Spartans applauded after gifting goal to Gretna 2008 in Lowland League game

Spartans will struggle to hit a more controversial goal all season, and Gretna 2008 won’t register an easier one than scored in Saturday’s Lowland League fixture.

The ball is clearly out of play before bouncing back onto the field and converted by Blair Henderson for the opening goal. (Picture: Mark Brown / Spartans FC)
The ball is clearly out of play before bouncing back onto the field and converted by Blair Henderson for the opening goal. (Picture: Mark Brown / Spartans FC)

Dougie Samuel’s side moved third in the table with a 4-1 win – however the hosts sacrificed a clean sheet in an act of sportsmanship following a controversial 'phantom’ opener scored by Blair Henderson.

Gretna were granted free passage to Jack Newman’s goal in the 31st minute after Spartans had been awarded the first of the match - despite pictures showing the ball had gone out of play.

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Henderson’s header crossed the by-line and struck the wheel of the portable goals before bouncing back into play, and the follow-up was rifled into the net by the former Edinburgh City striker. The officials though, missed the ricochet and believed the ball had stayed in play via the post and awarded the goal.

After reviewing the incident – and pictures proving the goal should not have stood – Samuel and his coaching staff agreed the goal difference should be restored by allowing an equaliser unopposed.

While controversial, the incident didn’t have a material outcome on the match result at Raydale Park, with Henderson going on to complete a hat-trick in addition to another strike from Jamie Dishington, but it has brought praise from around the football community for the Edinburgh side’s sporting behaviour.

Gretna's neighbours Annan Athletic tweeted: “Take a bow SpartansFC” while @DaveScott1977 added: “Absolutely outstanding from @Spartansfc after officials got decision on first goal wrong. Class acts.”

Spartans didn’t have to look far for inspiration for their sporting generosity either. Former Scotland international Stevie Crawford was once the recipient of a walk-in goal while playing for Plymouth Argyle.

Spartans boss Dougie Samuel. Picture: Michael Gillen

In a 2004 Carling Cup tie, the striker, most recently assisting Gary Naysmith at Ainslie Park ground-sharers Edinburgh City, was allowed a walk-in goal against Yeovil following a mix-up playing the ball back from an injury stoppage. However, it didn’t matter much as, like in Spartans case, the beneficiaries went on to lose.

Leeds United were another and even passed up automatic promotion to the English Premier League in 2019 when boss Marcelo Bielsa told them to allow Aston Villa to score unopposed after the Yorkshire club had scored while an opposing player was down injured.

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