Hearts Women earned a superb win away to Forfar Farmington to notch their first away victory of the SWPL season.
The improvements in the side that have been evident for weeks were finally rewarded with a stunning late second half comeback to earn three points at Station Park.
Hearts began the match with Lia Tweedie again deputising in the centre of the park for skipper Mariel Kaney, and her experience and nous would prove pivotal on the night. The early stages of the match were fairly even, with Forfar focusing a series of corners with Hearts content to play on the counter, utilising the speed of Jenny Smith, Monica Forsyth and Amelie Birse.
Smith came close to opening the scoring midway through the opening period when she accelerated away from the Forfar midfield and drove towards goal, urged by the encouragement of Andy Kirk on the sidelines, and let fly at goal. Her effort skimmed the post as keeper Lauren Perry scrambled across.
Hearts were dealt a blow when vice-captain Clare Williamson had to be replaced by Shona Cowan, with Murron Cunningham taking the armband in central defence.
Hearts were now more than matching Forfar, and the frustrations of the home side appeared evident when Donna Paterson was booked for a late challenge on Tweedie after the whistle had already been blown for a foul. Perhaps that rattled Hearts slightly as they conceded just before the break, when Paterson hit an excellent volley with her left foot from outside the area that went in off the post.
Although trailing going into the second half, Hearts came out of the traps and took a stranglehold of the game. Everything was suddenly being played fifteen yards further up the pitch, and it seemed only a matter of time before Hearts would get a chance.
Paige McAllister thought she’d levelled things just prior to the hour mark, when Katey Turner’s driven corner fell to the defender, but her shot at goal was somehow blocked by a combination of last gasp defending and goalkeeping.
Andy Kirk then looked to his bench, and introduced Holly Aitchison, Georgia Hunter and Aimee Anderson to shake things up, and the fresh legs helped give the team more room, with Forsyth on the right in particular causing havoc, and Smith in the centre continuing to evade defenders.
Forsyth won another corner, and from an Aitchison delivery, Tweedie rose highest in the area to loop a header over Perry and into the corner to, finally, give Hearts the goal their play so merited. It was one way traffic now, and Hearts took the lead with a stunning goal.
Smith picked the ball up at half way, and danced past four Forfar defenders before slipping the ball wide to Forsyth. The winger drove at the left pack, cut inside, shimmied past another defender and dropped her shoulder to create the space, and curled a wonderful strike over Perry to give Hearts the lead.
Hearts continued to push forward, slightly more cautiously, and Cowan brought out a good stop from Perry with a stinging drive from distance soon after. Having lost a lead late to Forfar in their previous encounter, concentration levels had to be high and there was a late scare when Paterson found space in the box but she headed wide as Hearts strongly saw out time.
A thoroughly deserved triumph for the girls, and a reward for the hours of unseen hard work they put into their game and fitness, and after a truly testing season, a night for celebrations.
Player of the match: Jenny Smith
Hearts: Parker-Smith; Delworth, McAllister (Hunter 69), Cunningham, Williamson (Cowan 20); Turner (Anderson 59), Tweedie, McIntosh, Forsyth; Smith, Birse (Aitchison 69). Subs not used: Begg, Kaney, Davies.