Kelty's Boxing Day Bella Battle
Kelty Hearts 201 Jeanfield Swifts
Scottish Cup 1St Round
New Central Park
Kelty squeezed past Jeanfield in the Scottish Cup on a stormy Boxing Day tie at New Central Park. Goals either side of the half time break from Ryan Shanley and Dylan Easton put Kelty in the driving seat against the Perth men. Swifts pulled one back through Chris McLeish to setup a nail-biting end, but Kelty held on to get their name into the hat for the second-round draw.
Kelty have a settled side at the moment and Barry Ferguson was able to pick the same starting XI for the fourth consecutive game, which is quite a feat at this time of year. Darren Jamieson in goal, back four of Jamie Stevenson, Paddy Boyle, Scott Hooper and Dougie Hill. Thomas Reilly and skipper Michael Tidser as the deep midfielders, with Ryan Shanley Right, Dylan Easton left, Kallum Higginbotham through the middle and Nathan Austin up top.
In the away dug-out, Ross Gunnion resisted the temptation to start Chris Dodd against his former side and went with Mark Mitchell in goal behind a back four of Jamie Reid, Chris Scott, captain Aaron Whitehead and Jake Dolzanski. A five-man midfield of Kieran Stewart, Connor McLaren, Fraser Smith, Paul Simpson and Gary Fergus, with Chris McLeish up front.
While most of the country were tucking into left-over turkey and watching Die Hard, these two sides got their Scottish Cup journey off to a very soggy start. With Storm Bella battering the country, the idea of Hampden Park in the May sunshine seemed a very long way off as the howling wind and driving rain whipped across New Central Park.
The opening quarter of the game was pretty evenly matched with half chances at both ends, Easton with the best for Kelty and Whitehead for Jeanfield, as the two sides attempted to figure out the conditions. Kelty had a half-hearted shout for handball when Boyle hit it against Reid, but ref Iain Sneddon didn’t want to know. At the other end, Swifts had a bit more of claim when Whitehead seemed to be pulled down, but despite his protests, Sneddon again let play continue.
In conditions like these, anything played into the danger area had a chance, and it gamble finally paid-off for Ryan Shanley after half an hour. A good spell of possession for Kelty saw the ball played out wide to Shanley, who turned Kiffy Scott and drilled a low ball across the face of goal that somehow slithered past Mitchell into the far corner to give Kelty the halftime lead.
Both sides made substitutions early in the second half: Shanley had been real handful for Scott in the first half but was switched for Ross Philp after 55 minutes. Shanley has started every game since arriving from Hibs and hopefully was just getting a bit of a rest with a run of important games coming up. Swifts introduced former Kelty favourite Chris Dodd, on for Fergus at the same time.
Kelty were starting to ramp up the pressure on the away defence and that began to draw fouls in dangerous positions. It was a well-rehearsed free kick that brought the second on the hour mark. Easton shaped to shoot, but peeled away to the right of the wall, for Tidser to roll the ball into his path and the winger slammed it high into the net for 2-nil.
It wouldn’t be a Scottish Cup tie without a little bit of aggro though, and that side of things were bubbling up nicely. Higginbotham and Dolzanski were having a bit of a running feud and it ended up with both sets of players having a frank exchange of opinions in the centre circle. Dolzanksi was lucky to get away with a studs-up tackle in the middle of the park, while Higgy – a player who always has plenty to say for himself – was keeping the verbal battle going. Sneddon managed to keep a lid on things though and used his yellow card sparingly, letting the players get on with it where possible.
Swifts are going well at the top end of the East of Scotland Premier, and saw off Stirling Uni’s Lowland League side in the preliminary round, so Gunnion’s side are no mugs. They got themselves back into the tie after a good move down the left-hand side. Sub Mark Smith cut in across the face of the box and fired a shot which struck the base of Jamieson’s post. The rebound fell to Swifts’ top scorer McLeish, who steered it into the opposite corner to set up a cracking last 10 minutes.
Jeanfield were pinning Kelty back as they searched for the equaliser, but when the home side did break out, they looked dangerous on the counter. The Swifts defence were still giving away freekicks in prime position, although Kelty couldn’t make any count. McLaren had Swifts best chance to take the tie into extra time, twisting on the edge of the box and firing a shot which DJ had to touch over the crossbar.
In the end Kelty held on, and although it was no post-Christmas stroll in the park, the Fifer’s are in Monday’s second round draw and that’s what matters. They can now turn their attention back to the title race. The festive games don’t get any easier for the league leaders, with a New Year’s Day trip to old rivals Bonnyrigg Rose next on the cards.
As for Jeanfield, they matched Kelty for long periods will feel a little disappointed that the didn’t take the game to extra time. Swifts managed to keep Kelty’s two attacking fullbacks anchored back on defensive duties and they deserve plenty of credit for their part in an extremely watchable cup tie. They now have a trip to Sauchie on 02 January to look forward to.
Man of the Match: They two wide men, Shanley and Easton, were Kelty’s top performers on the day. Both looked dangerous on the ball and both pitched in with the vital goals. In the end, it was Dylan Easton that took the vote after yet another accomplished display. His finish from a clever freekick routine was as good as you’ll see in the Cup this season.
See all the match photos HERE