Kelty Hearts 8-0 Dalbeattie Star
New Central Park, Kelty
Kelty Hearts fired a signal of intent to the Lowland League with an opening day 8-0 demolition of Dalbeattie Star. The New Central Park outfit have made no secret of their ambition to mount a serious title challenge this season, and they got off to the perfect start thanks to goals from Scott Linton, Dylan Easton and Ross Mutch added to a Stephen Husband double and a Nathan Austin hattrick.
Wearing their sky-blue away kit, there was a very different look to the Kelty side, with seven of Barry Ferguson's summer signings in the starting eleven - keeper Ben MacKenzie, Danny Ashe in the center of defence, Scot Linton at left-back, and Gary Cennerazzo at right-back.
Thomas Reilly and Dylan Easton started in midfield with hitman Nathan Austin up top.
There were a few familiar faces in the line-up too, Murray Carstairs taking over the captain's armband, Sean MicKirdy as the midfield anchorman with Stephen Husband and Chris Dodd in wide roles.
After the long summer lay-off, Kelty wasted no time getting going, Scott Linton giving the keeper no chance with a free-kick curled perfectly into the top corner with only six minutes on the watch.
The first quarter of the game was actually pretty scrappy, the match punctuated with free-kicks and neither side able to get a rhythm going. The stop-start game seemed to suit Star better and the visitors looked quite happy to try and disrupt their hosts.
It took a good half-hour for Kelty to build some sustained pressure, some good link-up play on the left between Easton & Dodd starting to show promise. The Fifers finally doubled their lead in the 34th minute, Easton cutting in from the left, leaving Wilson for dead and centering to the six-yard box for Husband to knock the ball home.
Two minutes later it was three-nil, Easton again doing the damage with a neat touch to control the long ball and turning Wells inside-out before slipping it past Parker. Star were suddenly on the ropes and were no doubt glad to hear the half-time whistle for a chance to re-group.
Within 30 seconds of the re-start, the roof had fallen in on Dalbeattie, a quick fire double from Nathan Austin finally killing the visitors off. Danny Ashe's precision pass out from the back dropped in behind the Star back-line, falling perfectly for Austin who took his time, picked his spot and fired beyond Parker for number four.
Three minutes later, the same combination and the same outcome - Ashe to Austin, who's left foot finish went right through the keeper for his second of the game. Husband made it six-nil on 53 minutes with the best goal of the game, picking the ball up 30 yards out and firing into the postage stamp. Easton was pulled down in the 57th minute and Austin calmly stuck away the penalty to compete his hattrick and give Kelty a comfortable 7-0 cushion.
Kelty were in complete control now and the tempo began to drop a little. They were playing keep-ball, stroking it back & forth across the defence. There were a few grumbles from the crowd, who clearly wanted more goals, but the back-four seemed pretty comfortable. Ashe in particular looking the picture of composure in possession and always capable of pulling out a killer pass. There were a couple of hairy moments, but Husband's perfectly timed sliding tackle and a routine save from MacKenzie kept the cleansheet.
Kelty welcomed back Ross Philp from the knee injury that kept him out most of last season, the versatile midfielder replacing Dodd. Austin and Easton had earned themselves a rest, Stuart Cargill and Ross Mutch coming on with quarter of an hour to go. The substitutes linked up for number eight, Philp setting up Mutch to round off the scoring with a couple of minutes left on the watch.
So Kelty get their Lowland League campaign off to a perfect start, and with so many new faces still bedding in, there's sure to be more to come from this group. Next up for the Fifers is a trip to Strathclyde Park to face the newly re-named Caledonian Braves (formerly EDUSport) next Saturday. Things don't get much easier for Dalbeattie as they host reigning champions East Kilbride on Wednesday night.
Supporters Man of the Match: There were no shortage of candidates in sky blue: Danny Ashe looked in complete control at the back, Sean McKirdy never stopped running in the anchorman role and Dylan Easton always looked capable of unpicking the defence. But Nathan Austin got the nod, a hattrick the perfect way to open his account on his competitive debut.
Full match gallery HERE