Hearts Women ended their maiden SWPL1 campaign with a draw against Spartans at a sun-kissed Oriam.
In sweltering conditions, the Jambos belied their league position with an aggressive and dominant performance against their Edinburgh rivals and were denied a deserved victory by an injury-time leveller.
Sixteen-year-old winger Eilidh Davies was given her first start after some bright cameos in recent weeks, and some impressive displays in training, and her fellow attackers had Hearts on the front foot early.
Spartans keeper Alicia Yates was called into action twice inside the opening ten minutes. Firstly, Lia Tweedie found herself through on goal, but Yates diverted the ball away after the left-footed effort from the striker, then two minutes later, Mariel Kaney won the ball superbly on the edge of the box and shot a low effort towards goal that Yates tipped around the post.
Tweedie had another chance midway through the first half when Claire Delworth’s deep cross found her at the back post, but the effort was straight at Yates.
Hearts were then forced into a defensive reshuffle when Paige McAllister, having taken a knock earlier, had to go off and was replaced by Amelie Birse. This, in turn, pushed Tweedie into central midfield, taking the place of Kirstie McIntosh, who took up a place in defence alongside Murron Cunningham.
This may have factored into what happened next, as Spartans nearly scored from their first attack. From a Bobbie Beveridge free-kick, striker Becky Galbraith nodded the ball against the crossbar and away.
It was Hearts, though, who should have led going into the interval after some dynamic running from Jenny Smith across the face of goal slid the ball into Katey Turner, who rode a challenge from a defender, but shot high into the side netting when perhaps going across goal was the option.
Spartans had the first chance of the second half when Sarah Clelland hit the byline and crossed for Simone McMahon, who volleyed wide after opening her body up and divert the ball into the opposite corner.
On the hour, Hearts missed their best chance. Turner got the break of the ball down the right-wing, and cut the ball back for Tweedie, arriving late in the area, on the penalty spot. She had time to shoot but scuffed her effort and it drifted wide.
As the game entered the latter stages, it became end to end, with Spartans needing a win to secure the “best of the rest” status behind the three Glasgow sides, and Caley Gibb brought out a smart save from Charlotte Parker-Smith with Spartans’ first effort on target.
As the game entered stoppage time, it looked like Hearts had done it. Sub Aimee Anderson drove at the Spartans defence and was hauled down in the area by Michaela McAlonie. Cunningham stepped up and scored Hearts’ final goal of the season, in a neat piece of symmetry after she scored on the opening day of the season.
Spartans didn’t give up, however, and levelled deep into added time, when an Alana Marshall corner was nodded back across goal by Galbraith and into the corner to deny Hearts their victory, but despite that, the display showed the levels the squad could reach and gives them encouragement going into the expanded SWPL1 next season.
Player of the match: Mariel Kaney
Hearts: Parker-Smith; Delworth, McAllister (Birse 24), Cunningham, Williamson; Davies (Aitchison 58), Kaney, McIntosh, Turner (Anderson 75), Smith; Tweedie. Subs not used: Hunter, Begg, Cowan, Shepherd.