Kelty Hearts 3 - 1 Leith Athletic
East of Scotland League
New Central Park, Kelty
Kelty's East of Scotland League challenge received another boost with a valuable three points against third placed Leith Athletic at New Central Park. With the title deciding double header against Lothian Thistle Hutchinson Vale on the horizon, Thomas Courts' side kept their perfect record going with a decisive second half performance.
Kelty lined up in their now familiar 4-3-3 formation with Christie in goal, Carstairs & O'Neil in the centre of defence, Courts at left back and Philp at right back. Husband, MacKenzie and Ritchie in were in midfield, Douglas on the right wing, captain Dalziell on the left and Cargill through the centre.
The first forty-five was a bit of a cagey affair, and with so much at stake, Kelty had a nervous look to them. They looked solid enough at the back, and were staying patient, but the build up was a little predictable. There wasn't a lot between the two sides; both were playing some decent stuff and there was plenty of goalmouth action, but neither could find the killer final ball. McLellan got his fingertips to a Conrad Courts cross, Brian Ritchie hit the bar with a header, and Dalziel had the ball in the net, but was flagged for offside.
At the other end, Athletic were creating a few chances of their own. Anderson & Pennel in particular were looking dangerous, but Christie was up to the task, and both sides headed for their half-time oranges at nil-nil.
Kelty came flying out the traps after the break, and within 6 minutes they had found the opener. A quick move on the left hand side had the visitors defence in disarray, and when the ball fell to Ritchie at the back post, he stood up a tempting looking cross which Carstairs slammed high into the net. It was a huge goal for the Fifers, and the celebrations both on the park, and around the crowd were a mixture of relief and joy.
The goal really lifted Kelty, and sparked them into action, forcing a string of corners that Leith struggled to deal with. Ross Philp was having a fine game, and Carstairs, Dalziel & Ritchie all went close as Kelty turned the screw and the second looked inevitable. It came in the 65th minute, when Ritchie capitalised on a slack ball in defence, robbing Middleton and settling up Cargill, who kept his cool to take it round the keeper and roll the ball into an empty net.
Kelty made an immediate substitution, McCabe replacing Dalziell to give an extra man in midfield in the hope of closing the game out. Leith were shell-shocked for a few minutes and it looked like game over, but to their credit, they dug deep and went looking for a way back into the game. They finally found it in the 84th minute, when they won a free-kick on the edge of the box, which Redpath whipped over the wall and onto the crossbar with Christie beat. As the ball bounced around the 6-yard box Stefan Hay nipped in to slide home and bring the visitors right back into it.
With just six minutes left, it was a test of nerve for Kelty, but they proved they were up to it thanks to a moment of brilliance from Stephen Husband. Cargill found himself 1-on-1 with keeper McLellan, who raced from his line to tackle the striker on the edge of the box. The keeper took a knock and was slow getting back to his line, but as referee MacDonald waved play-on, the ball fell to Hubby who chipped over the goalie from the centre circle.
The visitors weren't happy with the ref, but it was a 50/50 ball, and it looked a fair challenge - McLellan just took too long to get back into his goal. Anderson wouldn't let it go, and eventually got booked for his protests.
Kelty went looking to add to score and O'Neil, Douglas and Philp all had chances late on, but none of them couldn't find the target, and match finished 3-1. It was one of the most competitive matches Kelty have had this season, and manager Courts can be well pleased with his side's performance, as well as the 3 well earned points. They were patient when the match was tight, clinical when they were on top, and when the question was asked, they had the answer.
Brian Ritchie was named Man of the Match, but with fine performances all round Murray Carstairs and Ross Philp must have been in contention too.
Kelty's next match is a trip over the Forth for the King Cup second tie at Heriot Watt, before a nail-biting 3 match run-in for the title.
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