Kelty Hearts 2 v 0 University of Stirling
New Central Park, Kelty. Lowland League. 3pm, 19/12/20
By Graham Fleming at New Central Park
Promotion hopefuls Kelty Hearts secured a 2-0 victory against University of Stirling despite a battling performance by the students on Saturday.
Kelty struck first in the Lowland League encounter at New Central Park, after Nathan Austin finished from close range early on, before Ryan Shanley added a second at the end of the first half.
Kelty had a penalty saved in the second half and then had to defend bravely to see out the win.
University of Stirling Head Coach Chris Geddes said: “I’m really proud of the boys. Kelty are a top side, a lot better than they were last year.
“When you play a team like Kelty, they’re going to dominate the ball, so you need to keep them honest, and we did that by getting into their box with crosses a few times.
“We are disappointed with the goals to be honest, Ben [Fry] has spilled both of them, but he came back in the second half and saved the penalty and made another good save late on from Jamie Stevenson. He will pull himself back from this though, it just shows how much we rate him that we are disappointed with him losing those goals.
“I thought our boys gave as good as they got, especially in the second half. Going on chances alone, I think we were the better team in the second half, so I’m really proud of the boys.”
Kelty boasted a lineup of familiar names, including ex-Falkirk forwards Nathan Austin and Kallum Higginbotham, and veteran midfielder Michael Tidser. Stirling travelled to Fife looking for their first win in five games against the league leaders.
The game started off in dramatic fashion as referee Barry Dickson waved away an early claim for a Kelty goal as the ball bounced off the line following a corner, despite protests from the Kelty players.
Stirling goalkeeper Ben Fry was required only minutes later as Higginbotham volleyed from ten yards, before Austin hit the post on the 23rd minute, after being released by Shanley down the left. He rolled the ball under Fry who had met him at the 18-yard line – but was denied by the woodwork.
The breakthrough eventually arrived for Kelty through danger-man Austin. Captain Tidser found himself in space 20 yards from goal and rifled an effort which Fry could only palm into the path of Austin, who prodded home to give the hosts the lead on the half-hour mark.
The hosts did not have to wait long to double their advantage. Kelty fired in a low corner, which eluded the University of Stirling defenders, and Fry spilled the resulting attempt allowing Shanley to follow in the rebound to make it 2-0 to the home side.
Following the half-time whistle, the students emerged from the dressing room with a new resolve.
Callum Downie had the first promising chance of the half as his shot from the left side was blocked shortly after the restart. Louis Kennedy also had a shot blocked after a promising dribble into the opposition box.
Just as it seemed that the students had found their flow in the game, disaster struck. Dylan Easton weaved his way into the box, and Alex Webb’s late challenge brought him to the floor and the referee gave a penalty.
It was the experienced Higginbotham who stepped up to take the kick, but Fry got pulled off a magnificent save to keep his team in the contest.
The students continued to press in search of a goal and Jason Jarvis had a shot blocked by the resolute Kelty defence, before substitute Kieran Hall’s curved shot from the edge of the box whizzed past the post by an inch.
Clear-cut chances were in short supply for Stirling as the experienced Kelty defence proved difficult to breakdown for the young side and the match finished 2-0.
The University return to action on Boxing Day, taking on the University of Edinburgh at Forthbank. Keep up to date on the University’ news, fixtures and results at: strirlingunifc.stir.ac.uk
University of Stirling: Fry, Burrows, Webb, Quigley, Lavery, Doan, Brown, Downie (Baird, 64′), Penker (Hall, 64′), Jarvis, Kennedy (McGale, 66′)
Kelty Hearts: Jamieson, Stevenson, Boyle, Hooper, Hill, Reilly, Higginbotham, Tidser, Austin, Easton (Reid), Shanley (Philip)