GAVIN Malin's surname is likely to haunt embattled Elgin City for some time after the midfielder's winning goal capped a spirited Spartans fightback which saw the East of Scotland League side fight back from a goal down to set up a Scottish Cup fourth-round trip to Airdrie United..
Elgin thought they had already progressed nine days earlier after defeating Spartans 2-1, only to fall foul of a misunderstanding surrounding their own Malin. The Third Division strugglers were ordered to replay the already once-postponed match when it was discovered they had fielded ineligible goalkeeper Joe Malin.
Freshly recruited on loan from Ross County, Elgin's Malin had not been registered before the third-round tie's original date. Further controversy flared, though, when it emerged Spartans had similarly fielded ineligible Dean Hoskins in the 6 December clash.
Spartans manager Mike Lawson said: "It's another great chapter in the story of Spartans and another great moment in our Scottish Cup run – a night to savour.
"We're delighted to be through, but I suppose both teams were a bit lucky to be still be in the competition (given the use of ineligible players]. But I thought we deserved to win." City grabbed the lead after just five minutes when Kenny Wright was brought down in the box by visiting skipper Stewart Fowlie, and Steven Mackay tucked away confidently from the spot.
It was almost 2-0 in the 12th minute when Craig Campbell burst from midfield and fed a fine pass through to Ally MacDonald, whose shot was charged down by Danny O'Donnell.
Wright smacked the crossbar with a 25-yard effort midway through the half which then rebounded to safety.
But Spartans levelled after 36 minutes when Omar Kader beat the offside trap and pulled his shot wide of Ridgers and inside the post.
Kader could have made it 2-1 five minutes before the break, but blasted over the bar from just six yards.
Spartans started the second half on top and Malin blasted in a 25-yard shot which Ridgers got down well to save. Elgin were quickly on the counter, though, and in the 53rd minute Mark Nicolson powered a terrific header off the underside of the bar from a Mackay corner.
Three minutes later, Keith McLeod broke through the Elgin ranks and only a last-ditch Nicolson challenge and follow-up Ridgers save denied him a goal.
City striker Darren Shallicker thought he had given his side the lead when he bundled home from a corner, only to be ruled out for a handball.
However, it was the East of Scotland side who grabbed the lead with 18 minutes to go. When Malin burst into the box, Ridgers saved his initial shot, but the ball squirmed towards the line.
Although the goalkeeper clawed the ball partially away, Malin followed in to tap home.
Eight minutes from the end, Kadir should have made the game safe after another great run and cross by Walker, but his close-range effort was blocked on the line by Nicolson.
Nicolson saw red at the death for lashing out at an opponent to wrap up a miserable evening for Elgin and give Spartans their second league scalp of this season's competition after winning at former East of Scotland rivals Annan in the second round.
Elgin City: Ridgers; Nicolson, MacDonald (Gilbert 78), Niven, Kaczan (Kerr 46), Hind (Crooks 71), Campbell, O'Donoghue, Wright, Shallicker, Mackay. Subs not used: Ramsay, McNulty.
Spartans: Flockhart, O'Donnell, Fowlie, Archibald, Gerrard, Manson, Malin, Kadir (Devlin 85), Walker, McLeod, Henretty. Subs not used: Hair, Woods, Snodgrass, Smart.
Referee: Colin Brown