ARBROATH Vics were given a break from league business when they played host to Kelty Hearts in the first round of the Emirates Scottish Junior Cup on Saturday.
Injuries and unavailability meant Vics were very much depleted with only two outfield substitutes available alongside goalkeeper Bob Duncan on the bench.
Kelty had no such problems, the East Region Super League side, lying second in the table, had an almost full strength squad from which to choose, which included three players in the Scotland Junior squad to face the Republic of Ireland next month.
Despite that it was Vics who created the first opening inside the first 90 seconds when Craig Watson got a touch to a Craig Sturrock throw-in on a level with the 18-yard line and although his flick was knocked out of the box, Colin Lawson fired the loose ball just wide of Allan Fleming’s right-hand post from 20 yards.
Kelty responded quickly with Ross Philip flighting a diagonal ball over the top of Vics defence for Neil Owen McCabe to get in a shot, which Lee Hutcheson did well to deal with before being fouled by Brian Ritchie as the midfielder tried to reach the loose ball.
Hutcheson then had to be alert to save low down at his near post after Stuart Cargill reached a Mark Forbes ball on the by-line and fired it goalwards where it took a deflection on the way.
Two minutes later, a Darren Smith corner caused bother in Vics’ box. The ball was eventually returned to the Kelty player who saw his second delivery find Mark Forbes on the edge of the area, but Steve Florence got a foot to his effort to deflect it behind for a corner.
Vics were being hemmed back as Kelty went in search of an early goal. Conrad Courts hoisted a high ball into the box, Hutcheson did well to claim it when he was barged into by Damon Gray.
In a rare Vics break, Mark Fotheringham did well to win the ball in midfield. He played it out wide to Sturrock who helped it up the left for Garry Warren, but his forward pass was over hit and ran through to Fleming.
Despite having plenty of possession, Kelty had yet to really test Hutcheson, but Stuart should have done better than shoot weakly at the ‘keeper after being set up by McCabe.
Soon after, a dangerous free kick from Smith bounced around the box. Vics were relieved to see the ball bounce up off a Kelty hand to allow the referee to halt play for a free kick in their favour.
In the 29th minute, Ross Philip whipped a cross from the right touchline over to the far post where Damon Gray got above the defence to send a header just wide.
At the other end, Chris Simpson and Grant Mowatt both headed on a Hutcheson goal kick to send Watson through on goal, but Allan Fleming was quickly out of his box to kick clear before the keeper could reach.
Despite that, Kelty’s pressure was eventually rewarded in the 31st minute when they took the lead from the penalty spot. Gray was tripped inside the box by Florence, although the referee initially played on before pointing to the spot when Kelty failed to gain advantage after they had a shot blocked. GRAY took the kick himself and was more than a little fortunate to see his shot go in as Hutcheson got both hands to the ball to push it onto the post, but the rebound rolled over the line.
Four minutes later, Kelty doubled their lead. A long ball from goalkeeper Fleming was headed on by Ritchie and CARGILL took full advantage, running on to loft the ball into the net beyond the advancing Hutcheson.
Vics continued to battle away and came close to pulling a goal back in the 43rd minute. Warren picked up a Lawson pass and ran at the heart of the Kelty defence before setting up Mowatt whose shot was blocked by the legs of the ‘keeper. Mowatt was first to the rebound and his follow-up was deflected over for a corner off the shins of an outstretched leg. From the flag kick, Mowatt’s initial cross was nodded back out to the touchline where his second attempt forced Fleming to dive and smother the ball at the near post.
Half-time: Arbroath Vics 0, Kelty Hearts 2.
Vics came out in more determined fashion after the break and within four minutes should have pulled a goal back. Fotheringham got the ball out wide to Warren who did well to get over a cross from the by-line despite having looked to have been impeded but Watson side-footed his shot wide of the target from six yards with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Kelty replied with McCabe getting free on the left and cutting the ball across the face of goal where Cargill just failed to get a touch, allowing Hutcheson to boot the ball away for a throw-in.
A minute later, Cargill got the slightest of touches to a Smith free kick inside the area, but Hutcheson was well positioned to claim the ball.
At the other end, Watson got on the end of a David McLeish cross, but he was tackled by Courts as he shot and it took the sting off the ball allowing Fleming to save.
Kelty weren’t having it all their own way this half and on the hour mark, Vics pulled a goal back. Watson got up highest to flick a header through the visiting defence and SIMPSON ran on to place a shot beyond the ‘keeper and the near post.
Florence then kept Kelty’s lead to just a single goal when he blocked a Cargill shot away for a corner after a Smith effort had fallen into his path.
Midway through the half, Vics made a change when Kevin Durno came on for Warren.
An inswinging corner from Gray almost sneaked in at the near post, his effort being cleared off the line before McCabe’s follow up was charged down.
In the 66th minute, Kelty replaced Cargill with Stephen Bathgate, before McCabe was booked for dissent.
A slack pass-back from Sturrock put Hutcheson under pressure, the ‘keeper just beating Ritchie to the ball to kick clear.
Hutcheson then did well to tip over a Smith free kick before Florence picked up his first ever booking in junior football for a trip on Ritchie just outside the box. Smith was again entrusted with the free kick, but Hutcheson was again in the right place to save.
The away side were beginning to get a little edgy with only a one goal cushion and when McLeish sent a free kick into the box in the 75th minute, they were glad to see Fleming grab hold of the ball as Sturrock got a toe to it.
Despite all Vics endeavours, they were undone eight minutes from time when Hutcheson was penalised for handling a pass-back on the six-yard line to concede an indirect free kick. With the entire Vics’ team on the goal-line, Courts touched the ball to RITCHIE who smashed into the back of the net much to the relief of the sizeable Kelty support.
The referee was forced to reach for his pocket to take the names of Sturrock, McLeish and Courts as the game entered the last five minutes.
With Vics pushing almost everyone forward, Kelty broke away to score again three minutes into stoppage time when BATHGATE ran up the right to round Hutcheson before firing the ball into the empty net.
The final scoreline flattered Kelty somewhat as with only eight minutes left, Vics were still in with a chance of snatching an equaliser, but over the 90 minutes it couldn’t be denied they deserved to win and take their place in the second round next month.
Arbroath Vics: Hutcheson, McLeish, Sturrock, Lawson, Johnston, Florence, Mowatt, Fotheringham, Watson, Simpson, Warren (Durno 64). Unused substitutes: Laing and Duncan, g/k.
Kelty Hearts: Fleming, Philip, Courts, McCabe, Forbes, McCabe, Smith, Ritchie, Courts, Cargill (Bathgate 66), Gray. Unused substitutes: Winiarski, Gray, Duffin and Lunn, g/k.
Referee: Mr. M. Roncone, Monifieth.
Vics are back on league business tomorrow (Saturday) when they are at home to Downfield. Kick-off is at 2.30 p.m.