveries were dangerous and when Vale failed to clear a free kick the ball dropped to present Sutherland with a clear opportunity but he blasted over.
Fairydean Rovers came flying out the traps after the break, no doubt sensing what would have at one point seemed like an unlikely comeback. By the same token Vale looked shaken by the prospect of throwing away the three points.
The product of those two ingredients was an equaliser after two minutes. Elliot had been one of the top performers at the back but an error from him allowed Sutherland to coast in and bury the leveller.
Centre back partner Keith Boyes almost did the same to let in Noble but Elliot covered across well.
The visitors gradually got back into calmer waters and Stewart struck over after picking up the ball in the inside right channel and advancing forward.
Good play by Patterson and McLeod led to a shot from Lamb but it was comfortable for Dodds. He had more trouble in dealing with McIntosh’s effort which he spilled and Vale were soon ruing the big keeper’s presence when Noble put them behind.
The striker had been posing problems with his power and he zoomed on to a long clearance before sending Jamie Shiel the wrong way.
Subsitute Ross Aitchison almost made it safe shortly after when his volley from close range was blocked, with Gala feeling a hand had been used.
Things were getting desperate for Vale and Manson resorted to trying his luck from 30 yards from which he almost scored a special goal.
But with nine minutes remaining Pringle eased the ball over the line from a yard following a good stop by Shiel.
As Vale pushed on, Gala countered and Noble almost made things worse but his low drive was stopped by Shiel.
A McLeod curler was as close as it got to another comeback but it curled the wrong side of the post.
Vale: Shiel, Mercer (Lynch), Elliot, Boyes, Patterson, Stewart, Manson (O’Donnell), Hunter, McIntosh, Raiker (Lamb), McLeod. Not used: McQueen.