Kelty Hearts 8-1 Leith Athletic
King Cup Semi-Final
New Central Park, Kelty, Fife
Kelty fired their way past Leith with a dominant semi-final performance at New Central Park. On the eve of the royal wedding, the recently crowned champions reigned supreme to reach next week's King Cup Final.
It's been a big week for East of Scotland champions after their play-off victory and manager Thomas Courts kept faith with the same starting eleven that won the club that historic promotion.
After last week's exertions the team could have been forgiven for some signs of fatigue, but if there were any hangovers they didn't last long after Ross Philp gave the home side another early lead. It was Philp who got the victory party started last week, and he repeated the feat again this week with a carbon copy goal, beating keeper McLellan from wide on the right after only eight minutes.
Things got even better for Kelty three minutes later, when Scott Dalziel flicked on a Conrad Courts throw-in for Brian Ritchie to double the lead with his fourth goal in a week.
With a two-nil lead and only eleven minutes on the watch, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the semi was already over. However, Oban Anderson had other ideas, snatching a goal back with a fine finish beyond Scott Christie to bring the visitors right back into it. It has been a feature of Kelty's play this season how ruthlessly they have finished teams off - with a two goal lead they are normally out of sight. But that goal upset their rhythm for a few minutes, and Leith looked like they might take advantage, pushing forward in search of the equaliser.
It's rare this season that Kelty have been tested - very few opponents have been able to ask a serious question of them. It took them eight minutes to come up with an answer and once again Philp was involved, picking up Ritchie's shot cross and twisting in the box before teeing it up for Stuart Cargill, who slid it home to restore the two goal cushion.
It wasn't all good news for the Fifers though, losing Shaun Greig to injury after half an hour, to be replaced by Ian Nimmo. Captain Greig is an important part of the midfield engine room and Courts will be hoping he recovers in time for the final.
Kelty were having some success with the long ball, but looked far more effective whenever they played it on the deck. Nimmo was stroking the ball around, and Philp was cutting through the defence with ease. Shortly before the interval, he stretched the lead further, pouncing on a loose ball in the box and slamming home from 15 yards, to give the home side a comfortable 4-1 lead at the break.
Athletic came out from half-time with a determination to get themselves back into the tie. They won a free-kick in a dangerous looking position, but fired it harmlessly wide. Ryan Currie went down in the box, and looked hopefully towards the ref, but McNab waved play on. Despite their bright start, they couldn't make it count, and Kelty made them pay - Cargill shrugging off Larner's tackle to score his second of the match and put the tie out of reach.
It was all or nothing now for Leith, and the more they pushed forward, the more gaps they left at the back. Christie collected a Leith throw-in and launched it forward, releasing Philp who skinned Redpath before squaring for Cargill to collect his hat-trick. It was goal number 199 for the Fifers this season, but the team were quick to acknowledge the keeper's contribution, wrestling him to the ground for a pile-on.
The game was gone for Athletic, and they were starting to lose their discipline. Kelty were unhappy with a heavy challenge on Husband to stop him bursting through on the keeper. Another one on Philp a couple of minutes later enraged the home side, sparking some pushing & shoving and earning Lewis Smith a straight red for the tackle.
Errol Douglas replaced Dalziel, and with fresh legs and the man advantage it promised to be a difficult last 25 minutes for the visitors. The substitute quickly bagged number 7 with a powerful run from deep before sliding it past McLellan, to take Kelty's tally for the season to an incredible 200 goals. A minute from time Douglas grabbed his second, beating the defence, taking it round the keeper and sliding home into the empty net to hammer the last nail into Leith's coffin.
So Kelty's dream season will end with an appearance in the King Cup Final, where they will face Preston Athletic, who beat Tynecastle in the other semi. The final will be played at Kings Park in Dalkieth next Saturday with a 2.30 kick-off.
Christie, Ford, C Courts, Carstairs, O'Neil, Husband, Ritchie (MacKenzie), Greig (Nimmo), Dalziel (Douglas), Cargill, Philp
McLellan, Smith, Middleton, Mein, Currie, Garvey, Swanson, Larner, Anderson, Hay, Redpath
Full match gallery HERE