Maradona 1986; Rivaldo 2002; Ronaldo 2006 – Connor Graham’s Scottish Cup antics won’t gain the same level of notoriety as the previously mentioned trio, but it still left a bitter taste to Gala Fairydean Rovers’ exit, writes Kenny Paterson.
The Gretna 2008 winger, who opened the scoring, was involved in an altercation with Gala’s Daryl Devlin after half an hour which saw Graham dramatically fall to the floor holding his face.
While Devlin was stupid to push his opponent, the ex-Edinburgh City player deserved a booking rather than the red handed out by referee Craig Napier. By this time, Graham had made a dramatic recovery and was punching the air in delight, to the anger of the Gala support.
Gala boss Stevie Noble called Graham’s performance “blatant cheating” while Gretna manager Stuart Rome said he never saw the incident, but either way it appeared to put Gala on the verge of defeat.
But a brave second half showing meant Gala were edged out by the narrowest of margins as Gretna 2008 enjoyed victory in their first Scottish Cup tie.
The visitors, missing four players in Sean Paliczka, Lee Stephen, Ross Aitchison and Darran Thomson, took a surprise lead on the quarter-hour mark as Devlin scrambled the ball in after Gretna stopper James Greenall failed to hold Craig McBride’s header.
Gretna drew level with 27 minutes gone as Gala failed to clear the ball and Ian Anderson set up Graham for a decent finish past John Dodds.
Devlin then saw red, but the Braw Lads held firm for the remainder of the first half and continued to frustrate their hosts at the start of the second.
The industrious Jamie Gibson went close to grabbing Gala the lead again, but his low free kick struck Gretna’s post and spun across the front of the goal.
As the game edged into the final quarter, Gala’s depleted side finally began to tire and with 10 minutes to go, David Rea’s superb header left Dodds helpless.
Going behind for the first time sparked a reaction from Gala, and it appeared Noble’s men had clinched a replay when McBride powered a header towards the corner of the net one minute from time, only for Greenall to fly to his right and palm the ball to safety.
Noble said: “I can’t fault our guys’ efforts – every one of them gave everything and we created the better chances despite being a man down.”