HEARTS have secured promotion to the second-top tier of women’s football: the Scotland-wide First Division.
In a play-off against the winners of the west section of the Second Division, Murieston, Hearts managed to squeeze through during extra time, thanks to a low, 22-yard free-kick from Gemma Piaskowski.
Winners of the south-east section of the Second Division, Hearts had taken the lead just before the interval, only to be pegged back moments later so that both teams reached half-time locked on 1-1. And it would remain that way until the 90th minute, at which point a further 30 minutes, added time had to be played.
It was a contest that Hearts dominated without necessarily being able to carve out too many chances. Both teams seemed nervous; not surprising, with the stakes so high. As is often the case, an error-strewn match was the result of nobody wishing to make any mistakes.
It was therefore wholly appropriate that Hearts took the lead not least because of their player most obviously prepared to take responsibility for her actions. Kirsten Reilly’s delicious through ball allowed Lyndsay Anderson to cross for Kara Kidd to stick out a leg to get on the end of it.
Reilly was to go on to become the midfield’s most energetic performer, who often had the presence of mind to hold on to the ball and show some guile.
But Murieston drew the sides level within moments of Kidd’s strike, amid calls that goal-scorer, Teri Deegan, was offside when she ran on to a pass, behind the Hearts defence, to knock the ball to the left of goalkeeper, Lorna Esson.
In total, Hearts were to dominate the corner count by three-to-one, and similarly when it came to free-kicks in and around the 18-yard box.
And Murieston, in the 59th minute, managed to survive a strong penalty shout, following a challenge on Anderson.
Plus, their keeper, Jamielee Donoghue, was to pull off a fine, one-handed save, to claw the ball away from the top corner, in the 105th minute, to deny another Piaskowski free-kick.
But Hearts were often the authors of their own difficulties, not least because of hurried clearing the ball upfield, misplaced passing and a poor first touch.
They will have known they were capable of much, much more – on the the evidence of their glorious season thus far – but it was never going to be a beautiful game with promotion awaiting the winner and despair the loser.
However, this was a day when the footballing gods were smiling on Hearts, news having filtered through from earlier in the day that the under-13s had won their divisional title, with a 7-2 win over Boroughmuir.
So, when the game entered extra-time, with the score at one apiece, Hearts managed to overcome their relative youth and clearly tiring legs. Impressively, not only did they take the lead – Piaskowski deciding to go for low power than placement – but they managed to hold on courageously to the final whistle.
Said head coach, Tam Milne: “I am ever so proud of the team and what they have achieved. We entered three competitions – the league, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup – and have won two: the league and the League Cup.
“What you have to remember is that the team includes a lot of players who were still eligible to play at under-17s. At the start of the season, we thought they were good enough to play in the women’s game, and they have proven that they are.
“In fairness, I thought we dominated, but, credit to Murieston, they worked extremely hard.”
Hearts have next week a ‘champion of champions decider’ against Dunfermline, winners of the east section, who secured promotion with a play-off win over Spartans Reserves.
Murieston, meanwhile, have a ‘second bite at the cherry’ when they take on Spartans Reserves, for the one remaining promotion place still available.
Contact: Mike Wilson