Kelty K.O. Cup Kings
Kelty Hearts 1-0 St Johnstone (aet)
Scottish Cup 4th Round
New Central Park, Kelty
The magic of the cup is alive in well in Fife, as League 2 part-timers Kelty Hearts sunk last season’s knock out specialists St Johnstone at New Central Park. Saints famously pulled off a historic cup double last season, but Kallum Higginbotham struck in the first period of extra time to bring an early end to the holder’s defence of the trophy and send Kelty through to the 5th round for the first time in the club’s history.
Kelty gaffer Kevin Thomson made two changes to the side that started against Edinburgh City last week – Jamie Barjonas and Ross Philp coming back into the side, with Harrison Clark and Botti Biabi making way. Kelty lined up with Darren Jamieson in goal, Jordon Forster & Thomas O’Ware in the centre of defence, with Kieran Ngwenya at left back and Danny Finlayson on the right. Barjonas was alongside captain Michael Tidser in the midfield, with Philp, Higginbotham & Joe Cardle supporting striker Nathan Austin. In the away dugout, Callum Davidson went with Zander Clark in goal, James Brown, Daniel Cleary, Jamie McCart, Anthony Gallacher, Liam Gordon, Jacob Butterfield, Charlie Gilmour, Alistair Crawford, Nadir Ciftci and Chris Kane.
The Perthshire fans seemed to be enjoying their day trip to Fife. Their last Scottish Cup experience was a sunny afternoon at Hampden and the culture shock of the more modest surroundings at New Central Park was a bit too much for some to get their heads around. At one point I overheard a wee laddie ask his dad “where are the scoreboards?” His old man had to explain “there are no scoreboards here son,” which puzzled the wee boy. “So how does the referee know what the time is?”
As for the action on the park - the first half was a wee bit of a slog to watch at times, with Saints enjoying most of the possession without ever really troubling Jamieson too much. The Kelty keeper was rarely called into action, but when he was, he proved he was more than up to the task. DJ needed to pull off a superb double save midway through the half – diving low to his left to stop Kane’s header, before quickly resetting himself to tip Crawford’s strike over the crossbar. Those saves aside, he genuinely didn’t have an awful lot more to do as the premier league side was restricted to shelling long hopeful balls forward, which Forster & O’Ware mopped up with relative ease.
In attack, Kelty opted for the cautious approach in the opening half hour, reluctant to commit too many bodies forward and risk presenting the visitors with an easy opening. Cardle was electric in the first half and looked most likely to make something happen for the hosts, whilst Higginbotham was ruffling a few feathers and getting in the faces of the Saints defence. With the midfield trio sitting a bit deeper than usual, Austin looked a little isolated at times, but chased every ball forward and never allowed the visiting defence a minute’s peace to build from the back.
Kelty’s best chance of the half fell to Cardle on the edge of the box – the wee forward has been on fire of late, with four goals in his last two games, but this one came at him a little too quick and he couldn’t keep his shot down. Austin forced a save from Clark from a similar distance, but the big keeper got down to his left and took it comfortably.
Davidson must have given his side a bit of a talking to at halftime, and the holders picked up the pace after the break, forcing a string of corners in quick succession. But even though Saints had stepping it up a level, they still weren’t really making too much of an impact on the Kelty goal, and anything that DJ did have to do was fairly routine business.
When the flurry of activity didn’t bring about any end result, Saints seemed to wilt a wee bit and Kelty began to grow in confidence, getting forward with a bit more purpose and asking question of the visitors. Thomson went to his bench and switched Agyeman for Cardle, who had run his socks off for the first hour. Alfie’s strength gave Kelty a different dimension in attack, and the League 2 side continued to pile on the pressure, probably finishing the 90 minutes as the stronger of the two sides.
Kelty carried that momentum into the extra half-hour and the possibility of an upset began to look more and more likely as the nerves in the away dugout grew. Saints league form has been dismal this season and sometimes the cup can be a welcome break from the old routine. But with nine straight defeats under his belt, Callum Davidson would have been looking forward extra-time as much as a trip to the dentist.
The breakthrough came towards the end of the first period of extra-time. Agyeman picked Gallacher’s pocket wide on the right and squared for Higginbotham, who flew past two Saints defenders, picked his spot, and calmly stuck it past Clark and set his side up for a historic win.
With the second period still to come, the home fans braced themselves for a kitchen sink effort from the holders, but it never really came. In truth, it looked more like Kelty extending their lead – Agyeman twisting and slamming his shot against the crossbar with Clark stranded. Ross Philp almost put the icing on the cake, bursting into the box and shooting low, but Clark got down to it and managed to hold on. Saints managed one last effort in the dying seconds, but the header was straight a DJ and he held onto it with ease.
Kelty celebrated with the home fans at the final whistle, while Davidson and his players had to make their way through a crowd of unhappy looking travelling supporters, who seemed to be making it clear that the memory of two trips to Hampden last season is now long forgotten. Kelty’s reward for knocking out the holders is a trip to Love Street for a 5th round tie against St Mirren.
Man of the Match: Kallum Higginbotham got the nod, but there was no shortage of competition among his teammates. Forster & O’Ware were immense at the back, winning everything in the air. Fullbacks Ngwenya & Finlayson did well bombing forward without neglecting their defensive duties as they both enjoyed their best games in a Kelty jersey. Philp and Bajonas provided the power in the midfield engine room, while Tidser held everything together and never looked out of place against premier league opposition.
See all the match photos HERE