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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Stephen Frail <-auth Mike Aitken auth-> John Underhill
Glen Gary [G Skelton 93]
1 of 010 ----- L SPL A

Skelton ensures beleaguered Gretna bow out on a high

Mike Aitken
IF THERE'S been a more doleful fixture in the short history of the SPL than this melancholy match then the organisers would have needed to give away complimentary packets of tissues at the turnstiles. As Gretna brushed away the tears and raised a few cheers after completing what was expected to be their final game in senior football, Hearts also brought the curtain down last night on their worst league campaign in a decade.
Gretna wanted to go out on a positive note and at least achieved that target thanks to a splendid goal in time added on for injury from their longest serving player, Gavin Skelton. Gathering the ball inside the penalty box, the midfield player thrashed a left-foot shot past Steve Banks into the roof of the net. It was a spectacular way to go out.

To their credit, the Hearts' followers joined the home side's support in applauding Gretna's players as they left the field for the last time in the SPL.The victory came against the run of play since Gretna fell out of contention in the second half against a Hearts side which played with far more energy after Gary Glen was sent off.

Unless a buyer for Gretna be found by Saturday, then the club will go out of business. According to caretaker manager Mick Wadsworth, there's no sign of a white knight riding to the rescue. "We are staring down the barrel," he said. Player contracts will either expire later this week or be terminated.

As for Hearts, on the evidence of this display, where they go next is anyone's guess. The faithful few in the crowd of 1,090 who watched such a hollow performance can only keep their fingers crossed better times lie ahead for the Gorgie club. Just over two years since these rivals contested the Scottish Cup final at Hampden in front of more than 51,000 spectators, the changing fortunes of the clubs were reflected in a turn-out so sparse the match could almost have taken place behind closed doors. Those who did make the effort were all accommodated in the main stand.

Only Devidas Cesnauskis of the side which brought the Cup back to Tynecastle was still involved with Hearts, while Skelton was Gretna's sole survivor.

On a bare, bumpy pitch, the standard of football was never likely to be free-flowing and the early stages of the contest were episodic. This was more of a concern for Gretna, who were more coherent going forward than a Hearts side which relied on long balls to their young strikers, Glen and Jamie Mole.

After Nicky Deverdics screwed a shot wide from a promising position six yards out from the near post, Brendan McGill squandered a decent opportunity to put the home side in front. Hearts were just as likely to struggle with the quirky bounces and a howler from Christos Karipidis presented Deverdics with a clear look at goal. His diagonal shot scraped wide of a post. There were occasional flashes of aggression from the visitors but no passages of sustained control.

Perhaps the nearest thing to emotion from Hearts in the first-half came when Glen reacted angrily to a challenge from Craig Barr. The 18-year-old displayed the misjudgement of youth as he back-heeled a retaliatory kick at the Gretna player's chest. Referee John Underhill immediately brandished a red card.

Although Hearts were livelier with ten men than a full complement, Gretna were unfortunate not to go in front when McGill's cross was headed firmly by Deverdics. Banks couldn't hold the ball and Griffiths, who was deemed offside, bundled the ball over the line.

Since Glen's dismissal, Hearts had asked Mole to play up on his own with support from Kingston and Cesnauskis. It was reasonably effective because Stevie Frail's men had more of the game. But, although they were outplayed for most of the second half, it was Gretna who got the big finish they wanted when Skelton sent them out on a winning note.

Gretna: Fleming (Krysiak 64), Barr, Griffiths, Hall, Naughton, McGill, Osman, Meynell, Skelton, Deverdics, Hogg (Taylor 84). Subs not used: Murray, Fisher, Robinson, Sharples, Schultz-Eklund.

Hearts: Banks, Thomson, Karipidis, Zaliukas (McGowan 73), Wallace, Screpis (Palazuelos 70), Kingston, Stewart, Cesnauskis (Ivaskevicius 70), Mole, Glen. Subs not used: Ridgers, Goncalves, Rapnik, Husband.

Taken from the Scotsman

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