• Kevin Marshall

7 Up For Kelty

Kelty Hearts 7-0 Gretna 2008

Lowland league

Kelty extended their lead at the lop of the Lowland League table with a seven-goal demolition of Gretna at New Central Park. With all their closest challengers on cup duty, Kelty took full advantage of their game in hand to stretch the lead to four points over second placed Bonnyrigg Rose. Goals from Matty Flynn & Dylan Easton, added to a pair of Kallum Higginbotham penalties and another Nathan Austin hattrick, gave Barry Ferguson’s side the win in some style.

Kelty went with their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation: Darren Jamieson in the sticks, Dougie Hill and Scott Hooper in the central defence with Jamie Stevenson at right back and Paddy Boyle left. Captain Michael Tidser and Thomas Reilly pick themselves in the middle of the park and with plenty of options in the attacking third, Ferguson selected Easton on the left and Higginbotham in the centre. New loan signing from Hibs Ryan Shanley made his debut wide right with Austin up top.

Gretna shipped a total of 15 goals on two visits to New Central Park last season and went with a defensive 5-3-2 line-up of: Aaron Taylor in goal, Joseph Jackson, Darren Hynes and Daniel Harvey in central defence with Jack Patrick and Farrell O’Sullivan as the wingbacks. Ryan Muir, Robbie Ivison and Dylan Cairnie in midfield, with Evan Galasso and Shaun Rodgers up front. Gaffer Rowan Alexander’s selection difficulties were highlighted by him only naming two substitutes – Sam Muir and Colin Bell.

Jackson fouls Austin for an early penalty

Any hopes Alexander had of keeping things tight quickly evaporated when Jackson conceded a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Fash Austin with only 5 minutes on the watch. Keeper Aaron Taylor would have known his difficult afternoon was about to get a whole lot tougher and gave the big centre half an earful for the tackle. Kallum Higginbotham made no mistake from the spot to get Kelty the early lead.

Kelty doubled that lead ten minutes later, Austin again punishing some slack defending after finding himself in acres of space, slotting home number two with a typical Fash finish. Despite the lead, it wasn’t all Kelty at this stage. Gretna looked confident going forward and found themselves in good position on a couple of occasions, but the finishing just wasn’t up to scratch.

Higginbotham scored 2 from the spot

At the other end, Ryan Shanley was starting to enjoy his debut, linking up well with Stevenson, and the combination nearly setup Easton for number three but Hynes managed to block the shot. Shanley thought he’d grabbed a debut goal on 40 minutes with a tidy side-foot finish to Boyle’s cross. The goal was initially given to Shanley, but the replay showed that Austin had got the slightest of touches and so Fash claimed the credit. In any case at 3-nil, Kelty already looked home & hosed.

The half almost finished the way it had started, Jackson bringing down Austin again, but although it looked well inside the box ref Scott Lambie only gave a free kick right on the edge of the area. Easton’s free kick was almost perfect, curled round the wall, but struck the woodwork with Taylor well beaten and it stayed 3-0 at the break.

Austin's deflection denied Shanley a debut goal

The home side were well into their stride by now, and started the second half strongly, passing the ball around crisply and giving Gretna a bit of a runaround. This was Kelty at their very best – fluid controlled passing, patient possession, moving the ball around the middle of the park almost hypnotising their opposition into a mistake. Gretna barely touched the ball for a good 20 minutes, and when they did, it was only to empty it out of play in order to give themselves some respite.

Austin made it 4-nil on 65 minutes, once again finishing off another slick Kelty passing move. There aren’t many better one-on-one finishers at this level than Fash and when he gets in behind a defence, the outcome is virtually inevitable, a clinical finish for yet another hattrick in Kelty colours.

Yet another hattrick for Fash

Job done, Ferguson was able to make a couple of changes, Philp and Reid replacing Hill and Stevenson. Within 5 minutes, Kelty had another penalty, this time Ross Philp being fouled inside the box. Penalty duty seems to rest with Kallum Higginbotham these days and it’s not hard to see why, Higgy dispatching the second as clinically as the first to make it 5-0.

Agony for Flynn after colliding with the post

Kelty then made a couple of attacking substitutions – Higginbotham and Austin being replaced by Anderson and Flynn. Matty Flynn made an instant impact, tapping home number six at the back post with his first touch of the game.

That wasn’t the only impact he made though, the sub colliding with the post in the process of scoring and having to be helped from the pitch only seconds after coming on with what was later revealed to be two broken ribs.

Dylan Easton completed the scoring five minutes from time, bursting clear of the static Gretna defence, taking it round Taylor and squeezing it into the empty net from the narrow angle. It finished off a near flawless performance from the reigning champions and puts them back in the driving seat at the top of the table.

Ferguson was forced into make more personnel changes than he probably would have wanted during the extended off-season and the disrupted squad has taken time to settle. But the signs have been there in recent games that things are beginning to click and this Kelty side are starting to look like the real deal once again.

An impressive debut for Shanley

As for Gretna, it was another miserable afternoon in Fife that brings the total to 22 goals conceded in their last three visits to the Kingdom, with only one to their credit. Alexander’s side head back down the M74 with nothing to show for their efforts and remain in 13th spot in the table with just nine points to their name. They’ll be glad to have no midweek game, while Kelty make the difficult trip over the bridge to face Spartans on Tuesday night.

Man of the Match: Thomas Reilly

Man of the Match: On a day when you score 7 goals, it would be easy to pick one of the forward players. But Thomas Reilly is a bit of an unsung hero in this Kelty side. He doesn’t do too much wrong in any given game, always neat in possession and always taking care of the football. Today, as always, he didn't put a foot wrong and he is deservedly named man of the match.

See all the match photos HERE

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