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Elgin City 0-0 Kelty Hearts: Borough Briggs stand-in captain praises gritty display against league leaders

Kane O'Connor cleares the ball away from the Elgin goal.
Kane O'Connor cleares the ball away from the Elgin goal.

Stand-in Elgin City captain Matthew Cooper was happy to see his team take points off runaway leaders Kelty Hearts for the third time this season.

City battled hard with 10 men for most of the second half to grab a deserved point against the leaders.

Gavin Price’s side had Rabin Omar sent off for two fairly innocuous fouls but some solid defending and a man-of-the match performance by keeper Daniel Hoban frustrated the visitors.

Cooper, standing in for injured skipper Euan Spark, was part of a resolute defensive effort playing in the uncustomary position of left back, with Spark out and Aberdeen loanee Evan Towler unavailable due to illness.

“The boys dug in brilliantly,” Cooper said. “We knew it was going to be tough against the runaway league leaders.

“In the last few weeks we’ve been really good and showed what we are capable of.

“So it is kind of disappointing where we are in the league table when we are putting in performances like that.”

Speaking on his responsibility of captaining the team, Cooper added: “As a group there’s a lot of experienced lads in there. I’m vocal anyway and I’ve been here for a while now so it was an easy transition to make.

“It’s disappointing that Sparky is out for a while but it is fine to be captaining the team.

“It’s been the story of our season. Without trying to make excuses, we’ve had a lot of injuries and some long term ones so we’ve not really had the chance to have the same team every week, so it’s been hard for the gaffer.”

Rabin Omar was sent off for Elgin City following a challenge on Michael Tidser.

Assistant manager Steven MacKay said he felt Elgin merited the point for their efforts on the day.

“We did enough to get something out of the game, albeit we made it tough for ourselves going down to ten men,” he said.

“The shape of the team and the work-rate meant we restricted Kelty to very few chances until late in the game, so I think when you look back over the balance of play, a draw was a fair result.

MacKay felt midfielder Omar’s 56th minute dismissal was a harsh decision by referee Calum Scott.

“He’s made an honest attempt for the ball and it’s a very soft free kick, so we were very surprised to see the second yellow card come out.

“It made it difficult for us but the boys dug in and ground out a very good result.

“Kelty are the runaway leaders in the league for a good reason. They are a top quality side with some exceptional players.

“So the performances we have put in against them have been very pleasing.”

Ross Draper organises the Elgin rearguard.

Elgin were forced into a defensive reshuffle with on-loan Cove Rangers stopper Jevan Anderson ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, captain Euan Spark sidelined and Aberdeen loanee Evan Towler also unavailable.

Former Hibs man Kane O’Connor came in for only his second start and Ross Draper returned to the centre of a five-man defence for the Black and Whites.

Kelty looked to make an early impression and Jamie Barjonas won a free kick on the edge of the box after an impressive solo run on 12 minutes, Nathan Austin took the kick but home keeper Daniel Hoban saved comfortably.

Michael Tidser then volleyed wide after Hoban miskicked a clearance under pressure from Austin.

Elgin’s first sniff saw Aidan Sopel cross from the left and Russell Dingwall stretched to volley at the far post but his effort was blocked.

Chances were rare in the first half with Elgin striker Kane Hester producing a moment of magic on the half hour with a superb flick and turn before flashing a drive over the bar.

The home side were dealt a setback when stopper Darryl McHardy picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Rory MacEwan at the break, with City reverting to a back four.

City were reduced to ten men after 56 minutes when Omar received a second booking for a very soft foul on Michael Tidser.

With 20 minutes left Kelty defender Thomas O’Ware powered in a header from a free kick which Hoban appeared to touch over but a goal-kick was given.

Two minutes later Barjonas laid the ball off in the box for sub Joe Cardle whose fierce drive was just too high.

Hoban produced a fine save low at his post to deny Robbie McNab from a Barjonas lay-off on 78 minutes.

Cardle poked wide from an Alfredo Agyeman cross in the closing moments and another good stop by Hoban from O’Ware ensured that the home side picked up a share of the spoils.

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