Kelty Hearts 1-1 The Spartans
GeoSonic Lowland League
New Central Park, Kelty
Kelty came from behind to keep their Lowland League challenge on track in a cracker of a match at New Central Park. Barry Ferguson's men earned a point against the reigning champions thanks to Stephen Husband's second-half penalty, after the visitors had gone ahead through Blair Tolmie.
Ferguson kept faith with the same starting eleven that won against Gala last week, while Spartans gaffer Douglas Samuel left last week's goal scorer Stephen MacDonald on the bench as the Edinburgh side looked to get their season back on track after four games without a win.
Both sides had chances in the opening few minutes: Adam Corbett testing Scott Christie in the Kelty goal from an in-swinging corner at one end, while Blair Carswell had to race from his line to pick the ball off Stuart Cargill's head at the other.
Elliot Ford was seeing plenty of the ball down the Kelty right, but couldn't quite find the killer pass. The movement of Cargill & Mathew Gay up front was creating problems for Spartans, pulling their back four out of shape and opening up gaps. Kelty's best chance of the half came from Scott Taylor MacKenzie corner deep to the back post, which Murray Carstairs headed back across the face of goal, but the angle was just too tight for Gay and Ciaren Chalmers poked the loose ball wide.
The game was really coming to life midway through the half: Husband went close after robbing Dishington in midfield, striding forward and firing goalward, but Carswell got both hands to it and pushed it wide.
It wasn't all Kelty though, as Spartans were starting to show flashes of the form that won them the title last season. Brown, Herd & Smith combined well down the Kelty left, producing a dangerous cross, but the header was just a little too high. The visitors were quick to turn defence into attack and twice nearly caught Kelty out, breaking at pace and getting numbers forward.
There were penalty shouts at both ends, first when Smith went down under a challenge by Errol Douglas and then both Cargill and Gay had claims in quick succession, but each time referee Chris McNab didn't want to know.
The visitors took the lead 10 minutes before the break, Tolmie with a free header from a deep corner. The goal came as Kelty were enjoying a good spell, and Ferguson will have been unhappy at the amount of space the big centre-half got in the box. The first-half had flown by; two good sides having a real go at each other and while Kelty just edged it in terms of possession and chances, they headed for the break a goal down.
Ferguson made a personnel change at half-time, Gay making way for teenager Liam Kelly as Kelty went in search of the equaliser. The second-half started the same way the first had finished, both sides knocking the ball around and creating chances. But this was top versus third, and in amongst the all the good football, there was definitely a competitive edge to the game. Husband was clattered twice in the opening minutes and Greig & Nimmo were getting stuck in too, but McNab kept his card in his pocket.
The longer the half went on, the more nervous Kelty began to look, and the fans began to wonder if this wasn't going to be their day. With a lead to protect, Spartans were starting to comfortable, and still looking sharp on the counter attack.
With half an hour to go, Ferguson made a double substitution, MacKenzie and Nimmo making way for Scott Dalziel and Garry Leighton. Dalziel added a different dimension up top for Kelty, his pace & physicality giving the visiting defence something else to think about, and the Kelty attack had a spring in its step once more. Husband threaded a perfect through ball for Cargill to run onto, and as he got the wrong side of Maxwell, the left-back pulled him down and McNab had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Husband is usually deadly from the spot and although Carswell dived the right way, it was hit with too much power and Kelty were right back in it.
Far from settling for a point each, with 20 minutes to go, both sides were still looking to take all three and both had chances to pinch the win. The centre halves form each side had a chance to grab the winner, but Tolmie's shot was gathered easily by Christie and Douglas knocked his header just over the bar. Errol Douglas was named man of the match, which will have pleased him against his old side, although Elliot Ford must have pushed him close.
So a point apiece then, enough for Kelty to stay top of the table, one point ahead of East Kilbride with Spartan staying third. With next week being a Challenge Cup round, Kelty have a week off before a tricky away game at Stirling Uni in a fortnight's time.
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