MAURICE Ross marked his first match as manager of Cowdenbeath with a defeat to local rivals Kelty Hearts.

It was a late goal from Joe Cardle that proved to be the difference between the two sides at Central Park.

Cammy Gill made an error of judgement and raced outside of his box, allowing Cardle the chance to drill a low half-volley past the Cowden stopper on 75 minutes and into an empty net.

Ross Philp's long ball over the top found the winger but the danger was minimal with defenders covering, but Gill's decision to vacate his goal proved costly.

Kelty edged the contest as a whole and Kevin Thomson's men nearly opened the scoring inside two minutes. Aberdeen loanee Connor Barron had an effort from 20 yards out that narrowly cleared the crossbar.

The presence of a strong wind meant neither side could get the ball down and play, with long balls into the channels and overhit through balls a common sight.

Cowden had shaped up in a back five with width provided by Craig Thomson and Harvey Swann and both full-backs nearly made the opening.

Swann's run from inside his own half was brought to an end inside the box, with the ball eventually breaking to Thomson. He had a shot on goal but it was off target. It was a good chance to test the keeper or find a teammate with a neat pass, but he could do neither.

Those were probably the biggest chances in the half as it came to a close.

The second half was better and Kelty nearly took the lead after the restart through Austin. Daniel Finlayson sent a teasing delivery to the back post, but Austin couldn't quite stretch his right leg out enough to convert.

After Andy Black's effort was held by Gill, it was Thomas O'Ware who nearly broke the deadlock. Michael Tidser's deep free-kick found the centre-back but his downward header was too central and it was kept out.

Cowdenbeath then threatened through Robbie Buchanan just moments later. A lovely cross was met in the air by the midfielder but his header from 12 yards out was over.

The opening goal would come through Cardle on 75 minutes as Gill had a moment to forget. He raced out to stop Cardle at the edge of the box but the former Dunfermline winger's touch took it away from the keeper and he confidently drove the ball into the empty goal, much to the delight of the travelling support.

Kelty were more likely to add to their tally than Cowden were to score, but Cardle's goal proved to be enough for the visitors.

Cowden remain bottom of the league table, but unbeaten Kelty went seven points clear of second-placed Forfar - fresh off a 2-1 win over Elgin City - as Stirling Albion fell at home to Stenhousemuir.

Next week is huge for both Kelty and Cowdenbeath.

Maurice Ross will take his men to Elgin City knowing that a defeat would see them six points adrift at the foot of the table.

Kelty welcome Forfar Athletic to New Central Park next Saturday.

Reaction to this weekend's result to follow in this week's Central Fife Times and Dunfermline Press.