Derek Hall's report from the Haddington Athletic v Kennoway Star Hearts game on 21st August

Haddington Athletic 4-0 Kennoway Star Hearts

No doubt about the EOS Conference A game of the day with third placed Athletic hosting second placed Hearts at a very soggy Millfield and a delayed kick off due to traffic issues only served to heighten the pre match tension. Within 60 seconds, the visitors posted a statement of intent as Lewis Payne raced down the left flank to the goal line before picking out Jason Watson with the cutback and his shot from around 12 yards beat keeper Dale Cornet but was cleared off the line by Gordon Harris. After three minutes, a goal kick from Hearts keeper Calum Brodie landed at the feet of Haddington captain Gabri Auriemma who returned the ball with an audacious 45 yard lobbed effort which drifted away from Brodie’s goals. Aaron Congalton then sent Corey Robertson to the Hearts goal line and his driven cut back was well defended at the back post by Hearts captain Ally Griffin for the concession of a corner. When the set piece came over, Ali Simpson’s header was cleared out to Harris who snatched at the shot and drove over from around 12 yards. Hearts responded on 8 minutes with a free kick which Ricki Cooper played disappointingly straight into the hands of Cornet when the penalty area had been loaded up with a number of his team mates. Two minutes later, a Ross King cross was cleared to Auriemma who tried to curl a 22 yard effort into the postage stamp top corner and the ball didn’t miss by much. At the other end, Cornet had to be alert to hack clear a short passback with Payne right on top of him at the edge of the Athletic penalty area. However on 13 minutes the home side went ahead from the spot after a King cross was handled just inside the box by Jay Watson and referee Cammy Stirling pointed for the penalty kick which Shaun Hill dispatched expertly into the bottom corner, sending Brodie the wrong way. On 16 minutes, Auriemma clearly wasn’t happy as the club linesman’s flag went up for ball out in front of the dugouts but his protests fell on deaf ears. Star were still well in this and a nice pass from Brooklyn Mair saw Daryl Falconer turn inside his man before bending a 20 yard effort just over the junction of post and bar. On 20 minutes, Auriemma sent Robertson into the Hearts penalty area but Cooper used his body to shepherd the ball behind. The same player then sent a Hearts corner to the back post and Anthony Couper possibly should have done better than to head wide of the Athletic goal. Auriemma once again provided a lovely pass to send Guy McGarry into the box down the inside left channel but Hearts keeper Brodie had his angles spot on and made the save from the drive look easy, before King worked an opening for the home side but his final shot wasn’t his best. On 29 minutes, a powerful driven cross from Harris Kay was brilliantly turned into the Athletic net by Falconer whose bullet header sailed past Cornet but the striker was offside and the goal didn’t count. On the half hour, Robertson of Haddington became the games’ first yellow card and he could have little complaint as his blatant shirt pull on Cooper at the half way line had referee Stirling rightly going to his pocket. On 33 minutes, Ross Balmer of Hearts made a brilliant block inside the box from a King drive before Hill then fed Congalton and his speculative 30 yarder sailed over the Hearts crossbar. Another Cooper corner for Hearts found the head of Balmer but again the effort was wayward before home captain Auriemma had to leave the field for treatment after a head knock but was able to continue. However six minutes from the break, Haddington were gifted possession in midfield and McGarry raced forward and hammered a low left foot drive past keeper Brodie with the ball striking the base of the far post before rebounding to Seamus Russell on the edge of the box and he calmly stroked home left footed from around 17 yards to double the home sides’ advantage. Hearts tried to respond immediately and it took a good block by Harris to stop a dangerous cross from Payne going into the danger area. A minute from the break, it was almost all over as yet another slide rule pass from Auriemma sent McGarry in one on one with keeper Brodie, but he stayed big and his brave block sent the ball spinning high up onto the post and wide for a corner which came to nothing. At the break, the home side would be well satisfied with a two goal lead against a visiting team who had their moments but so far hadn’t found the required cutting edge.
Within a minute of the restart, Hearts’ Couper missed his kick in midfield and was dispossessed by Hill who lobbed the ball high over the advancing keeper Brodie with the ball bouncing in the six yard area before going over the crossbar. Watson then fed McGarry but keeper Brodie was alert to the danger and grabbed the ball but it had been a very enterprising start to the second half by the home side. This was to continue and after 50 minutes, Watson fed McGarry and he strode into the Hearts penalty area, only to be pulled down as he attempted to hurdle the diving goalkeeper and referee Stirling awarded his second spot kick of the afternoon. The expected yellow card for the keeper was produced and Hill then stepped up to slam home his second and Haddington’s third goal past the outstretched arm of Brodie who this time guessed correctly but to no avail. Two minutes later, Auriemma fired a somewhat optimistic 30 yarder well over before Hill then picked out McGarry inside the Hearts box but a poor first touch allowed Brodie to smother the ball. However with 56 minutes on the clock the victory was well and truly sealed as Harris sent McGarry down the left to the goal line and he got his head up before laying the ball back to the edge of the penalty area where Hill took a touch to control before rifling the ball across keeper Brodie low into the far corner for 4-0 and a superb hat trick. At this point, we had a change in personnel for both sides as Kennoway replaced Cooper with Lee Bryce and Haddington brought on Anes Subasic for King. On the hour, Auriemma cut in from the left wing and sent a skidding 25 yard drive just wide of the far post, and he then set up a chance for Subasic but his fresh air swipe is probably best forgotten. After 68 minutes the home side replaced Watson with Ryan Hutchison and his first involvement was to turn behind a cross from Mair. Another Hearts corner on 73 minutes saw a powerful Balmer header bring out a brilliant save from Cornet who tipped over from right under the crossbar to preserve his clean sheet. A minute later, Auriemma raced to the goal line and picked out Hill at the back post six yards out and any cushioned touch would have brought his fourth goal but he chose to put his laces through the ball at the expense of accuracy and the ball cannoned off the base of the post and away to safety. The game continued to flow one way and twelve minutes from time, Russell picked out Congalton in the box and he almost seemed to have too much time before clipping a fifteen yard right foot drive into the arms of keeper Brodie. Eight minutes from time, Kevin Black replaced Kay for the visitors and hat trick hero Hill departed for a well earned rest with Jack Neilson entering the fray. After Russell had blazed over the highest of the day, McGarry and Auriemma combined to set up Congalton and his 20 yard drive wasn’t all that far over. At the end, a cracking day for the home side, with McGarry and in particular Auriemma pulling the strings and providing the ammo for Hill upfront whilst the away side will hope that the next time these teams meet, they will have more of their regular first team squad at their disposal. Finally a word on referee Cammy Stirling, a young man not yet out of his teens but who seemed very much at home during a high quality match and was hardly noticed in what was the biggest game of his career so far, a job well done for sure.