Kelty Hearts 1 - 1 Preston Athletic
Kelty win 7-6 on penalties
King Cup Final
Kings Park, Dalkeith.
Kelty survived a nail-biting penalty shoot out to win the King Cup, claiming the league and cup double and putting the icing on the top of an incredible first season as a senior club.
Keeper Scott Christie was the hero, saving Jonny Grotlin's penalty in the shoot-out, when 90 minutes plus extra time couldn’t separate the two sides at Kings Park in Dalkieth.
Kelty were without club captain Shaun Grieg, who hadn’t recovered from the injury he received in the semi-final a week earlier, and so Ian Nimmo started in midfield and Scott Dalziel got the armband for the day. Full back Sean O’Neil was also missing from the squad, which meant a recall for Garry Leighton, back in after his heroics in the play-off double header.
Kelty kicked-off in the hot sunshine, but it was Preston who settled quickest and enjoyed the best of the opening period of the game. Athletic have come off second best every time the two teams have met this season, leaking a total of 12 goals in three matches against a Kelty side who were on fire in front of goal. But they clearly had a different approach for the final: determined to keep things tighter at the back, knock Kelty off their stride, and try to catch them on the break.
The new game plan was working too; the combination of Steven Campbell's strength in defence and Greg Binnie’s pace up top was causing the Fifers a few problems, forcing a couple of free-kicks in dangerous areas that needed Christie to be on his toes.
Kelty created a couple of good opportunities of their own, with Ross Philp and Dalziel bringing saves from Craig Pennycuick in the Athletic goal, but they were struggling to get their passing game going, and certainly weren’t controlling the game like they have so often this season.
There definitely wasn’t much between the teams, with nobody giving much away and it already had a feel of a match which could be settled by a single goal. Probably the best chance of the half fell to Binnie, when he gave Murray Carstairs the slip on the edge of the box and fired in a low angled shot which beat Christie but just slipped past the far post.
It took until the start of the second half for Kelty to show the sort of form that won them the league, with Dalziel, Stuart Cargill and Brian Ritchie all having chances to take the lead in a good spell of football. It was the league champions first sustained period of pressure, and you began to sense a goal was coming. Cargill took a sore one as he jumped at the back post, getting a bloody nose for his trouble, but he was able to carry on.
When the breakthrough did come though it was Preston who took the lead, catching Kelty with a quick break. James Cochrane rode a Nimmo tackle in midfield and burst through, slid the ball to Michael McFarlane to tee up Binnie, who tried to take it round the keeper but went down under the challenge. Any contact there was did seem to be minimal, but the ref immediately pointed to the spot, and Binnie dusted himself down before sending Christie the wrong way to give Preston the lead.
Leighton was clearly frustrated with the decision, and got his name in the book for a crunching tackle shortly afterwards. Both sides were getting stuck in and there was plenty bite in the tackling. Philp and Stephen Husband were both on the receiving end of heavy challenges, while Binnie was enjoying his role of pantomime villain for the Kelty fans.
In amongst the blood & snotters, Hearts were still playing some decent football, and got their reward in the 74th minute. Dalziel & Campbell both went for a 50/50 ball on the angle of the box, there was a coming together and once again ref pointed to the penalty spot. Like the Preston penalty, it wasn’t exactly a stonewaller, but Husband didn’t argue, confidently slotting his spot kick past Pennycuick to bring the sides level again.
It was still a roasting hot day and Dalziel, who had put in a shift as always, was replaced by Errol Douglas with 10 minutes to go, as Kelty pressed for the winner. The champions were starting to see plenty of the ball and Athletic’s tackling was getting more ragged. But it was them who almost nicked it right at the death, Grotlin forcing the ball over the line with seconds to go. To Kelty’s relief, the ref had already blown for off-side, and the game went to extra time.
The extra 30 minutes flew by, and although both sides had chances, neither could convert them.
Campbell eventually payed the price after another strong challenge on Philp, which earned him his second yellow, but Athletic saw out the last few minutes to take it to penalty kicks.
Kelty went first and both sides scored with their opening kick, but substitute Scott Taylor Mackenzie handed Preston the advantage when he sent Kelty’s second penalty over the bar. Six perfect penalties followed, giving David Liddle the chance to score the final kick and win the cup for Preston, but he put his shot too high, and it we were into sudden death.
Which set the stage for Christie, who eventually saved penalty number 16 from Grotlin to lift he cup for Kelty.
It was a fitting end to the season for Christie, who has often been an unsung hero for the Fifers. In a side that has scored over 200 goals in a season the front men have, quite righty, taken all the applause. But at the same time, they have only conceded 24 times, and Christie has kept no fewer than 17 clean sheets which is a remarkable statistic in its own right.
It has been a strong finish to the season from Kelty: First a crucial win against rivals Lothian Thistle Hutcheson Vale saw them lift the East of Scotland title. That was followed up by a convincing double victory over Threave Rovers in the play-offs to reach gain promotion to next season's Lowland League. And now a Cup Final win to round the season off with a flourish to cap a remarkable year since moving up from the Scottish Junior FA.
It was a bold move for the reigning champions, and a number of other East Region SJFA teams have now followed suit - at the time of writing 13 clubs have already been accepted into the East of Scotland League, with another half dozen waiting to see the outcome of their applications. The summer will be an interesting one, with plenty of shake-ups in the Scottish semi-pro setup on the horizon. However it pans out, Kayemphoto will be there to capture all the action. Have a great summer folks, and thanks for your support over the season.
Kelty: Christie, Ford, Carstairs, Leighton, Courts, Husband, Nimmo, Philp, Ritchie, Cargill, Dalziel. Subs, Douglas, MacKenzie, McCabe
Preston: C Pennycuick, Cowan, Walker, Liddle, Campbell, Woodcock, McFarlane, D Pennycuick, Binnie, Grotlin, Cochrane
See the full match gallery HERE
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