Sunday 12 March 2017, 14.00, Kings Park
The opening weekend of the Scottish Women’s Premier League 2 season and the game between Hearts Ladies and Buchan Ladies.
The Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) was founded in 2002 and is the highest level of women’s football in Scotland. In 2009, they adopted a summer season which now runs from March to November each year, with a mid-season break.
A new format was established for the start of last season. The Premier League now consists of two leagues of eight teams. They are named SWPL 1 and SWPL 2. Teams in the top league play each other three times, with the bottom placed team being relegated to the SWPL 2. The SWPL 2 uses the same format and the two last placed teams are relegated to the SWFL 1.
The SWPL2 looks set to be a very competitive league in 2017, with Hearts and Glasgow Girls looking to challenge for the title again. Relegated Forfar Farmington will fancy their chances of going straight back up, while last year’s fourth place finishers Hutchison Vale Ladies have a new Partnership Agreement with The University of Edinburgh and the SWPL side has been re-branded as Edinburgh University Hutchison Vale WFC. Newly promoted Motherwell and East Fife will be looking to make an impact and Jeanfield Swifts will be looking to improve on last year’s fifth.
Hearts Ladies will be looking to go one better than last year and get that single promotion spot. They have already started encouragingly, knocking the team that pipped them to promotion, Hamilton Accies, out of the Premier League Cup.
Buchan Ladies gained promotion from the First Division in 2015, finishing as runners-up to champions Glasgow City. Buchan finished 6th in last year’s SWPL2, but were 11 points clear of relegation.
The teams also began last season facing each other, with a 2-2 draw at Buchan the outcome. The other game in the North East also finished in a draw, while Hearts won their home game 4-1.
Buchan would have been pleased to see Forfar Farmington relegated to SWPL2 to give them a slightly shorter journey to an away game this season. Every game on the road is quite a journey for them.
Despite my best efforts to contact Buchan Ladies, I have been unable to get a list of the Buchan team.
Straight from the kick off, Buchan’s number 12 got the ball on the left and played it inside to number 25, who struck a low shot from the edge of the box just wide of the far post.
Walkingshaw attempted a long range effort at the Buchan goal in 3 minutes, when Carse was screaming for the ball on the left and it was a comfortable save for Kennedy in the Buchan goal.
Hearts were set up in different way from what I had seen them before, with Carse and Anderson, the two forwards, playing wide and no recognised striker through the middle.
Some good play on the right by Hearts Reilly in 8 minutes saw her use good strength to get to the by-line then cut the ball back to the edge of the box where Walkingshaw laid it off to Pagliarulo, but she didn’t catch the ball well and it went wide of goal.
A good move by Hearts in 9 minutes saw Walkingshaw pass to Carse who played a first time pass through for Hutchison, but she was forced wide and saw her cross into the middle blocked.
As the teams settled into the game, the flow seemed to go more and more towards the Buchan goal.
In 16 minutes, Anderson played the ball back to Reilly on the edge of the Buchan box, but her shot was off target.
A Hearts corner in 18 minutes saw Walkingshaw pick out Reilly who hit the ball first time towards goal. Kennedy threw her hands up and got a touch to turn it onto the bar. The rebound was fired goalwards, but a defender managed to block. There were claims for handball from the Hearts players, but a penalty would have been very harsh.
With 20 minutes gone, Reid took the ball into the Hearts half and let fly from 25 yards. She struck it well, and keeper Watson got her angles all wrong and ducked as the ball went over her head and into the net to give Buchan the lead.
In a week when Hearts captain Megan Paterson had revealed that central defensive partner Louise Moultray had actually been her PE teacher at one point, it seemed that a Geography teacher would have been beneficial to Watson.
A minute later, Reilly got the ball on the right for Hearts and played a great ball into the box. Anderson (who had temporarily swapped sides with Carse) ran in from the left and got to the ball just in front of Kennedy, to touch the ball past her and then fire into the net for a quickfire equaliser.
A Walkingshaw corner in 23 minutes was headed over the Buchan bar by Hughes. Pagliarulo was behind her and would have had a clearer chance.
There was a scramble in the Buchan box in 25 minutes but Buchan’s number 3 made a fine challenge to get the ball away. Reilly followed up and shot just wide.
Anderson received the ball in the box and played it back to Walkingshaw who shot over the bar. The Buchan players claimed that Anderson had handled the ball as she controlled it, but the Hearts striker shouted “It actually hit my boob!”
Hutchison got to the Buchan by-line in 32 minutes and cut the ball back to Reilly, but the defence blocked.
Hutchison was replaced in 37 minutes and I can only imagine she had picked up a knock as she was playing well.
With two minutes to half time Reilly played the ball up the left to Carse as Hearts came forward again. Her cross into the middle came back off the bar and just eluded Dodds before Buchan’s number 3 cleared.
The teams were level at half time and Buchan would have been pleased with their defensive performance. Anderson had gone through the middle for Hearts after Dodds had come on, with the substitute playing wide on the right,
Clever play in the opening minute of the second half by Walkingshaw saw her create some space in the Buchan box. She then went past a defender, but shot straight at Kennedy.
Hearts’ Anderson picked up the first booking of the day in 47 minutes for disputing a decision with the referee when she thought Hearts should have had a corner.
Carse picked out Walkingshaw on the edge of the box in 54 minutes, but she shot high over the bar.
A good pass by Anderson in 55 minutes picked out Carse, but he first time effort curled wide.
Carse was involved again in 63 minutes when she saw her shot deflected wide. From the corner, Walkingshaw’s delivery was missed by everyone and hit the back post, but nobody could put the ball in.
In 66 minutes, Walkingshaw crossed into the Buchan box and Reilly got her head to it, but it drifted wide of the post, with Dodds not quite managing to get there to poke it in.
A Hearts corner in 74 minutes was headed away to the edge of the box where Pagliarulo struck well for goal, but it was too high.
A good bit of skill by Dodds in 76 minutes won Hearts a corner. The ball was cleared before Pagliarulo played it back in to Anderson in the box, but a good tackle by Reid stopped her.
Ritchie was booked for Buchan in 79 minutes.
A Hearts short corner in 84 minutes was crossed in by Walkingshaw and Hughes attempted an acrobatic effort which was just too high.
A fine move by Buchan in 85 minutes ended with a shot by number 12 which was smothered by Watson in the Hearts goal.
In 86 minutes, Carse found substitute Aitchison inside the Buchan box and she fired the ball into the top corner to give Hearts the lead.
Walkingshaw was booked in 89 minutes for a late tackle on a Buchan player.
In injury time, Dodds played the ball up the right for Hearts where she found Carse. She cut inside, beat a defender before drawing the keeper and firing into the net to make it 3-1 to Hearts.
An important win for Hearts who never gave up in trying to get in front and were rewarded with two late goals. They had controlled the game but didn’t look like they were going to get the three points. Two late substitutions bringing on more attacking players certainly made a difference and credit to manager Andy Enwood for that.
You had to feel sorry for Buchan who had defended magnificently and must have thought they had done enough to win a point.
Hughes, Reilly and Anderson were best for Hearts, while Hutchison was putting in a good performance before she went off. For Buchan, Reid stood out and their number 12 showed some good skill. Central defenders Rae and number 3 also impressed. Buchan were, I think, the quietest team I’ve seen (and not heard).
Full Time: Hearts Ladies 3 Buchan Ladies 1
Hearts Ladies: 1 Ashley Watson,14 Lynsey Miller, 4 Louise Moultray, 6 Megan Paterson (Aitchison 85), 3 Sharon Hughes, 2 Danni Pagliarulo (Summers 85), 17 Stacey Hutchison (Dodds 37) 8 Katie Reilly, 7 Rachel Walkingshaw, 11 Brogan Anderson, 10 Ashley Carse. Subs: 12 Jennifer Dodds, 15 Gemma Mason, 18 Holly Aitchison, 19 Demi Summers.
Buchan Ladies: 1 Jodie Kennedy, 16 (2 64), 18 Gemma Rae, 3 , 7 , 5 Fiona , 14 Leanne Reid, 8 Danica Ritchie , 12 , 9 , 25 . Subs: 2
Referee: Emma Hingant