Report & Highlights: Berwick Rangers 0-4 Kelty Hearts

Nine-man Berwick suffered a heavy defeat against reigning Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts. A brace for Nathan Austin, a great strike from Dylan Easton and an unfortunate own goal gifted Kelty all three points.  

A debatable red card for Ryan Finnie after just 20 seconds, followed by Jack Wright’s dismissal just before half-time, hindered the Wee Gers’ chances to take anything from the game. 

Manager Ian Little made three changes to the side that lost to Gretna 2008 last weekend. Both Purves brothers, Dan and Jo, replaced striker Lewis Allan and Hearts loanee Mackenzie Lawler. Ryan Finnie slotted into the back three in place of Kevin Waugh.

Kelty Hearts boss Barry Ferguson made two changes from last weekend’s 2-1 victory against Gala Fairydean Rovers. Right-back Craig Reid and right-winger Grant Anderson came into the side for Jamie Stevenson and club captain Michael Tidser.  

The Wee Gers were at a disadvantage from the off. A long clearance just seconds after kick-off looped over Berwick’s last man Ryan Finnie and was met by the onrushing Nathan Austin. Before Austin could take a second touch, he hit the deck with Finnie in pursuit. After a quick look toward his linesman, referee Iain Sneddon made up his mind and gave Finnie – who protested his innocence all the way to the changing room – his marching orders.  

There was relief after Dylan Easton’s resulting free kick was cleared after striking the men in the wall, but frustration grew again when Jo Purves was given an early booking for a very weak foul minutes later. The outnumbered ‘Gers remaining on the pitch responded to Finnie’s sending off well but Kelty’s dominance in possession was quickly turning into dangerous attacks.  

Kelty had a clear plan on how to break the deadlock: get the ball onto Grant Anderson’s head. The first attempt ended with the ball reaching midfielder Ross Philp, who’s strong strike was kept out by a David Ferguson block. 

The second did reach Anderson. A great cross found the winger, who leapt above Jo Purves to guide his header toward goal. Dougie Horne managed to stretch across the face of his goal to tip the ball over the crossbar.  

The third attempt was successful as Kelty finally took the lead in the 24th minute. A diagonal ball into Berwick’s box wasn’t dealt with first time by Jo Purves. Anderson pounced on the wing-back’s error and headed the ball through to Austin, who let the ball run across his body before coolly finishing past Horne and two defenders on the line.  

The rain began to pour as Kelty missed a chance to go two up by the half-hour mark. Dylan Easton collected the ball thirty-five yards from goal before unleashing a wild effort with his weaker left-foot that flew high and wide.  

It wouldn’t take long for Easton to get his goal with his stronger right-foot, however. Just moments later, the tricky midfielder picked the ball up on the left wing, cut inside with a nice piece of skill as he brushed past Dan Purves and fired a fierce effort into the bottom corner to double the visitors lead. 

Defenders in Black and Gold still bravely put their bodies on the line as the relentless waves of attacks from Kelty kept coming, but the first knock came for Anderson, who took his time getting back to his feet, after being caught by Jack Wright – who was booked for his late tackle. 

As the deflating first-half was drawing to a close, matters got worse for the Borderers. Sneddon issued Jack Wright with a quick second yellow card for simulation inside his own half – despite the midfielder not appealing for a free kick after falling to the ground.  

Berwick headed into half-time down two goals and two players. Little sorted his side into a compact 4-3-1 formation for the second half, with Kevin Waugh replacing Jo Purves. 

The half-time break did nothing to stop Kelty’s attacks from coming. The first real attempt of the half came in the 50th minute when Kallum Higginbotham was neatly laid off by Easton and his powerful, outswinging effort was parried wide well by Horne.  

However, Horne was helpless for Kelty’s next attempt on goal. A quick turn on the edge of the penalty area from Austin seemed to be dealt with by Kieran Somerville, until the ball bounced awkwardly off the defender’s boot. The ball kindly fell back into the path of Austin, who unleashed a driven effort through Horne’s legs from very close range.  

Despite the best efforts of the disadvantaged Berwick side, the team couldn’t find a way through Kelty’s imposing defence and were soon punished again.  

Ferguson’s attempt to clear a dangerous cross into the box from Anderson ended up with the ball rolling into the bottom corner of his own net. An unfortunate moment for the defender who impressed despite the scoreline and spent the entire game confidently dealing with endless crosses into Berwick’s penalty area.  

Thankfully for the Wee Gers, it didn’t hit five. Grant Nelson was harshly penalised for a fair challenge on Higginbotham just twenty yards from Berwick’s goal. Higginbotham’s deflected effort from the free kick forced a solid reflex save from Horne.  

The final quarter of the game lacked chances and intensity from both teams. Kelty stretched Berwick’s back four and midfield three by placing full-backs and wingers on each touchline, but struggled to create any clear-cut chances for themselves. 

Berwick, meanwhile, struggled to create another substantial attack. The nine-men remaining for the Black and Gold held off Kelty’s 11 for the last 20 minutes and can take some positives from that period of the match.  

The referee blew for full-time and Kelty rose to top of the Lowland League table, while Berwick remained in 11th spot. The Wee Gers will hope to put today’s disappointment behind them when they travel to Denny, Stirlingshire, next Saturday to take on Dunipace in the Scottish Cup.

Report by Cameron Wanstall – @CameronWanstall