Elgin City assistant Keith Gibson says defender Stephen Bronsky was distraught and inconsolable after his robust challenge caused a Cowdenbeath opponent to suffer a horrific injury.
The Fifers were furious after Bronsky’s tackle left Ross Clarke with a badly broken leg that shocked physios at the game.
Feelings ran high after the 5-2 victory for City, with Beath manager Gary Bollan leaving the ground without speaking to the media to check on his player at nearby Dr Gray’s Hospital.
Gibson insisted the challenge, while a hard tackle, was not malicious.
Bronsky himself suffered a broken leg against Ross County in July 2018.
The distressing incident overshadowed a fine win for City as they stayed second in the League Two race, four points behind Queen’s Park.
Gibson said: “I’m really gutted for the lad Clarke.
“I think it’s a challenge Stephen has got to make and it was strong, but fair, I believe.
“He has won the ball, but it was his trailing leg that catches the lad. It is a challenge we would expect him to make, a hard challenge, but it’s really unfortunate what happened.
“We will keep in touch with Cowdenbeath to see how he is, but it’s clearly something that no one wished to see.
“It got a bit heated after that, but you can understand why Cowdenbeath are feeling like that.
“Stephen is absolutely gutted. We’ve tried to console him as much as we could, but he’s been through it as well when he had his leg broken against Ross County.
“He’s a wholehearted player and not a dirty player.”
Some 220 City fans, allowed back into Borough Briggs for the first time since March, witnessed a fine victory inspired by Kane Hester’s hat-trick.
Gibson added: “Having the fans there gave us a massive lift. Just coming out to warm up and seeing them all there, we got a bit of an ovation. It was great.
“I’m sure they will be happy with the performance we put on today. It really gave us a huge boost going into the game.
“The club has worked so hard to get that in place, so credit to the board and the staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the last few days to make it happen.”
In a bad-tempered match, it was end-to-end stuff in the first half, with City taking the lead after 26 minutes with a towering header from Aiden Sopel smacking in off the post.
The second came seven minutes before the break with a Matthew Cooper cross from the right poorly cleared, before Hester pounced with an angled volley.
Beath pulled one back 10 minutes after the restart when Kyle Miller’s 30 yard free-kick was misjudged by keeper Tom McHale and spun over the line.
City restored their cushion when Hester burst clear through the middle to score at the second attempt on 63 minutes.
It was game over on 77 minutes as Hester completed his hat-trick with a close-range effort to punish poor defending.
The sickening injury to Clarke came with just nine minutes remaining, delaying the match by five or six minutes. No foul was given by referee Gavin Ross.
In stoppage time Cowdenbeath pulled one back through substitute Cian Kavanagh, but Elgin replacement Conor O’Keefe netted again for the hosts in the fifth minute of injury time to seal victory.
Hat-trick hero Hester is now confident of a high-scoring season.
He said: “It’s my first hat-trick at Borough Briggs, with my only other for Elgin coming at Brechin.
“When I score goals like that and lucky goals included, then I certainly fancy my chances of getting 20 this season.
“I was on 19 last season when the campaign stopped and I’ve got seven now, so I feel confident I can go better than I did last season.”