NEWTONGRANGE STAR captain Blair Tolmie is desperate to get his hands on silverware this season.
And his side proved they can mix it with the best after an opening day 1-0 defeat of reigning Super League champions, Kelty Hearts.
It was far from vintage stuff from Star, who, after going down to ten men early in the second half when Kris Renton was sent off for an off-the-ball incident, rolled their sleeves up and defended their lives to resist their Fife visitors.
This Star side are known for their attractive passing football, but they showed they have other qualities with a battling backs-to-the-wall second-half performance to preserve their lead. Tolmie led by example at the heart of the defence alongside David Dunn as they dealt with everything Kelty threw at them, and his goal after ten minutes proved to be the winner.
“That was just a battle, it was just a typical game of junior football,” said the former Celtic youth player.
“It was always going to be tough when we went down to ten men and they are a good side, they aren’t champions for no reason. I thought we defended really well in the second half. They rattled us for five minutes just after we went down to ten men, but I thought it was pretty comfortable after that.”
Star boss Alan Miller has strengthened his squad over the summer, but only one of his recruits, midfielder Kevin Motion who arrived from Spartans, started the match and Tolmie believes they can get even better.
He said: “We’ve improved the squad again and we’ve been close the last couple of years, so hopefully we’re ready to kick on again.
“We won the Premier League a couple of years ago and it was a great day, so we’re desperate to win something this season, it doesn’t matter what it is. That’s the next aim for us as a squad –we need to pickup some kind of silverware this season, preferably the league and get a good run in the Scottish as well.”
The opening ten minutes set the tone for a fiery encounter, with referee Scott Millar having to produce his yellow card on no less than three occasions as both sides measured each other up.
Star’s first sight of goal produced the opener after ten minutes, as Chris King flighted in a free-kick from the left wing and Tolmie got the better of Kelty goalkeeper Kyle Allison in the air to nod home.
Kelty gradually began to create opportunities of their own, with new signing Calum Smith flashing a shot just wide of Kieron Renton’s right-hand post and then Renton producing a fine save to tip away Paul Currie’s goalbound effort.
Striker Renton was given a golden chance to double Star’s lead on the stroke of half time after Conrad Courts misjudged the ball in the air, allowing the former Norwich City youngster a sight of goal, but his first time shot flew wide. The big striker had been booked early in the first half but he was shown a straight red card by referee Millar after 52 minutes. Kelty defender Murray Carstairs blocked him off and Renton tried to wrestle free, but his reaction brought him a red card.
Kelty tried to take advantage of their extra man with defender Chris Hughes firing a shot goalwards which Dunn threw himself in front of to block.
The closest the visitors came to an equaliser was through a Courts free-kick after 67 minutes which Renton pushed wide for a corner, but for all their possession, Kelty were unable to breakdown a resolute Nitten defence who held firm.
Newtongrange Star: Kieron Renton, Thomson, Noble, Tolmie, Dunn, Motion, Matti King (McManus), Cherrie, Kris Renton, Chris King (Somerville), Cropley.
Kelty Hearts: Allison, Hughes, Gates, Carstairs, Tam Courts, Conrad Courts, McCabe (Morris), Jacobs, Smith, Cargill, Currie (Penman).