Hearts Women put in a strong performance against league leaders Glasgow City, despite a 4-1 defeat.
The 13-in-a-row champions may have run out winners, but there was clear dissatisfaction in their ranks at the final whistle, and the Jambos had their elite opponents on the ropes in spells.
Set up in a 5-4-1 formation designed to frustrate City, the tactic seemed to have been blown before it began when the hosts took the lead early on as Julia Molin got past Claire Delworth and crossed for Hayley Lauder to convert.
It did seem like one way traffic at this point, and Lauder came close to a second when she curled an effort over the bar from 20 yards. City then hit the post through Ode Fututudilu when the South African striker cut in from the right and shot, but Charlotte Parker-Smith made a superb fingertip save onto the woodwork.
From the resulting corner, Parker-Smith was called into action again as she tipped over a header from Jenna Clark. Following that flurry, Hearts settled down and began to threaten on the break with the pace of Jenny Smith and Monica Forsyth on the wings, supporting Katey Turner who had replaced the injured Lia Tweedie.
Fututudilu had another sight of goal just before half-time when a long ball saw her race clear of Murron Cunningham, but Parker-Smith stood up well to her, and got the ball away from danger. The interval brought some respite from the attack, but City were clearly frustrated at their lack of a second goal, and the hope was Hearts could take advantage.
The Jambos came out on the attack in the second half hoping to catch City cold, and they did just that two minutes into the second half. From Kirstie McIntosh’s driven corner, Paige McAllister leapt highest and diverted a header that Mariel Kaney deflected into the net to stun the league leaders.
Hearts were on top now, and came agonisingly close to adding a second. Turner did brilliantly to beat her marker down the left wing and crossed for Forsyth, with the ball agonisingly just missing the winger in the area.
Unfortunately for Hearts, they were soon hit by a double whammy from City, the first of which was out of the top drawer. Janine van Wyk collected the ball 25 yards out, spun her marker and rifled a left footed drive into the top corner that left Parker-Smith no chance. A few minutes later, it was three, when Parker-Smith made a top save to deny Priscilla Chinchilla’s header, but Niamh Farrelly buried the rebound.
The Jambos began to look tired now as City sought to increase their goal difference, and City added a fourth when Chinchilla shot from distance, although Parker-Smith tipped it onto the bar, the ball was headed back to Aoife Colvill who tapped it in. Hearts weren’t helped by an inadvertent block from the match official as Kaney attempted to stop the initial shot.
City continued to press, but failed to score again and there was visible discontent on the sidelines at the full time whistle, while Hearts could be proud of their efforts against illustrious opponents.
Player of the match: Charlotte Parker-Smith
Hearts: Parker-Smith; Delworth, McAllister, Hunter (Aitchison 72), Cunningham, Cowan; Forsyth, Kaney, McIntosh (Birse 56), Smith; Tweedie (Turner 33). Subs not used: Anderson, Shepherd, Davies.
Image courtesy of David Mollison