Vale of Leithen1
You would always rather talk about a football game in terms of describing great play and spectacular goals, rather than refereeing decisions, writes Dave Ryce.
But it’s inescapable that the outcome of this game hinged on a couple of big decisions by official Paul Reid.
There wasn’t much to choose between the sides and on another day this Image Printers Cup tie would have gone all the way to a penalty shoot-out.
But for Vale, being reduced to 10 men after half an hour, and having a penalty awarded against them that you could certainly file under ‘controversial’, ultimately lost it for them.
Vale did make the best of starts, though, catching the visiting defence cold with their first attack of the game and Jason Stevens knocking home at the far post following a surge through the Gretna defence.
The action continued at breakneck pace, with Vale threatening to add to their lead. A Shaun Stevens cross found the head of James Elliot, but the header flew narrowly wide. An almost identical move two minutes later saw Alan Flanagan find Shaun Stevens who, with almost the entire goal to aim at, headed wide again.
Shortly afterwards, Flanagan and Greig Thorburn got into a bit of a tangle as the latter attempted to shield the ball out of play on the Gretna byline, and a bit of afters saw Flanagan shown a straight red card by Mr Reid.
Gretna then drew level in the 38th minute as Ian Anderson slammed the ball home from a corner.
Jason Stevens had a great chance to put Vale back in the lead at the start of the second half, but keeper Craig Murray did superbly well to block the powerful shot with his legs before gathering Stevens’ follow-up effort as well.
What proved to be the winner came in the 66th minute. A corner into a packed penalty area saw the usual jostling and Vale’s Ainslie Hunter penalised for holding an opponent. It was hardly the most clear-cut of decisions and Anderson found the corner of the net from the spot.
Gretna looked likely to add more, their nearest miss coming when Alan Inglis headed a free kick against the bar.
Inglis saw action at the other end as he headed a Shaun Stevens effort off the line during an injury-time assault on the Gretna goal, but it was the visitors who advanced to the semi-finals.