SWPL2 – Hearts Women v St Johnstone Women

An 87th minute header from substitute Fiona Mearns helped St. Johnstone earn a point as a frantic last fifteen minutes rounded off what had been up until that point a fairly tame SWPL2 encounter at Oriam in Edinburgh.

Both sides came into the game on the back of defeats in a division that is fast shaping up to be one where points can be taken off anyone and at any time. Hearts went into the weekend top of the table despite having suffered a 1-0 defeat away to Dundee United last time out whilst the Perth side were still searching for their first victory of the season following a 2-0 defeat at home to FC Kilmarnock.

It was St. Johnstone who had the first attempts on goal as two long range efforts from midifielder Jade McDonald failed to trouble Emily Mutch in the Hearts goal but gave an early indication that chances would be a at a premium throughout the early stages of this match. St. Johnstone continued to shoot form range without much effect as the half continued whilst Hearts’ main threat came from a series of through balls that lively striker Lauren Evans couldn’t quite get on the end of although a Hearts effort on the half hour did call Saints keeper Rebecca Cameron into action. The best passage of play in the first period came from the visitors. Some intricate play around the edge of the box between Hannah Clark, Ellie-May Cowie and Nicole Carter ended with Clark diverting a shot towards goal that Mutch did well to get down to her left and keep hold of. It was a much needed piece of action to help rouse a healthy crowd in attendance at Oriam but despite the home sides earlier possession advantage it was St. Johnstone who ended the half stronger and a neat corner kick routine saw Rachel Todd turn the ball just wide of Mutch’s near post.

Perhaps aware that the pace needed quickened both sides came out the blocks at the start of the second half. Hearts’ almost immediately took the advantage as a through ball from midfielder Jenny Smith was latched onto by Aisha Maughan however the attacker’s effort was well smothered by Cameron. Hearts continued to be in the ascendency and had their best chance of the game when Ashley Carse played in Evans who after rounding the keeper was denied by Rhiannon Tweedie’s block on the St. Johnstone line.

It looked as if the game was heading for a stalemate but Evans was not to be denied and on the 82nd minute she put the home side ahead. A lobbed ball through from midfielder Rachel Walkingshaw put the striker into the danger area but she still had plenty to do outmuscling and then skipping past both a Saints defender and the goalkeeper before tucking the ball in at the near post with the defence scrambling. It seemed a just reward for Hearts’ more adventurous second half display but just five minutes later Mearns rose highest to get on the end of a right wing corner to scramble home a equaliser and with time ticking down it looked like it might be the visitors who would sneak an unlikely victory. It wasn’t to be though and a point was enough to keep the Jambos top of the SWPL2 pile come the end of the day.

Hearts Goalkeeper Emily Mutch gave her thoughts on the game and her aims for the rest of the season: “I think in the first half we didn’t play well enough but in the second we dominated and we just needed to take our chances. I think we can build on it even though it’s disappointing to only come away with a draw but we can use that to motivate us in our next game.”

“For Hearts we want to finish top of the league and get promoted. Personally I’m working hard as I’d love to be involved with the squad for the upcoming Women’s U19 European Championships that are being held in Scotland.”

Hearts: Mutch, Delworth, Hunter, Walkingshaw, Kids, Carse, Smith, Pagliarulo, Kaney, Evans, Maughan

St Johnstone: Cameron, Milligan, Tweedie, Clark, McDonald, Carter, Shepherd, Todd, Foote, McGowan Cowie

SWPL1 Results

Celtic 0-0 Motherwell

Forfar Farmington 0-7 Glasgow City

Hibernian 4-0 Rangers

Stirling University 0-3 Spartans

SWPL2 Results

FC Kilmarnock 2-0 Glasgow Girls

Hamilton Academical 12-0 Hutchison Vale

Hearts 1-1 St. Johnstone

Partick Thistle 2-1 Dundee United

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Rangers Women 3-2 Hearts Women – Friendly

One of the many, many things I have a bee in my bonnet about is the promotion of women’s football, particularly in Scotland. As we enter 2019, a year where the national side have qualified for their first ever World Cup and standards have been set by the governing bodies for the forthcoming domestic campaign it seems that now is as good as time as any for clubs and organisations to really make a push onto bigger and better things for the women’s game.

Two clubs who have very recently been vocal about the renewed focus they will be putting on the women’s arm of their clubs have been Rangers and Hearts. Rangers chairman Dave King recently committed to tripling the clubs investment in their women’s section whilst Hearts owner Ann Budge announced year-on-year six figure investments into the Edinburgh sides female squads along with the appointment of Manchester City technical director Kevin Murphy, himself a former Rangers coach, to oversee the new operation. With both sides hierarchies showing a renewed vigour I headed to New Tinto Park in Govan to take in my first women’s game of the 2019 season.

The home side started well maintaining possession in what were blustery and sometimes wet conditions, and their early dominance soon paid off. After five minutes Rangers were awarded a free kick from around 30 yards out. Clare Gemmell stepped up and had a fairly speculative attempt at goal that bounced six yards in front of the Hearts goalkeeper, Whitaker. Whether the bounce caused the ball to do something the keeper wasn’t expecting only she will know as the ball seemed to go through her body on its way into the net to give Rangers the lead.

Ten minutes later the lead was doubled, however on review of the Rangers WFC Twitter feed I think there is some debate as to who scored. After good work down the right flank a teasing ball was whipped into the area. From my view I thought it was an own goal with the Hearts’ defenders post-goal reaction being a tell-tale sign however the good folk behind the RWFC Twitter machine awarded it to striker Sarah Robertson who was definitely in the mix as the ball came over. Either way with the goal scored the half continued to follow a similar theme as Rangers continued to have a lot of the ball but mainly resorting to long-range efforts in the hope of catching out the Hearts goalkeeper again. The best of these came from Caitlin O’Hara who rattled the underside of the crossbar from around 20 yards out. Hearts created some chances as the half wore on but at this point were relying on counters as a way back into the game.

This pattern continued into the start of the second half as Hearts continued to try and grow into the game. On the 67th minute, and with the rain clouds blown away, the away side were given their opportunity. Rachel Walkingshaw, the standout player for the Jambos in the second half, showed some neat footwork near the edge of the box to put through her Hearts’ teammate who was clattered as she made strides to reach the pass. A penalty was rightly awarded and Walkingshaw dispatched it into the corner. The Hearts midfielder wasn’t done there though as just three minutes later her long range free kick looped into the top right hand corner of Jade Baillie’s goal to level the scores. They were only level for seven minutes though as a corner whipped into the box was met by Terri Donnelly who placed her header back into the corner of the goal from whence it came to restore the Rangers lead. Hearts had one final chance to bring the game level again but Jade Baillie was up to the one on one challenge in the Rangers goal.

Overall a fairly entertaining game between two sides stretching their legs for the first time this season. That said there were a couple of disappointments. Firstly the crowd, which I estimated at a generous 40, was no bigger than the crowds that I have seen over the last few seasons at New Tinto Park. I don’t know what the answer is to atract fans to the women’s game in Scotland but as the recent attendance at the Scotland v USA game showed there is an appetite there. Secondly the zero luck I’ve had pre and post match in sourcing the Hearts’ team, this is one of those “standards” that I referenced earlier in the report that I hope will be raised when the season starts proper next month.

With all that said I remain optimistic that with the renewed focus that qualifying for the World Cup has brought to the women’s game that this could finally be the season it all starts to really take off.

Attendance: c. 40

Rangers: Baillie, Dalgleish, L. Gallon, Coakley, Inglis, Gemmell, O’Hara, Robertson, Sinclair, Boyce, Pullar

Subs: Ramsay, Donnelly, Watson, Napier, Muir, J. Gallon

Hearts: Unknown

Subs: Unknown