Second Game of 2022/23 Season
Our second trip of the new season saw us once again across the border and into Scotland.
This time to visit New Central Park to see a club that is on the rise and with the financial backing that could see them rise even higher. Sooner, rather than later. Their opponents were Inverness Caledonian Thistle from the Scottish Championship.
Kelty Hearts Football Club were only formed in 1975, making them one of the younger clubs in Scottish football. They initially played in local leagues before joining the Fife League, which was one of six such regions around Scotland. When this number was cut to three, Kelty found themselves in the East Region from 2002.
The club applied for membership of the SFA after winning their league for the second time and membership was approved in 2017. Following another successful league campaign in 2018, Kelty was promoted to the Scottish Lowland League for the following season.
The club gained even more prestige when they made former Scotland national team captain, Barry Ferguson their manager in October of 2018. Ferguson left to join Alloa Athletic in 2021 and was replaced by Kevin Thomson. Thompson lasted long enough to guide the club to promotion before resigning at the end of the season. John Potter is the new man in charge.
As the Covid pandemic hit the world in 2020, Kelty Hearts were declared champions of the Lowland League when the season was brought to a premature halt, based on their points per game average.
In the 2020/21 season, Kelty Hearts were again declared champions on points per game average, as pandemic lockdowns came, went and came back again. They managed to play a playoff game against Brechin City, which they duly won 3-1.
With this win, Kelty Hearts were promoted to the SPFL for the first time.
The club found its feet quickly at the new level and was promoted at the first time of asking. During this successful campaign, the club also defeated SPL side, St. Johnstone in the Scottish Cup in front of a sell-out home crowd. Incredibly, the newly promoted club confirmed another promotion with five games still remaining in the season.
So, this is where our trip to Kelty comes in and we were intrigued to see how the home side would fare against an Inverness side that almost got promoted to the SPL the previous season.
Kelty – Pre-Game
Our day started as it normally does, with a rude awakening as the alarm let us know it was time to get ready for our early bus to Newcastle. We caught the 08:49 train to Edinburgh and arrived in the Scottish capital around 10:20 before catching our connection to Cowdenbeath 20 minutes later. Another forty minutes travel and we were in Cowdenbeath, where we visited the wonderful Baynes – think Greggs but better.
I filled up with a couple of steak bakes and an apple pie, while Mrs Hopper had a chicken baguette and a strawberry turnover, all of which were lovely.
Normally we would have our lunch in a pub near the ground we are visiting but unfortunately, there is a dearth of such places in Kelty. We did discover that there was another Baynes shop in Kelty though!
We caught a bus to Kelty from a bus stop opposite Cowdenbeath railway station (catch any of 17A/17B/18/18B) and twenty minutes later, we were at our destination.
Having said there are no pubs with food in Kelty, there is a great pub called The Kings, which you should absolutely visit if you go to watch Kelty Hearts sometime. My first impressions were of a classy, well-designed and decorated establishment with a modern, yet traditional pub feel.
The bar staff were friendly and we sat down with a Guinness and a Tennants and watched as the pub slowly started to fill with Inverness fans and a scattering of Kelty locals. Pretty soon, the jukebox was taken over and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s ‘Enola Gay’ felt like it was on repeat as the ‘Ness boys were singing their own words to the 80’s classic.
The atmosphere was friendly at all times and I would recommend the place to away fans and neutrals alike if visiting Kelty.
After a couple of pints, we made our way back out into the hot sunny day and the short walk to New Central Park. As we walked I was grateful for the silly sun hat I had bought after suffering in the sun on too many previous occasions.
Kelty Hearts – The Stadium
Our first sighting of the stadium was a short row of two turnstiles and a fenced-off entrance for vehicles. Above these was a Kelty Hearts flag fluttering in the warm breeze.
Our tickets were easily purchased in advance from Fanbase and stored digitally on my phone via the app.
Tickets cost £12.00 each for this fixture.
We showed our ‘tickets’ to the man operating the turnstile and they were scanned and we were admitted. Upon entering, the pitch is off to the left on a slight rise, while ahead and to the right are a series of buildings that contain toilets, changing rooms for the officials and players, a social club, club shop and a snack bar.
We walked up to roughly the halfway mark and walked up into the ground proper. We took our place on a small covered terrace that was one of two identical structures. The other was nearer to the entrance we had come in by.
It was clear to us at this point that there were probably more visiting fans than there were locals. Blue and red shirts and banners could be seen on all four sides of the ground and we saw our acquaintances from The Kings had made their way to the ground too. They were standing to one side of the goal to our right and continued their singing that had started in the pub (or on the train from Inverness that morning, maybe?)
Behind the goal was a small row of terracing that was mainly fenced off and is presumably still under construction. The same was true of the other end and I can only assume this is an attempt to increase the capacity at New Central Park in readiness for any future promotions or big match occasions.
On the opposite side of the pitch was a small stand that covered approximately one-third the length of the pitch. Either side of it was a small area for standing. This stand also had a small area for diasability supporters and a small section for journalists. On the roof was a temporary gantry with a cameraman. I think this may be where Kelty Hearts TV highlights come from.
The pitch itself was another artificial surface that is quite common amongst Scottish clubs.
On the whole, the ground is small but seems to be well-cared for and clean and tidy. The only small concern I had was that there are building materials left in some areas which could be used by ‘fans’ in any potential altercation, so I hope they are removed or used before that can happen.
Kelty Hearts – Stadium Gallery
Kelty Hearts – Pre-Game Video of New Central Park
Kelty Hearts – The Game
On to the game itself and the teams lined up for action as soon as they entered the pitch without any preamble or further warm-ups and it was the visitors who got the game underway.
I try not to say too much about the games we watch because let’s face it, you don’t read our posts for a match report, you’re here to read about the ground and the overall experience, so just a brief summary of the game here.
One of the notable things in the match was the ongoing skirmish between Kelty’s number eleven, Kallum Higginbotham and the Inverness number five, Robbie Deas. There were sly digs at each other when the officials weren’t looking, pushing in the back at set-pieces and aerial duels and non-stop verbals between each other.
In terms of entertainment, the animosity peaked when Deas used some rather ‘choice words’ to have a go at the linesman about not seeing Higginbotham getting one of his sly digs in. What made it funny was when Higginbotham immediately appeared in front of the linesman and said “Are you going to let him talk to you like that?”
Notable first-half moments included a header by Boyd that went just wide from a corner-kick, a shot by Mackay that was superbly tipped over the bar by the Kelty keeper and a chance for the home team near the break. Kelty should probably have taken the lead but a combination of poor forward play and a good block by the keeper kept it even after 45 minutes.
In the second half, Kelty started well and had a couple of good chances to open the scoring but Caley continued to be the better team as the half went on.
Kelty’s number six, Jordon Forster, deserves a special mention for his work at the heart of Kelty’s defence. Without him, I think the score could have been very different. Last-ditch tackles, key headers and marshalling those around him to good effect kept Caley at bay until the final minutes. He deservedly was given Man of the Match for his fine display and even the Inverness fans around me agreed he had deserved it.
The winning goal came in the 89th minute and was scored by the substitute, George Oakley who was making his second debut for Inverness, having previously played for the club from 2017-2019.
Having been played through by a fine pass from Billy Mackay, Oakley made no mistake and put it coolly past the home keeper to give Inverness a deserved win.
You can read a fuller match report here as the BBC minute by minute, chronicle the game.
Kelty will no doubt be encouraged by their display against an opponent from the upper echelons of the Championship. Make no mistake about it, despite Caley deserving the win, the Maroon Machine were by no means outmatched or outplayed.
I’m predicting they will be a force to be reckoned with in Scottish League One in the coming season. (Sorry in advance Kelty fans!)
Attendance – 601
Entrance Fee – £12.00
Programme – N/A – Teamsheet was available but I missed out, unfortunately.
Kelty Hearts – Match Highlights and Personal Videos
Kelty – After the Game
Following the game, we took a short walk back to the bus stop and caught a bus back to Cowdenbeath. We had missed a train by a short time which meant we had the best part of an hour to wait in the sun that was blazing down onto the platform. We moved down the access ramp and waited it out there, in the shade.
By this time, my seasonal allergies were in full swing and I probably looked like my dog had just been put down to anyone who looked at me. My nose felt like it had a ball of socks stuffed in each nostril and my eyes itched terribly but it’s all worth it to notch another ground off my list and an enjoyable one it was too.
Our singing buddies from Inverness found us once more and came up the ramp singing away, although by this time the words were a little more blurred (slurred?) Still, they were harmless and having fun, which is what football away days are all about and I was happy for them.
Eventually, the 18:18 to Edinburgh arrived and we were on our way once more. Arriving at Waverley, we grabbed a coffee and a snack before catching our connection to Newcastle.
Despite the travel chaos recently, everything went reasonably smoothly and we were back home, tired and itchy but content. After a quick browse of the internet and a spot of Twitter-ing with a nice mug of Bovril, it was off to bed to start dreaming of the next one…