George Graham senior knows his post-match comments are unlikely to be the last word on yesterday's proceedings at Meggetland but if his men show as much passion as he did, this result may yet prove crucial in their title bid.

"This referee obviously is just a wee bit out of his depth," he said, with reference to the incident in which replacement Craig Borthwick became the third of his players to be sent to the sin- bin, this time for what Kevin White had deemed a shoulder charge on Damien Hoyland.

"I'm actually really, really angry now, not because of the ineptitude of the official in the middle – and you can quote me on that, I don't care if I get into trouble – but just our general play. I thought we never dealt with Boroughmuir. I felt they showed a lot more spirit than us, and were a wee bit more clinical than us, and we never got any clean ball. But then again, it comes back to the man in the middle refereeing them."

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Setting aside White's overall officiating of the game it was a tough decision. Borthwick, who had made a magnificent tackle on the same player a few moments earlier, reacting instinctively in broken play to bring about a collision that was certainly spectacular, as the winger's head whiplashed backwards.

It presented Harry Leonard, the Edinburgh professional, with a second chance to win the match for the home team but, to the relief of Graham and all in maroon, he pulled wide what was the last kick of the match, having previously hit the post with his attempt to convert Kian Coertze's 68th-minute try.

Respective league positions had suggested this would be a routine affair as Gala sought to maintain the pressure on leaders Ayr but, as Graham acknowledged, the opening half-hour suggested that Boroughmuir's new year resolve was much improved, and they led at the end of that period through Leonard's early penalty strike.

They were well placed to improve on that, too, Bryce Turner having been sin-binned on 24 minutes when he felt forced to push the ball directly into touch at a close-to-the-line ruck to deny Boroughmuir a further scoring opportunity.

However, in his absence the 14 men first held out, then gradually worked their way upfield to let Lee Miller open their account with his first penalty attempt and his second, just before the interval, nudged the title contenders ahead for the first time.

Two more strikes after the break seemed to have put Gala on their way to a comfortable win but they proved just enough as the late drama unfolded.