Kelty ran out comfortable winners at Forthbank to stay seven points clear at the top as we suffered a fifth home league defeat in a row.

Nathan Austin’s early goal and a second-half double from Joe Cardle earned Kevin Thomson’s side all three points in their first outing since losing 5-1 at Annan on Boxing Day.

There was one change to the Stirling team that won at Ochilview, with defender Martin McNiff making a welcome return after two months out with a knee injury. Mason Hancock, on loan from Aberdeen, made his debut as a second-half substitute at left-back.

It was a 1.00pm kick-off because of the recent floodlight problems at Forthbank and the pitch was heavy after overnight rain for what was Darren Young’s third match as Binos boss.

Kelty were ahead after just four minutes. Former Rangers midfielder Jamie Barjonas dinked a perfect pass into Austin – he got between two defenders and knocked the ball past Blair Currie to move level with Clyde’s David Goodwillie at the top of the SPFL scoring charts on 14 league goals.

For an almost an hour, there wasn’t much between the teams and most of the play was in the middle of the park but it was effectively game over in 58 minutes when Cardle got clear and found the net with a composed finish from around 12 yards.

Cardle also grabbed the third goal when he cut in from the right side of the penalty area and moved the ball on to his left foot before arrowing a low shot beyond Currie. The 34-year-old should have had a hat-trick but was thwarted by the Albion No 1 when clean through.

We had a couple of late chances to reduce the deficit but Ross McGeachie’s header was cleared off the line and Kyle Banner nodded over.

Stirling Albion: Currie, McGeachie, Watson (Hancock 63), Banner, McGregor, McNiff, Scally (Heaver 75), Roberts, Carrick (Mackin 63), Grant (Leitch 63), Flanagan (Moore 84). Subs (not used): Law (GK), Bikey, Greenhorn, Creaney.

Kelty Hearts: Jamieson, Hill (Philp 52), Cardle, Reilly (Clark 65), Austin (Agyeman 65), Barjonas (Black 15), Higginbotham, Tidser, McNab, Ngwenya, O’Ware. Subs (not used): Donaldson (GK), Peggie, Hooper, Finlayson, Biabi.

Goals: Austin 4, Cardle 58, 78

Referee: Chris Graham

Crowd: 483