Cup glory for Hearts
By Hearts News at Recreation Park, Alloa
SWFL 2nd Division League Cup
Hearts 6 Aberdeen Ladies Reserves 1
Scorers: Hearts: Honjigawa 8, Piaskowski 16, 17, 20, 59 (pen), Kidd 27; Aberdeen Ladies Reserves: Forsyth 25.
Less than three years after their formation, Hearts Women have secured their first piece of silverware: their divisional League Cup, following a 6-1 win over Aberdeen Ladies Reserves.
Competed for across the four region-based sections that make up the Second Division in the Scottish Women's Football League, the trophy looked destined to be headed Hearts' way after they took an early two-goal lead, with barely a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock.
Aberdeen Ladies Reserves had arrived, like Hearts, to Recreation Park - home of Alloa Athletic - keenly anticipating a game enjoying all the trappings of a major cup final (dedicated match programme, photographers, formal hand-shaking ceremony, etc).
Although their squad had been hit by two late call-offs, they lined up no doubt drawing confidence from their 3-2 win over Falkirk in the semi-final and a 3-1 triumph over Dundee City during the previous round.
For Hearts, their journey had included a 2-1 win over Spartans Reserves in the quarter-finals and a 4-2 victory over Dunfermline when the competition had reached the last four.
It was a full day for the Hearts squad, including a pre-match meal at the Castle Campbell Hotel, Dollar, generously provided free of charge by Jen Fraser and Ian Dixon: respectively, mother of Hearts midfielder Lauren Fraser, and an assistant coach with both the Hearts U17 and Women sides last season.
The majority within the decent-sized crowd - which included Hearts star Danny Grainger - didn't have to wait long to cheer the deadlock being broken, and it was to set a pattern for what would emerge during the course of much of the first-half.
Although Aberdeen coach Scott Duncan was quick to reshape his formation to deal with the threat posed by Hearts' Lynsay Anderson, the damage was almost done before anyone could draw breath.
For a while, Aberdeen simply had no answer to Anderson's surging runs down the right flank and it was no surprise that, by the close, Anderson was to be named Player of the Match.
The breakthrough came in the eighth minute, but not before Kiyomi Honjigawa had pushed a Hearts corner on to an Aberdeen post and Grete Wilson had forced Aberdeen 'keeper Alannah Chatham to leap smartly off her line to push the ball clear for yet another corner.
Hearts' opener was scored by Honjigawa, who was one of a number of players open to receive Anderson's low, unselfish cross, before confidently tapping in.
Eight minutes later and it was 2-0, Gemma Piaskowski this time the beneficiary of Anderson's rampaging runs.
Pinpoint passes by Sam Cunningham, the Hearts right-back, provided all the ammunition Anderson needed to wreak havoc, and by 20 minutes, it was the same old destruction on the right flank that helped net Hearts' fourth, making it a Piaskowski hat-trick after the striker had earlier muscled her way through the Aberdeen defence to slot the ball low to the keeper's left to make it 3-0 after just 17 minutes.
Arguably a contender for the Player of the Match title was Fraser, who bossed the midfield with her trademark calmness, which meant the ball was never far from being used wisely.
But, of course, this was a game that required everyone to perform to their best and no-one disappointed, whether it was the safe hands of Eve Hunter in goal, the energy of Kirsten Reilly in midfield, or the smooth, rarely flustered unit that is the Hearts back four.
For the opposition, Melissa Stirling was a constant threat, and after sending a threatening ball into the Hearts box in the 24th minute, she was instrumental in helping Aberdeen pull a goal back a minute later after Anna Forsyth was provided a square pass by Becca Harper to launch a shot high into the roof of the Hearts net.
But no sooner had the deficit been narrowed than captain Kara Kidd was on hand to restore the gap for the Jambos, getting on to the end of a Piaskowski free-kick.
When 5-1 later became 6-1 - Piaskowski netting from the penalty spot after Cunningham was adjudged to have been fouled by Sam McDonald - the destiny of the Cup was never in doubt. Nor the wild, joyous celebrations that were to greet the lifting of the trophy in front of the large appreciative crowd and deeply satisfied Hearts coaches, including head coach Tam Milne.
Said Milne: "I am absolutely delighted for the girls, and everyone else connected to the team. Aberdeen were a well-organised outfit with some very talented players; it was unlucky for them that we turned in our best 45 minutes of the season so far in that first half.
"The thing that delights me most is the fact that we had five players on the park who could still be playing U17s football and each and every one of them contributed greatly to our victory, and that augurs well for our future.
"I am also pleased for players Kim Borthwick and Megan Paterson, who have taken on coaching roles with the squad.
"All the girls played well but I am sure they will not take offence if I single out Lynsay Anderson for her wide play and deliveries into the box, Gemma Piaskowski for her clinical finishing, Lauren Fraser for her calm control and Grete Wilson who was an absolute stalwart at the back.
"I would also like to thank my coaches, Carol Ann Watters, Davie Meldrum and Kevin Milne - who unfortunately missed the match on holiday: they have been fantastic."
Added Aberdeen's Duncan: "We knew we were in for a tough match and we got it. Hearts came at us with all guns blazing and we had no answer for the first 20 minutes. I was very proud of the way my team came out in the second half and started playing football the way we know we can.
"We'll go away and regroup and comeback stronger and hopefully we'll be back here again next year. Congratulations to Hearts and thank you to all at Hampden and Alloa; myself, my coaching staff and all the team enjoyed the whole experience."
Hearts (r-to-l): Hunter; Cunningham, Young, Wilson, Preston; Anderson (McFarlane 82), Fraser, Reilly, Honjigawa; Kidd (c) (Rollie 67), Piaskowski (McGovern 85). Subs not used: Esson (g/k), Hurst, Hogg, Buchanan.
Aberdeen Ladies Reserves (r-to-l): Chatham; Westland, Mutch, Gordon, Bruce (Stephen 85); Gibson (Law 53), Murphy, Forsyth (c), Harper (Campbell 70); Stirling, McDonald.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Kennedy.
On HeartsTV today, highlights of the historic William Hill Scottish Cup Final victory over Hibs.