Hello and welcome to the second review of the 2019/20 season as we head to Fife where Kelty Hearts hosted Penicuik Athletic in the final of a pre-season tournament held at New Central Park, home of The Maroon Machine. A venue that is beyond recognition from the side’s junior football days.
Along with the renovation works it’s been an eye-catching summer for the Fife side with the appointment of Barry Ferguson as manager soon being followed by a number of high profile signings. Whilst the capture of right back Gary Cennerazzo from league rivals Spartans may have gone under the radar the landing of Forfar Athletic duo Dylan Easton and Thomas O’Reilly, East Fife’s Scott Linton and Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker Nathan Austin certainly did not, with the latter scoring 11 times in 47 appearances for the Championship side last season.
It’s not just Kelty though that have been raising some eyebrows further up the pyramid. East Stirlingshire, who in 2017 became the first side to be relegated after a 42nd place finish, have added SPFL quality to their ranks as a result of some fresh investment. Nicky Low and Bobby Barr have both dropped out of the league to bolster The Shire midfield. Eddie Malone and Willie Dyer bring over 30 years of SPFL playing time to the defence whilst 38-year-old Peter MacDonald will feel he still has the ability to score goals for the Falkirk side.
East Kilbride, the current defending champions have added to an already talented squad with the coups of former Queen of the South goalkeeper Alan Martin and former Republic of Ireland international Darren O’Dea. The former Celtic and Dundee defender marrying coaching duties at Motherwell with a playing stint at K-Park. Spartans are always contenders, whilst it will also be interesting to see how East of Scotland champions Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic fair having finally been promoted following the installation of floodlights at their New Dundas Park home. If early season results are anything to go by then it looks like Berwick Rangers are going to struggle whilst the innovative BSC Glasgow and Edusport Academy along with Cumbernauld Colts all have ambitions to grow their organisations both on and off the field.
It makes for a fascinating Lowland League campaign ahead, especially when you consider that there is only one place available in the Pyramid Play-off Finals with the obtaining of that one spot no guarantee that promotion will follow. It would be hard not to have some reservations about the financial sustainability of some of the projects currently being undertaken, especially with such a small target for these clubs to aim for but as fans, especially at this level, you have to trust the process. There is also a competitive scene bubbling underneath the Lowland League and for the other sides yet to be mentioned there will be an awareness that relegation would not lead to an immediate return.
Kelty Hearts opponents Penicuik were one of the three East of Scotland Conference winners last season. They would lose out to the aforementioned Bonnyrigg Rose in the champions play-off round and whilst I remain sceptical that for a number of clubs in the East the junior defection was a step that they maybe didn’t need to make there is no arguing that it has freshened things up with the newly restructured Conference A looking particularly exciting this season.
One thing that I will of course be keeping an eye on is whether the quality of catering on offer at the game will go hand in hand with on-field improvements which brings us nicely round to this latest review, Pie 175: The Kelty Hearts Steak Pie.
So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!
Where: New Central Park, Kelty Hearts 4-0 Penicuik Athletic, Pre-Season Tournament Final
Price: £2. I’d say this is pushing the top end for a steak pie in a non-league context however as it didn’t break the £2 barrier I’m happy enough to accept the pricing here.
Presentation: Well this was a little bit different. The pie was taken from under the heating lamps and placed into one of those half paper/half plastic bags that you see in canteens across the land. Inside the bag was a small thin white napkin for post consumption mouth dabbing. Functional, if a little unusual.
Meatiness: This, I’m sorry to say, wasn’t great. I feel like I can’t give a true account of how this filling tasted due to how overdone it was. There was a mix of chunks and stew but everything was over-powered by the pastry (more of that in a moment). There was a little bit of boil out even that had been blackened and I’d found myself wondering as I ate whether this was leftovers from the previous days play. I’d undergone a two hour round trip for my lazy Sunday football fix, but there will be football fans that will go even further when supporting their team, and for them to be presented with this would be a bit of a disappointment.
Pastry: It was burnt, quite badly in places. The puff pastry layer on top in particular whilst on appearances looked acceptable was dry and once I finished eating I was glad for the relief of a can of fizzy pop.
Brown Sauce: I think brown sauce would have helped a bit here, but as this was a luxury pie none was to be applied.
Overall: Pretty disappointing, the work that Kelty Hearts have done to transform New Central Park has been incredible over the last few years and I would say as a neutral the match day experience is definitely one of the best at the level whilst things are clearly moving in the right direction on the pitch. Sadly, in this instance though, the pies need a re-think.
Gravy Factor: Blackened gravy, there’s something good lurking in there but sadly somebody has taken their eye off of it.
Look, I hate being critical of pastries. I always try and spin a review in as positive light as possible, but at the same time I’m not going to lie and say every pie I have is awesome as I also believe that if you are asking people to part with their cash then you should be providing something that merits that investment, especially when the purchase of a pie is as habitual as going to the game itself for some people. Hopefully this was just a one off.
That’s it for this week, so until next time remember to support your local side, big up women’s football and of course, go forth and eat pie!
Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. Editor of Leading the Line, A member of the Scottish Women’s Football Media Team and a contributor to various football websites, podcasts and publications he also currently acts as Heart & Hand Podcast’s resident Iberian football expert, hosting “The Isco Inferno” a weekly take on all things Spanish football. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ and part-time Madrileno with a passion for food and football that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.