Football Nation Qualifying Cup, 3rd round:

Kelty Hearts 5 Gretna 2008 1

TREBLE tops Nathan Austin provided yet more inspiration for five-star Kelty Hearts as they eased into the Football Nation Qualifying Cup fourth round.

The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Falkirk hitman took his tally for the campaign to a staggering 33 in just 21 appearances to help Barry Ferguson's side to a 10th successive victory, outwith a Fife Cup defeta against Cowdenbeath.

The New Central Park boss described his team's first-half display as "excellent" as they ruthlessly set about earning a second high-scoring success over Gretna this season, having already beaten them 10-0 in the Lowland League in August.

Austin helped himself to four in that match but he played his part in creating the opportunity for Ross Philp to open the floodgates for Hearts this time round.

In only the ninth minute, Tam Scobbie's long diagonal pass on halfway was nodded down by the striker into Philp's path, who took one touch before slotting calmly beyond the static Aaron Taylor in the visiting goal.

Things got even better for the home side midway through the half when, after controlling Fernandy Mendy's pass, Cammy Russell sent a cross to the back post which, after being missed by Mickael Cuitty Gueu, was tapped home by Austin.

A third goal arrived two minutes later when a visiting clearance was returned to the penalty area by Arnault Bembo, which allowed Austin to control before firing home.

On the half hour, Kelty were given a helping hand when Gueu was penalised for inexplicably controlling a cross with his arm inside the box, allowing Austin to convert from 12 yards and complete his hat-trick, before a second spot-kick – this time for a foul on Philp – allowed Scott Linton to make it 5-0 just 60 seconds later.

Although the hosts created further chances after the break – which included Dylan Easton having one ruled out for offside – it was Gretna who grabbed a consolation on the hour mark when player-boss Chris Humphrey, who was axed after the game with assistant Jim Foley, netted.

Despite having Mendy sent off in the final minute for a second booking, it was a good day's work for Kelty, and Ferguson told their TV channel: "I thought, in the first half, we were excellent.

"We blew them away. We could have scored another three or four goals, and then at half-time I just said to them I want more of the same.

"The amount of work and effort they put in in the first half, and the energy levels, was a lot so we weren't as good as we were in the first half. The second half was good but the only disappointing thing is we didn't add to it.

"I don't know how many chances we had – I thought two or three were clearly onside as well – but, as I said to the boys, the main thing is we're into the next round.

"Gretna have picked up over the last four to six weeks and doing a lot better but I've got to give the boys credit.

"I thought the first half was excellent, second half as I said not as good, but that's the standards that we set here."

Kelty return to league action on Saturday when they entertain East Kilbride, looking to maintain their place at the top of the table.

They lead second-placed East Stirlingshire, who have played two games more, and Bonnyrigg Rose in third by two points while, in the SFA South Region Challenge Cup, they have been handed an away quarter-final at BSC Glasgow.​

Meanwhile, the weekend's scheduled East of Scotland League, and junior, fixtures involving Crossgates Primrose, Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts, Oakley United and Rosyth all fell victim to the weather.

l Saturday's fixtures:– Scottish Lowland Football League: Kelty Hearts v East Kilbride (3pm). Central Taxis East of Scotland League, Premier Division: Newtongrange Star v Crossgates Primrose (2.30pm). First Division, Conference A/B: Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts v Peebles Rovers (1.30pm). South Premier League: Stoneyburn Juniors v Rosyth (1.45pm).