Updated: Mar 11, 2019
The Spartans 2-1 Kelty Hearts
GeoSonic Lowland League
Ainslie Park, Edinburgh
The Spartans delivered a fatal blow to Kelty's faint title hopes on a wild night in the capital. Errol Douglas had given the visitors the lead against his old side, before a Scott Maxwell equaliser and a late strike from hitman Blair Atkinson killed off the Fifers.
Barry Ferguson kept faith with the same side that won convincingly against Whitehill last time out: Scott Christie in goal, fullbacks Garry Leighton and Scott McBride, with Murray Carstairs and Errol Douglas in the centre of defence.
Stephen Husband alongside skipper Shaun Greig in the heart of midfield, Chris Dodds & Ross Mutch on the flanks, with a strikeforce of Brian Ritchie and top scorer Stuart Cargill.
Kelty started well enough, Leighton pushing his side forward, with Ritchie and Mutch taking the game to the hosts in search of an early lead. But Spartans were well organised, Cenneazzo and Tolmie marshalling the defence and restricting the visitors to a few half-chances. Kelty had the advantage of a gusting wind behind them in the first half, and a couple of Stephen Husband corners floated into the box caused a few moments of panic in the home defence.
A heavy rain shower mid-way through the half made conditions even more treacherous, and Stuart Cargill tried his luck from distance, but Blair Carswell managed to hold onto the shot. Spartans weathered the storm though and began to create a few chances of their own. Christie was called into action on a couple of occasions, and it needed a last ditch tackle from Douglas to stop Smith getting in one-on-one with the keeper as the hosts finished the half strongly.
The weather had been the winner in the first half, but thankfully the rain cleared up after the break, leaving the sides with just the strong wind to contend with. Kelty took the lead within ten minutes of the re-start. Kelty forced a corner on the right but although Smith won the header, Spartans failed clear their lines and when the ball came back into the box, Errol Douglas was on hand to fire home through a sea of bodies to grab the lead against his former teammates.
The lead should have settled Kelty, but it only lasted five minutes before Maxwell levelled for the home side, getting on the end of Smith's flick to finish off a neat move. Spartans were making the most of the tricky conditions, shooting at every opportunity in the hope of catching Christie out. They were still working hard too and although Kelty were still seeing plenty of the ball, they seemed to be running out of ideas in the final third.
Spartans grabbed the winner ten minutes from time, a clipped ball over the top catching out the Kelty midfield, which Atkinson picked up and cut inside Douglas before firing his shot across the keeper into the far corner.
Kelty immediately introduced Scot Dalziel in an effort to get back into the game, but their best chance of an equaliser came when Corbett sliced his attempted clearance and Carswell had to dive low to his left to stop the og.
So Kelty's first defeat since December leaves them in third spot, three ahead of Civil Service Strollers, but now 14 behind run away leaders East Kilbride. Although the Fifers still have to play Kilbie twice, the K-Park side are looking unstoppable and could have the title wrapped up before the first of those meetings at the end of the month. Before then though, Kelty will host Cumbernauld Colts at New Central Park next Saturday, looking for revenge for their last Friday night defeat at Broadwood way back in August.
Man of the Match: It was a tough task to pick a winner in tricky conditions that made it difficult for Kelty to play their normal game. Gary Leighton has been outstanding at right back of late and had another faultless game, committed in every tackle and driving forward at every opportunity.
See all the match photos HERE