Kelty Hearts 3-1 Albion Rovers
Kelty took another valuable three points in the League 2 title race with a 3-1 win over Albion Rovers. But don’t be fooled, this one wasn’t as comfortable as the score line might suggest. Nathan Austin struck in the first minute to give Kelty the lead, and Jamie Barjonas added another before the break. Callum Wilson pulled one back for Rovers as the visitors made life difficult for the hosts, before Barjonas made the points safe in the dying minutes.
Kelty gaffer Kevin Thomson freshened his side up after a tough trip to Ochilview in midweek, Michael Tidser, Danny Finlayson and Alfie Agyeman all getting a well-earned rest as Dougie Hill, Thomas Reilly and Nathan Austin all returning to the starting XI. Kelty lined up with Darren Jamieson in goal, a back four of Ross Philp, Kieran Ngwenya, Thomas O’Ware & Hill, Reilly, Barjonas & Max Kucheriavyi in midfield, Kallum Higginbotham wore the captain’s armband alongside Joe Cardle & Austin in attack. Rovers started with Carmon Binnie in goal, Aron Lynas, Lewis Wilson, James McGowan and Sean Fagan at the back, Jamie Leslie, Scott Roberts, Blair Malcolm and Charlie Reilly in midfield, with Kyle Doherty and Callum Wilson up top.
Kelty got off to a perfect start when Austin found the net after just 34 seconds. The echo from Chris Fordyce’s whistle had barely died away when Jamieson cleared a pass back into midfield where Cardle helped it on. Lynas should have dealt with it comfortably, but dallied a bit too long, allowing Fash to pinch the ball off his toe, sprint clear of the two central defenders and fire home from the edge of the D.
Kelty never really built on the good start to be honest, and the early part of the game was a little bit scruffy. Both physios were busy in the opening 20 minutes as Binnie, Jamieson, Hill and Austin all needed treatment for minor knocks. The constant stoppages made the start to game a bit fragmented and neither side seemed able to get into any kind of rhythm. There were half chances at both ends, but nobody was able to really take control of the game.
Things seemed to settle down a bit after the half hour and Kelty doubled their lead on 36 minutes. Higginbotham picked the ball in the centre circle and slipped it out wide to Barjonas who did the rest. He drove at Lynas, threw in a step-over that tied the defender in knots, and slotted it away across the keeper into the bottom corner to give his side a 2-goal cushion at the break.
Rovers gaffer Brian Reid made a change at half-time; Aron Lynas being replaced by Adam Fernie as the visitors looked for a way back into the game. The change paid off quickly, and Albion began to take the game to Kelty. Callum Wilson gave his side the lifeline on 58 minutes after Charlie Reilly pick Ngwenya’s pocket out on the touchline, cut inside and twisted his way into the box, before cutting it back to Wilson to slip it under DJ.
That was the start of a very good spell of pressure from the visitors, with Jamieson needing to pull off three or four decent saves to keep Kelty in front. From a solid first half lead, the hosts suddenly looked hesitant at the back and flat in attack. Rovers by contrast now had the bit between their teeth and with a little more quality in the final third, could have really punished the league leaders. Binnie wasn’t really helping his side however, constantly shelling his bye-kicks and clearances out of the park to the frustration of his frontmen.
Kevin Thomson turned to his bench to try and give his side that bit of momentum to see them over the line: Tidser, Agyeman and Biabi giving fresh legs going forward and Finlayson to tighten things up at the back. The changes give Kelty a bit of a lift and they started to take back a bit of control in the match. They Fifers nearly stretched their lead on 80 minutes after Agyeman battled his way to the bye line and cut his cross back to the penalty spot for Philp, who hit it flush, but Binnie got everything behind it to make great stop.
It was left to Barjonas to restore the cushion, winning the ball in midfield, playing a 1-2 with Fash and slipping the ball through Binnie’s legs to give his side a bit of breathing space in the final few minutes. The win leaves Kelty with 14-point lead at the top of the table, needing just 8 more to secure the league title and win back-to-back promotions. The next chance to take a step closer to the title will come this midweek at Cliftonhill as these two meet again on Wednesday night to do it all over again.
DON'T FORGET you can still download your Limited Edition Max Kucheriavyi mobile phone wallpapers. There are two to collect, with all proceeds going to Max's Go Fund Me page to support victims of the war in Ukraine. Click HERE to find out more
Man of the Match: In a nervy match for the league leaders, it was Jamie Barjonas who, yet again, made the difference. Always driving his side forward, powerful, direct, energetic and with 2 really neat finishes to add to his tally for the season.
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