Kelty Hearts 4 Caledonian Braves 1, Lowland League

BARRY FERGUSON received the perfect present as his Kelty Hearts pacesetters maintained their Lowland League lead against Caledonian Braves at the weekend.

The New Central Park boss, who turned 42 on Sunday, watched his side produce a second-half power show the previous day that sunk the visitors to keep their six-point lead over Bonnyrigg Rose intact.

A treble from Nathan Austin – which took his total number of goals for the season to an astonishing 44 in 29 games – and a solitary strike from Dylan Easton wrapped up a 19th victory in 21 league matches.

Despite extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games – 14 of which have ended in wins – Ferguson, who landed former Morton and Falkirk midfielder Michael Tidser on a one-and-a-half year deal on Tuesday, described Kelty’s performance as “a wee bit flat”.

The two teams had met in the reverse fixture on the second weekend of the campaign in August, which ended in a 4-1 success for the men in maroon, but mid-table Braves almost upset the leaders in just the second minute.

A long ball out of defence caused some indecision between recent signing Craig Reid and outrushing goalkeeper Ben Mackenzie but Ross McNeil could only nod the ball out of play after getting in between the home duo.

Moments later, Austin forced Alex Marshall into a double stop as Ferguson’s men responded, which then saw Matty Flynn denied by a sensational Marshall save to push his effort from around eight yards onto the underside of the bar.

However, the Braves keeper was powerless to prevent the opening goal when it did arrive in the 26th minute.

After latching onto Thomas Reilly’s long pass and evading the offside trap, Austin checked onto his left foot and, on the turn at the edge of the box, sent a superb shot flying into the top corner of the net.

Craig Quinn forced Mackenzie into a smart block at the other end but, almost 20 minutes into the second half, Kelty doubled their advantage when Easton, from the right, did well to dig out a cross for Austin, who made no mistake with a fine header.

If the points weren’t already sealed, Easton made sure with 17 minutes to go when, after his cross was headed back his way, he turned away from Neil McLaughlin and Jack McDowall before sending a deflected shot into the bottom corner.

Two minutes later, Austin netted his eighth hat-trick of the season by lobbing Marshall after latching onto a long ball and, although Serge Makofo robbed Tam Scobbie to net a late consolation for the Braves, it wrapped up a good day’s work for Kelty.

They have played two games more than Bonnyrigg but have a vastly superior goal difference, and Ferguson told Kelty Hearts TV: “The performance, if I’m being honest, was a wee bit flat, which is surprising because for the vast majority of the season, we’ve been really at it.

“We did OK today.

“They came here and obviously defended for their lives but the positive I take out of it is when we do OK, we still come away scoring four goals.

“Scobbs (Scobbie) knows he’s got to do better with that one at the end. The game was done at that time but he’s experienced enough to take it on the shoulders and get on with it.

“We just need to keep winning and keep making sure we’re at the top of the league but the performance could be better, there’s no doubt.”

This Saturday, Kelty travel to Dalbeattie Star, with kick-off at 3pm.

Crossgates Primrose 2 Jeanfield Swifts 0, East of Scotland League, Premier Division

CROSSGATES Primrose secured their first victory of 2020 by seeing off Jeanfield Swifts at Humbug P:ark.
Alan Campbell’s side had not tasted success in four games – with their last maximum achieved at Blackburn United on December 14 – but got the better of the Perthshire side.
The home team opened the scoring in the 33rd minute through Mark Wilkie and it took them just four minutes to add a second goal thanks to defender Sean O’Neil.
Although they conceded a spot-kick in the 71st minute, Grant Henderson’s save from Chris McLeish’s effort ensured that there would be no grandstand finish as Primrose picked up their sixth league win of the season.
The result leaves them in 10th place, eight points clear of bottom club Newtongrange Star, with both teams having played 20 matches.

Dalkeith Thistle 3 Oakley United 2, First Division Conference A/Conference B

STEWART KENNY was left frustrated after his Oakley United side surrendered a two-goal advantage to fall to defeat at Dalkeith Thistle.
After what he described as a “topsy-turvy” month at Blairwood Park, he was back in the dugout on Saturday having been reinstated as the club’s manager, after being relieved of his duties at the beginning of January.
Although he was absent due to prior commitments, his Oakley players had put that to the side last time out, routing Hawick Royal Albert 5-0.
A second successive victory looked on the cards for them in Midlothian when two goals inside a minute, on the stroke of half-time, put Oakley into a commanding position.
Craig Martin’s penalty, followed almost immediately by a Stuart Love effort from close range, gave them a deserved advantage but, just three minutes after the interval, Kenny McMillan began the home side’s comeback.
On the hour mark, James McPartlin’s flying shot brought Dalkeith level and, although the visitors struck the woodwork, Michael Bennett’s diving header with 20 minutes to go sealed a dramatic victory for the hosts.
“It really was a game of two halves,” Kenny reflected.
“In the first half, it was a resolute performance; we were playing well and were 2-0 up. But we came out in the second half and capitulated.
“We scored two late goals in the first half, and I’m sure even Dalkeith themselves would say that it was deserved, but we didn’t turn up in the second half.
“We need to learn that we don’t need to go chasing the game. The game will open up for you as they need to come out.
“Realistically, we won’t go and win the league, but if we can finish in the top half, it will be a decent season.”

Syngenta 1 Rosyth 2, South Premier League

BRIAN MUIRHEAD has set high-flying Rosyth a target of collecting maximum points between now and the end of the campaign after they maintained their promotion push.
In what the Rec boss described as “one of the hardest games” of their season so far, second-half goals from Tam Hampson and Gregg Page earned a vital three points at Syngenta on Saturday.
It was Rosyth’s 11th successive league victory and, with five matches left to play, they have a seven-point cushion over Stoneyburn at the top of the table, having played four games more.
But, crucially, they are 13 clear of third-top Newburgh, who have played one game fewer, and 17 ahead of Kirkcaldy and Dysart, who have five matches in hand.
Muirhead, though, is refusing to get carried away and insists his team must continue to take care of their own business as the promotion chase heats up.
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time and see where it takes us,” he said.
“We’ve got five league games left and our focus is to get 15 points. If we get 15 points and finish third, you can’t do any more and have to take your hat off to the guys above, who have played very well.
“It is a really enjoyable league and very competitive. It’s up to us to concentrate on three points at a time.”
Rosyth won the reverse fixture 5-3 at the Fleet Grounds in August but, despite both Hampson and Page having opportunities, they fell behind before the half-time break following a mix-up at the back.
However, the visitors regrouped and drew themselves level just two minutes after the restart, with a goal Muirhead described as “a worldie”.
A fine team move, starting out of defence, eventually led to Mikey McMillan teeing up Hampson to fire a fine effort into the top corner of the net.
That gave Rosyth the impetus to search for a winner which duly arrived thanks to Page, who raced onto a through ball before slotting well into the bottom corner.
Muirhead continued: “In the first five or 10 minutes, it was a non-event, and then Syngenta were probably the best team for the next 20-25. The guys know what’s expected and they were a bit annoyed at themselves, I felt, but they came out and, in the first 20-25 minutes of the second half, blew them away.
“If you said at half-time we’d win 2-1, we’d have bitten your hand off. That was probably one of the hardest games we’ve been in this season.
“They’re a good side and have got real, good experience in there now. We’ve not played for 90 minutes at the standard we’re capable of reaching consistently but we are playing with confidence and we’ll take that.”
This weekend provides Rosyth with a break from the rigours of league football with the visit of Thornton Hibs in the East Region League Cup, and Muirhead added: “It will allow me to maybe make a few changes but it’s a chance to get to a quarter-final so we want to win.”

Saturday’s fixtures (kick-off 2.30pm unless stated): East of Scotland League, Premier Division - Musselburgh Athletic v Crossgates Primrose. First Division, Conference A/B - Oakley United v Easthouses Lily, Heriot-Watt University v Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts (3pm). East Region League Cup - Rosyth v Thornton Hibs (2pm).