THERE were no cameras present, just common decency.

Few were there at Dudgeon Park to catch the moment but one small gesture said everything you need to know about Stuart Kettlewell, the former Queen's Park, Clyde and Ross County midfielder. Long after the dust had settled on Brora's triumphant shoot-out victory, a player who grafted tirelessly for everything he achieved in the game, from amateur status to a Scottish Cup final and SPL football, was consoling a young Edinburgh City counterpart crumpled in dejection below the main stand. Kettlewell, still only 30, might understandably have been too caught up in his own concerns to pay the tearful kid a second glance.

Putting body on the line precariously, he had just performed for 120 minutes on a fragile hip that has him walking with a visible limp and sends agonising pain shooting through his very being. He is a footballer who desperately needs long weeks of summer rest and recuperation to be certain, even, of continuing his part-time career. This is no hyperbole. Kettlewell, currently in renewed rehab on the injury that ended his time at County, has been told by specialists he is one small step away from requiring a hip replacement operation.

For a young husband and father, now working as Ross County's under 20s coach, that is a galling prospect; yet, there he was on Saturday, playing his part valiantly for a team who, some would have it, were disinterested enough to 'throw' the play-offs. With the Highland League champions' tight squad ravaged by unavoidable absences, Kettlewell raised his hand during the week and told manager David Kirkwood he would willingly play his part.

Brora's desire and integrity can no longer be questioned, but it was as much the impressive togetherness and will of Edinburgh City that shone as Brora's amid the honest endeavour. Asked about the young opponent he comforted, Kettlewell - who netted the decisive spot-kick - said: "I like to think I've gathered a wee bit of experience in the game and it is not nice to see a boy hurting like that.

"Their boys did fantastically well over the two legs and, do you know what? They will dust themselves down and go again next season.

"It was a great achievement for them winning their own league and you see how much it means to them.

"It is never nice to see a lad upset like that but it says a lot about him as a person and how far he can go with a desire and attitude like that.

"I like to think when I was younger, older and more experienced players would have given me the same wee pat on the back and a word of advice."

Brora, missing the towering defensive presence of former Inverness Caledonian Thistle captain Grant Munro, were weakened through their spine. Zander Sutherland, an attacker who has netted over 20 goals this season, was also absent while fellow former Thistle team-mate Dale Gillespie was sorely missed in the heart of midfield.

On top of that and the tension of the occasion, a bumpy pitch made decent football impossible while a blustery gale from the north played havoc on high balls and passing.

After a 1-1 draw in the capital, Edinburgh City stole an early advantage in a dominant first half with Ross Allum striking home an angled, 12-yard finish off the inside post after just four minutes. City would pay for several missed chances, with the hosts levelling the tie after 63 minutes after the otherwise excellent Joe Mbu clumsily head-flicked a defensive pass over his own goalkeeper for Scott Graham to tap home.

City's Chris McKee received a second booking almost on full-time, but there was little more than tension to absorb in a Brora-dominated extra 30 minutes before the dreaded penalties beckoned and Kettlewell set the seal on a 4-2 shoot-out victory.

The experienced midfielder, who performed as makeshift right back on the day, said: "I've still got a bit of pain in my hip. I feel like I'm constantly banging on about it, but it's the truth - I struggled. You could probably see that.

"We were down to the bare bones, so it was a case of getting the sleeves rolled up and doing a job for the team.

"This club has been great for me, so I was determined to play my part and, fortunately enough, we've been able to do it and advance to the next round.

"When I go back and see the physio at Ross County, he will not be too happy I've played 120 minutes, but I'll have the full pre-season to work on my fitness and get back to 100 per cent."

Asked if Brora could silence the scathing critics of their board's anti-play-off stance in the final against Montrose, Kettlewell said: "I think we've probably done that today and last week, if truth be told.

"It was suggested we would maybe throw the game but you can see there today how much it means to the boys. Listen, there are top professionals in there - top guys - and their attitude shone today."

City manager Gary Jardine spoke of his team's hurt in the aftermath. He said: "It is gut-wrenching, it really is. We have aspirations to play at a higher level one day. It really is our dream.

"Nobody gives my boys a chance. With the background they come from, they have to earn everything they get in life.

"You saw today how desperate they were. Rather than being proud of them as players, I'm proud of them as people. They were wonderful for each other today, the effort they gave.

"It's a tragic moment for us to lose on penalties. I've nothing to say about the lads who missed the penalty kicks. All of them are proud of each other.

"They fight their cause and have done all season. Our dreams are shattered today but it will give us more motivation to try again."

Brora Rangers - Malin 7; Kettlewell 6, Houston 6, McKeown 6, Macdonald 7; Martin Maclean 6, Graham 7, Morrison 6, Greig 7; Mackay 7, C. Maclean 5 (Richardson 57 6). Subs: Michael Maclean, Porritt, Allan, Martin. Booked: McKeown 71, Morrison 120.

Edinburgh City - Stobie 6; Harrison 7, Mbu 7, McKee 7, James 7; Caddow 6, Gair 5 (McConnell 65 4), Dunn 8, McFarland; Allum 7 (Denira 109 3), Gibson 7 (MacDonald 81 3). Subs: Vanson, Paterson, Donaldson, Deniron, Mackintosh. Booked: McKee 70, Dunn 83, MacDonald 86 Red McKee 9. Referee: Mike Roncone 5

Man of the match: John Dunn (Edinburgh City) A talented prospect who showed skill and stealth in the rough conditions.