Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Stenhousemuir 2-1 Kelty Hearts
Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir
Kelty wrapped up their pre-season programme with a narrow defeat at Ochilview. After a goalless first-half, Dylan Easton gave Kelty the lead, before Stenny substitutes Thomas Halleran and Cameron Graham turned things around to give the League 2 side the win.
Kelty lined up with the 3-5-2 formation that Barry Ferguson has been experimenting with during pre-season:
Darren Jamieson in goal, with a back three of Paddy Boyle, Dougie Hill and Scott Hooper.
Skipper Michael Tidser and Thomas Reilly were the deep midfielders, with Ross Philp, Jamie Stevenson and Dylan Easton in advanced roles and a strike partnership of Nathan Austin and Kallum Higginbotham up top.
Stenny were first to have a shot on goal, Ryan Blair with the long-range effort that DJ in the Kelty goal fumbled but managed to hold at the second attempt. Despite the early scare, the visitors settled quickly, Austin forcing a save from Stenny’s trial keeper Callum Erskine.
It was a pretty even first-half, but the visitors probably shaded it in terms of possession and chances created. Kelty looked most dangerous when Stevenson was on the ball down the right side, with a series of wicked deliveries into the box.
Stenny were holding firm though, Little and Munro dealing with the aerial threat and doing a decent job of keeping Austin quiet. Fash did have the ball in the net on the half-hour mark, getting the end of Easton’s through ball, squeezing between two defenders and slipping it past Erskine, but the linesman’s flag was already up.
The hosts reacted with their best chance of the half, Greig Spence striking the post and Jamieson blocking the follow-up shot to keep the scoresheet blank at the interval.
Kelty broke the deadlock early in the second-half, Easton with some neat footwork to wriggle between two defenders and fire across the keeper in the far corner. Erskine was looking a little shaky in the home goal, his kicking in particular putting his side under pressure on a couple of occasions.
The visitors were beginning to look more comfortable as they settled into the new formation and were good value for their lead. As is the norm for friendly matches, both sides began to make a raft of substitutions early in the second-half and the game began to get a bit fragmented. It was Stenny substitute Halleran that brought the hosts level, stepping onto a low cut-back to the edge of the box and guiding the ball into the top corner, giving DJ no chance.
The changes seemed to suit Stenny better than Kelty and the hosts were enjoying their best spell of the game. Trialist Graham grabbed the winner with ten minutes go, cutting in from the left, beating Reid and firing past DJ into the bottom corner.
It was a friendly played in the right spirit, but keenly contested. There was only one questionable tackle, Tommy Muir a little reckless with a challenge that caught Craig Reid on the ankle. The Kelty sub wasn’t able to continue and had to be helping to the dressing room with an ice-pack strapped to his leg.
There were a couple of flash points for ref Steven Kirkland to deal with. The first was a bit of handbags between the two number sevens, Tapping and Higginbotham, but a quiet word from the ref was enough to sort things out.
Creag Little and sub Matty Flynn then had a wrestling match of their own that left the Stenny defender with a designer rip in the neck of his shirt. Again, the ref had a quite word with both and gave the free-kick Stenny’s way. Flynn really wasn’t happy with the decision and the Kelty man very nearly talked himself into Kirkland’s notebook.
So the game finished 2-1, a result that was perhaps a little harsh on Kelty, who will feel like they deserved at least a draw. The injury to Reid aside, Barry Ferguson should be happy enough, his team having given a decent account of themselves against higher league opposition. Indeed, on the strength of pre-season matches, there’s plenty to be confident about as the Fifers gear up to defend their Lowland League title. In the current circumstances, there are more than a few question marks around the coming season, not least whether there will be any fans allowed in to watch the action. However, when the action does get underway, this new look Kelty side seem to be in decent shape for the promotion push.
Man of the Match: The two skippers Andrew Munro and Michael Tidser both had fine games, but it was Jamie Stevenson that caught the eye most. Playing on the righthand side of a five man midfield, Stevenson was up and down the wing all day long, linking up well with Philp and Higginbotham, and always with a dangerous delivery at the end of it.
See all the match photos HERE