Kelty Hearts 4-0 Edinburgh University
New Central Park, Kelty
Kelty Hearts got the defence of their Lowland League title underway in fine style with a convincing 4-nil win at New Central Park. After seven long months, competitive football finally returned to the Scottish pyramid structure, although as yet, there’s still no room for fans inside the grounds. But in the absence of the crowds, goals from Matty Flynn, Ross Philp and a Kallum Higginbotham double gave the Kelty supporters streaming the match at home plenty to shout about.
Barry Ferguson made two changes to the side that lost narrowly to St Johnstone in midweek:
Matty Flynn and Robbie McNab replacing Cammy Russell and Jamie Stevenson in a starting eleven that had Darren Jamieson in goal, with a back three of Scott Hooper, Paddy Boyle and Craig Reid.
McNab, Philp, Thomas Reilly, Michael Tidser and Dylan Easton made up the five-man midfield with Higginbotham partnering Flynn up top.
Ferguson’s side had looked strong in pre-season and only lost by the odd goal against Premier League opposition in the Bet Fred Cup tie, so would have started the game with plenty of confidence. Kelty were pretty dominant in the opening spell and the visitors had their backs to the wall very early on. Both sides had penalty shouts in the first 20 minutes: Kelty claiming handball that would have been a bit soft, while the Uni players shouts for a trip on Kuivalainen were a bit more convincing, but the ref waived play on both times.
Although it was all Kelty for the first half hour, the Fifers never really troubled Barnes too much. The worst the Uni keeper had to contend with was a collision with his own teammate in the edge of the box, but thankfully he just needed a wee rub with the magic sponge. Philp had two chances in quick succession with late runs into the box, but on both occasions the cut-backs came at him too quickly and he wasn’t able to guide either into the net.
The home side were bossing possession and were finding most joy down the right hand side, McNab and Higginbotham linking up well. Chances were few & far between for the visitors, with DJ having a quite first half in the Kelty goal.
The Fifers made the breakthrough on 35 minutes, Higginbotham scoring from the penalty spot after McGuire’s handball at the back post. Edinburgh keeper Barnes was far from happy with the penalty decision and earned himself a lecture from the ref for going on about it a wee bit too much.
Kelty’s second followed quickly, and came after some more good play down the right, Flynn finishing off McNab’s cross with a spectacular diving header to give the hosts a 2 goal lead at the break.
The pattern of the second half was very similar to the first: Kelty enjoying most of the possession while Edinburgh were soaking up the pressure without creating much at the other end. They did mange the odd shot at goal, but it was all fairly routine stuff for Jamieson.
Flynn, Easton and Higginbotham all had chances to add to the scoring, but the two Uni central defenders McBeth & Hamilton were working hard to keep their side in it. Philp added number three just before the hour, a trademark run from deep putting himself through on the keeper and slotting it away with a composed finish.
With a comfortable lead, Ferguson turned to his bench, Flynn, Philp & Eaton making way for Russell, Austin & Stevenson.
Number four came with 15 minutes left on the watch, Higginbotham bagging his second of the afternoon in some style, his stunning overhead kick an opening day contender for goal of the season. Definitely one to look out for on the highlights.
The only blot on the landscape for Kelty came when Fash Austin took a knock late on and the substitute was subbed off, hopefully only a precaution ahead of the midweek trip to Tannadice in the cup.
So plenty for the Champions to be happy about on opening day: a clean sheet, four goals from three different sources, and all without the most deadly striker the league. The new singings seem to be bedding in nicely and the early signs are good for another go at the title.
For the away team, it was an afternoon to forget. The back four battled hard but ultimately couldn’t tame the Kelty attack, and more worryingly for a side that’s been a bit of bogey team for the Fifers in the last couple of seasons, they didn’t do too much test the home defence all afternoon, DJ having the easiest of shifts in the Kelty goal.
Next up for Kelty is their second game against a Premier League side in less than a week, as Barry Ferguson takes his men up the M90 to face Dundee United in the Bet Fred Cup.
Man of the Match: It was a bit of a toss-up for this one, Robbie McNab having a fine afternoon on his first competitive start in maroon. But he was just edged out by 2-goal man Kallum Higginbotham, his second a goal worth the admission money alone. If anybody had been allowed in to see it that is.