Dundonald Bluebell put the brakes on Kelty Hearts Superleague title charge in the Fife Derby at Moorside Park. A waterlogged pitch postponed the original fixture, but it proved to be worth the wait for the home side, when Kelty eventually kicked-off under warm spring sunshine.
Both sides had early chances, but the keepers were up to the test. When Ritchie was brought down on the very edge of the box, Husband had a perfect opportunity to open the scoring, but sent his free-kick just over the bar.
Dundonald began to take charge, forcing a string of corners, but couldn't make any of them count. In truth, it was turning into a typical derby match: there was plenty of endeavour but quality was in short supply. It wasn't helped by a referee, who was fussy and refused to let the game flow. The home side were enjoying most of the possession, with the visitors restricted to occasional counter attacks, and it was looking like we would get to half-time scoreless. But when Ritchie sent in a speculative cross, Forbes' clearance only made it as far as Sheerin, who got just enough on it to deflect it into the net and give the visitors an unlikely lead at the interval.
Hearts now had a foothold in the game, and after the break started to show a bit more intent. The game was still fragmented, and the ref was still giving his whistle a decent work-out, but it was at least more watchable than the first half. His yellow card was on overtime, and on the hour Kelty swapped Sheerin for Cargill and Thomson replaced Husband. Both were already booked and the visitors were taking no chances with this ref.
Kelty were looking like they might hold on to the points, but the game's pivotal moment came on 73 minutes. Bluebell were on the attack and Carstairs tried to guide the ball back to his keeper when Lawrie bundled him over from behind. The defender clearly felt he had been fouled and stretched out his hand to grab the ball. To his amazement, the ref awarded a penalty and to rub salt in the wound, showed Carstairs a straight red.
MacKenzie took the spot kick well, sending Marley the wrong way and bringing the sides level. With the extra man, and the home crowd behind them Bluebell went in search of a winner, and substitute Lawrie provided it 5 minutes from time, smashing home a superb free-kick from 45 yards that left Marley with no chance.
There was still time for a few more bookings, and in the dying seconds Kelty had a decent shout for a penalty of their own. Cargill found himself in a tight spot, and as he twisted to find space, he was tripped from behind, but for once the whistle stayed silent. Kelty were furious and protested to the ref, who was still flashing his yellow card even after the final whistle.
So the points went to the home side, and with Penicuik and Bonnyrigg both winning, things are starting to look tight at the top. With a trip to Carnoustie next week, Kelty will know only 3 points will do before the chasing pack start to play their games in hand.