Kelty Hearts 2-0 Gala Fairydean Rovers
New Central Park, Kelty
New Kelty manager Barry Ferguson marked his first game in charge with a fine 2-0 victory over a dogged Gala Fairydean Rovers side. On a day where their main title rivals dropped points, first half-goals from Cargill & Chalmers were enough to help the Fifers go three points clear at the top of the Lowland League.
Kelty's last home game was at the beginning of October, and much has happened in the month since then. First the sudden resignation of manager Thomas Courts that shocked the Kelty fans, followed quickly by the naming of his successor which made headlines on a national level. The former Rangers and Scotland captain was a controversial figure in his playing career and one of the biggest names in the Scottish game in the last 20 years. The appointment has certainly raised the profile of the club, last week was almost certainly the first time Kelty Hearts got a mention from none other than Jeff Stelling. Although there was only a slight increase in crowd numbers, the Fergie Factor was clear in the number of press photographers on hand to record his first game in charge.
Ferguson's first team selection showed no dramatic difference from Courts' last: MacKenzie in at left-back in place of the injured Conrad Courts, Hare making way for Nimmo and top scorer Cargill back in for Dalziel. Rovers had to make a last minute change after right-back Reece Donaldson picked up a knock in the warm-up, Daryl Johnson taking his place in a back three.
There may have been a new face in the dug-out, but it was an old favourite that opened the scoring in the tenth minute. Stuart Cargill has been in the form of his life of late, with 17 goals from 13 starts already this season. Number 18 came via a crisp finish from the angle of the box after some tidy build up play between him and Elliot Ford.
The extra man in midfield was giving Rovers the edge in the middle of the park, Kelty getting no time on the ball and struggling to get their passing game going. But with the two full-backs pressing forward, they were starting to find the gaps down the side of the defence and Patrick Martin in the Rovers goal was having a busy afternoon, twice having to deny Chalmers.
It wasn't all one-way traffic though, Morris and Paton both going close for the visitors as they tried to haul themselves level. But it was Kelty who carried the greater threat, Greig, Nimmo and Husband were starting to get to grips with the Rovers midfield and Chalmers getting into the box at every opportunity. It was Chalmers who doubled Kelty's lead in the 26th minute, jumping highest with a power header from MacKenzie's near post corner.
With Rovers rocking, Kelty sensed blood and went in for the kill. For a few minutes it looked they might be steam-rollered, with Gay, Husband and Ford all having chances to add to the score. But to their credit, the visitors got back up off the canvas and somehow weathered the storm. Baxter was shown a yellow card when he clattered Husband, but MacKenzie couldn't make the free-kick count. Then Cargill had a great chance on the stroke of half-time, crashing a shot against the bar with the keeper well beaten.
The second half was a much more even affair with chances at both ends. Rovers were taking the game to their hosts and starting to find a foothold in the middle of the park. In defence, Main and Miller were doing a better job of looking after Cargill & Gay, winning the challenges they were losing in the first-half. Christie was called into action early in the half, diving to his right and getting a strong hand to deny McKirdy.
It was enough to bring the new manager to the edge of his technical area with some tactical instructions and words of encouragement for his side. Gay was looking lively, carving out two or three decent chances for himself. Rovers were living dangerously at set-pieces, failing to put a man on the back post, back Kelty couldn't find the delivery to punish them.
It wasn't exactly a dirty game, but there was the occasional nasty challenge that referee Munro seemed to miss. He produced his yellow card again when Carstairs flicked Martin round the back of the head and the keeper swung a kick at the defender in retaliation. There was nothing in it and it was a bit of a cheap booking for both players.
Man of the Match: Carstairs and Douglas both had a pretty comfortable afternoon in the heart of the Kelty defence and any one of the midfield four could have been in with a shout. But it was Ciaren Chalmers who got the nod and it was well deserved after a fine performance capped off with a goal for the second week on the trot.
So despite all the off-field distractions, the maroon machine continues to operate like a Swiss watch. There's a big challenge on the horizon however, with a visit from third placed Spartans next week, in what promises to be one of the games of the season.
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