Kelty Hearts 2-0 University of Stirling
South Region Challenge Cup 4th Round
Kelty left it late to book their spot in the 5th round draw after struggling to break down a tough Stirling University side at New Central Park. Substitute Cammy Russell finally broke the deadlock just eleven minutes from time, before Dylan Easton added a second in the dying minutes to take a Kelty through.
Kelty lined up in their now familiar 4-5-1 formation, with Ben MacKenzie in goal, Fernandy Mendy and Tam Scobbie in the centre of defence, captain Gary Cennerazzo on the right and Scott Linton on the left.
Sean McKirdy and Thomas Reilly were the two holding midfielders behind Stephen Husband, Chris Dodd and Dylan Easton with Nathan Austin up top.
The match kicked off amidst a wintery shower and Kelty were forced into an early change, Sean McKirdy injured in a clash of heads after just 15 minutes, replaced by Ross Philip. On a bitterly cold day, the action on the park was a little lukewarm, with neither side really able to get any kind of rhythm going.
Kelty’s best hope of an opener looked like coming from Easton, who was lively on the left-hand side. Looking fresh after his return from injury, Easton was always ready to take his man on and get a shot away, but occasionally guilty of overplaying.
Kelty had struggled to open-up Uni in the league game at Forthbank a few weeks ago and it was no different today. With Uni in a like for like 4-5-1 formation, there wasn’t a lot of space for the creative players in the middle of the park and chances were hard to come by in a lack luster first half.
Stirling had a couple of sights at goal but weren’t able to put any real pressure on the Kelty keeper, their best chance coming from a free-kick on the half hour that sailed over the bar but which MacKenzie seemed to have covered all the way.
Kelty’s best chance came after more good work on the left by Easton, cutting inside and fizzing a shot which keeper Walker couldn’t hold. Austin was onto the loose ball in a flash, but Walker recovered quickly to smother the ball and deny Fash a tap-in.
The hosts also had a penalty shout turned down after Dodd was pulled down in front of goal but the linesman already had his flag up for off-side and the match remained goalless at the break.
Kelty started better after the interval, a Linton free-kick and a couple of early corners finally giving the home fans something to shout about. They had the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot after Austin was tripped in the box, but when Walker easily saved Easton’s spot kick then cleared the danger with his feet, it began to feel like it was going to be one of those days. Both defences were looking pretty solid and neither side were really able to grab control of the midfield.
Gaffer Ferguson made his second change on the hour mark, Chris Dodd had had quiet afternoon by his standard and was replaced by Cammy Russell. The change had an immediate impact on Kelty, Russell’s pace and direct running beginning to cause more problems for the Uni back four.
Kelty were looking stronger at this point, but nearly gifted Uni the opener with some slack play at the back. The visitors were still very much in the game, giving as good as they got in midfield and for a while the momentum seemed swing towards them.
With the game finely in the balance and extra time starting to look more and more likely, the first goal was always going to be crucial. Ross Philp must have thought he’d got the opener after beating the keeper from a tight angle only to see his shot hitting the base of the post and cleared away for a corner. It finally came in the 79th minute after a decent spell of pressure down the left. Philp’s run took him to the bye-line and he cut it back for Austin, who’s was shot blocked but fell perfectly for Russell to spin in the six yard box and slam home.
Kelty added a second three minutes from time, Husband breaking up play and moving the ball out wide but keeping his run going, taking possession again and clever back-heel to tee up Easton for a tidy finish from the tightest of angles. Husband took a knock in the process and limped off to be replaced by Aranult Brembo for the last few minutes. Even that late in the game, Uni were still pressing hard and had a pretty solid looking penalty shout turned down after a Scobbie sliding tackle just inside the box.
So far from a vintage performance from Kelty, but enough to progress into the 5th draw, which is what will matter most to Ferguson. The Fifers are back in action at home again next Saturday, with a visit from the other scholar’s side, Edinburgh University, in the Lowland League.
Man of the Match: Stephen Husband was forced into a deeper role following the injury to McKirdy. Hubby always looked composed and unflustered in a busy midfield, and always with the quality to pick out a killer pass.
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