Kelty Hearts 2-3 Stranraer
Scottish Cup 2nd Round
Kelty’s Scottish Cup dream came to an abrupt end at Starks Park, as they crashed out to a late Ruari Paton penalty. The Lowland League leaders had been in front at half-time thanks to a Nathan Austin strike and Kallum Higginbotham penalty. But second half goals from Tam Orr and Scott Robertson levelled the tie before Paton’s 94th minute winner sent the League 2 side through into round 3.
This was Kelty’s first game since the Boxing Day win over Jeanfield Swifts and gaffer Barry Ferguson made just one change to the starting XI – Ross Philp coming in for Ryan Shanley as the Fifers lined up with Darren Jamieson in goal, Jamie Stevenson, Paddy Boyle, Scott Hopper and Dougie Hill in defence. Thomas Reilly and captain Michael Tidser in the defensive midfield roles, with Kallum Higginbotham central, Dylan Easton wide left, Ross Philp on the right and Nathan Austin up front.
Stranraer’s last outing was a 2-0 win over Annan Athletic on 2nd January and gaffer Stephen Farrell stayed with the same 4-4-2 line up: Greg Fleming in goal, Scott Robertson, Adam Cummins, Ayrton Sonkur and Grant Gallagher at the back. A midfield of Ruari Paton, Kieran Millar, Connor McManus and Andy Stirling, with a striking partnership of Darryl Duffy & Tam Orr.
This match had been scheduled for a 3pm kick-off at New Central Park, but with surface unplayable due to frozen snow, it was switched to Kirkcaldy at 6pm. Kelty were first out of the blocks, taking the game to the visitors in search of an early lead. Thomas Reilly was directing play in the early minutes, spraying the ball out to both touchlines and allowing fullbacks Boyle and Stevenson plenty of opportunity to get forward.
The first clear cut chance of the match fell for Kelty after 15 minutes, with a free kick from the edge of the D after Austin was dragged down. Tidser took it and his shot was heading for the bottom corner, but Fleming got a fingertip to it to touch it onto the post and the defence were able to scramble clear.
Fash had been a little quiet in the opening spell of the game but was now beginning to see a bit more of the ball as Kelty started to take control of the midfield. The breakthrough came on 25 minutes, Fash picking up possession on the right edge of the box, turning back and cutting inside before clipping a left foot shot that caught Fleming napping and drifted over the keeper’s head into the top corner.
Fleming actually looked a wee bit vulnerable in the Stranraer goal: he hadn’t looked convincing dealing with Tidser’s free kick and was caught out for the goal. Higginbotham had obviously spotted this and tried his luck with a powerful drive from long range, which the keeper again failed to hold but there was no maroon shirt on hand to take advantage.
Kelty doubled their lead after 37 minutes, with a counter-attack after Stranraer surrender possession. Higginbotham picked up on the half-way line and released Austin, who wriggled between two defenders and beat the offside trap and as he headed for goal, Robertson slid in and pulled him down. Referee Lorraine Watson hesitated for a second before pointing to the spot and flashing her yellow card at Robertson. Higgy has been pretty lethal from the spot of late and made no mistake, sending Fleming the wrong way for this 8th goal of the season.
Kelty were good value for their 2-goal lead, but Stranraer were far from out of it and managed a couple of chances of their own. Stirling and Paton both had a sight of goal in a penalty box scramble before Hopper knocked it behind for a corner. The visitor’s best chance came after good work down the right from Stirling, who fired a tempting looking cross across the face of goal, but Duffy arrived just a little too late at the back post and couldn’t get on the end of it.
As it turned out, this one was your classic game of two halves: while Kelty enjoyed the lions share of possession and created the better chances in the first half, it was a complete reversal after the break. Suddenly it was Stranraer that had the momentum, looked hungrier and were winning all the 50-50 balls. Even the match officials got into the spirit by changing their shirts at the interval, the lime green a bit too close to Stranraer’s yellow change strip, so the ref and her assistants switched to a light blue.
The pendulum swung the visitor’s way with an early second half goal after some good build up play from Stirling on the left-hand side. The winger cut in from the touchline and played a one-two with McManus on the edge of the box before Orr took over and fired his shot in off the cross bar to give his side a lifeline.
Stranraer were on the front foot at this point, Paton playing more centrally, both he and Stirling seeing much more of the ball than in the opening 45. Despite this, Kelty had a great chance to restore the 2-goal cushion, Austin’s head flick turning his man and putting him one-on-one with the keeper, but this time Fleming saved well with his feet to deny Fash a second.
Stranraer punished Kelty a few minutes later, winning a corner on the left, which Robertson met at the front post and flicked his header past Jamieson to level the score.
With the tie now in the balance, Kelty finally began to play themselves back into the game, Higginbotham and Philp switching places, Easton and Stevenson starting to get into wide positions once again. Dougie Hill had a great chance to snatch the winner with the clock ticking down, the big defender getting on the end of Easton’s corner, but his downward header just squirming past the post.
Stranraer’s winner came after some slack play the Kelty defence - Hooper & Tidser both with opportunities to clear but instead trying to play their way out of danger. Substitute James Hilton took advantage, picking Hooper’s pocket, bursting into the box and drawing the challenge from Tidser challenge to win the penalty. Ruari Paton took the spot kick and scored with the last kick of the game, Watson blowing full time as the Stranraer players celebrated.
It was a sore one for Kelty, who will be disappointed at letting a solid looking 2 goal lead get away from them. There were plenty of positives for Ferguson’s side though, going toe-to-toe with top League 2 side and definitely not disgracing themselves. But it’s Stranraer who make it into the draw though, and they can now put their feet up and wait for a couple of results to find out whether they will face Camelon, Brora Rangers or Hearts in the 3rd round.
Man of the Match: It was another solid performance from Nathan Austin, who as always led the line well and gave the defence plenty to think about. Fash once again proved why is one of the hottest strikers in the pyramid system with a hand in both his side’s goals.
See the whole match gallery HERE