Kelty Hearts 2-2 East Stirlingshire
New Central Park
Kelty let a two goal lead slip to drop points at home for the first time this season. The league leaders had led thanks to a first half Scott Linton double, but a cute finish from Sean Brown pegged them back to 2-1 at the break. Despite being under pressure for long periods of the second half, it looked like the Fifers might hold on, but Brown struck again ten minutes from time to give the visitors a well deserved share of the points.
Kelty were without captain Gary Cennerazzo, which meant Chris Humphrey started at right back with Fernando Mendy and Thomas Scobbie at centre half and Scott Linton on the left of the back four, in front of keeper Ben MacKenzie.
Thomas Reilly and Sean McKirdy were the deep lying midfielders, behind Ross Philp, Cammy Russell and Dylan Easton, with Nathan Austin up top.
Shire started quickly and were enjoying decent possession from kickoff but it was Kelty that took the lead in the ninth minute with their first real attack. Brown failed to deal with Reilly’s cross to the angle of the box and Linton was on it in a flash, chipping a perfect volley over the keeper from 12 yards out.
The goal didn’t throw Shire off their stride though and they continued to take the game to the hosts for most of the first half. The visitors were having plenty of possession without showing much of a threat in front of goal. They were keeping the Kelty attack under control though and the hosts couldn’t seem to get their wide men into the game.
It was a competitive kind of a game with plenty of tasty tackling from both sides.
Malone was booked after Russell was clattered one too many times and Kelty fans weren’t happy at the lack of protection. It was the Shire fans turn to have a go at the ref on 26 minutes after he awarded a penalty to the home side when Mendy was having his jersey pulled at a corner kick. The Shire players really weren’t happy with the decision but Linton kept his cool to slam home his second of the day from the spot and despite being far from their best, Kelty were two up.
The game was starting to get quite bad tempered and the ref looked like he was losing control of things a little with a rash of yellow cards. There was a bit of handbags when Scobbie got a knock in the face and had to get treatment for a bloody nose. Then the lino on the far side awarded a corner to Shire only for the ref to overrule her decision and there were some more handbags before MacKenzie could take the bye-kick. Whyte then had a conflab with the other linesman before waving another yellow card in the direction of the Shire bench.
With half-time approaching the game finally got back on track, Shire managing a moment of quality in amongst the mayhem with a slick move from back to front which Brown finished with back-heel flick, beating MacKenzie to give the visitors a lifeline at the interval. Kelty thought they’d struck back immediately, but the offside flag was up before Russell rolled the ball into the net.
Kelty gaffer Barry Ferguson made a change for the start of the second half, Stephen Husband replacing Sean McKirdy. Kelty started the half brighter, finally beginning to get some decent possession in midfield and certainly looked better when they got the ball down and played a passing game. Shire were in no mood to let the hosts get a rhythm going though, Low booked for a cynical foul on Philp just five minutes into the half.
Kelty were starting to play better in the wide areas though, Easton and Russell seeing more of the ball and starting to create better chances. Easton and Austin both went close in quick succession but Shire held firm on both occasions.
The physical battle was still raging and the ref Colin Whyte was in danger of running out of space in his notebook. Whyte was managing the unique skill of frustrating both sides at the same time, with some frankly inexplicable decisions and extended lectures.
When he did let the game flow, it was Shire that were the more threatening side though, the visitors looking more likely to get the equaliser than than hosts to extend the lead. Kelty were still getting forward, but the Shire defence had Austin and co. well under control. Shire got an indirect free kick after Scobbie was judged to have passed back to his keeper, but it came to nothing as the shot went well wide in a crowded box.
Shire could easily have gone down to 10 men on 75 minutes after what looked like a pretty blatant elbow by Tapping on Reilly but Whyte only produced yet another yellow.
It was no surprise when the equaliser came on 81 minutes. Shire could have had a penalty for a rash tackle on the edge of the box but the ball broke to Brown who netted his second of the day with a low shot past MacKenzie. They immediately made a substitution, swapping MacDonald for McCafferty, to shut up shop with the clock ticking down.
Austin had what looked like a decent penalty shout turned down after he was bundled over in the box, but Whyte saw nothing. Both sides had chances to grab all three points in the closing stages, Fash with a great chance for Kelty and Flynn going close for Shire, but it finished 2 each.
In the end, Shire were plenty deserving of the draw and at times during the second half, probably worthy of more. Kelty weren’t really at the races for most of the game and were probably a little fortunate to be two up in the first half as, not for the first time, they struggled against a more physical team.
The draw trims Kelty’s lead at the top of the table to just three points over Bonnyrigg, who have a game in hand with the sides still to play each other home and away. The fixture computer has thrown up some odd combinations this season, and Kelty now face a testing run of three league games on the road before the end of January.
Supporters Man Of The Match:
It was a bit of a difficult choice with the maroon machine never really firing on all cylinders. Ross Philp and Thomas Reilly both in with a shout, but the fans gave the nod to two goal man Scott Linton. Wearing the armband for the day, his finish for the first was as good as you’ll see all weekend and his composure from the spot takes his tally to 13 for the season so far.
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