Four for Aberdeen in NPL Win Over Hearts
Report: Craig Carter
Aberdeen took all three points from Sunday’s U19 SHAAP National Performance League meeting with Hearts, as two of the early pace-setters in the division went head to head at the city’s Sports Village.
To add further interest, the match was a dress rehearsal for next weekend’s NPL Cup final, with the ladies due to do it all again at Ravenscraig,Motherwell on 23rd June (12.30pm).
It did not take the young Reds long to forge a first opportunity here. A deep Bailey Collins corner from the right was turned back across goal for Emma Rogers from six yards, but the midfielder was unable to connect cleanly at the feet of visiting keeper India Marwaha.
Two minutes later, the home side did hit the front. Strong running down the left by Emily Neish, and she forced the cross low and hard for the arriving Erin Henderson, who had found space beyond the back line. Skipping off the turf, one bounce, and the attacker guided a neat half volley into the corner.
That lead was then swiftly doubled on 11 minutes, as Aberdeen ignited their charge to take control of proceedings. Once more on the left wing, Neish beat her opponent to the byline, cleverly carving out a cutback past Marwaha for Bailey Collins on the doorstep, presented with a tap in.
On scoreline alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hearts hadn’t arrived in the north east yet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maisy Hathaway and Brodie Clark were working tremendously hard to bring a semblance of flow to their passing rhythm, with long portions of the play confined to the congested midfield area. Clark in particular was exceptional in demonstrating calm on the ball, carrying it and picking out forward runs.
On a few occasions when they could open out and create space, Hearts were gaining good territory from the energy of their fullbacks Jayden Simmons and captain Eilidh Begg. Begg would be the orchestrator of the Jambos best opening in the half on 27 minutes, her delivery finding an unmarked Jen Dodds, but the striker glanced her header harmlessly wide.
Evidence though that the industry and courage of the capital team remained, only final production seemed amiss.
There was, however, no doubt that Aberdeen were bringing quality to their attacks with every wave. There are some players that can light up a game.
Nadia Sopel is one. She had looked to test the legs of the Hearts defence several times, consistently an outlet for the Dons moving forward.
With ten minutes until the interval, a Hearts free kick broke down, and the ball was recycled through the likes of Rogers, Collins and Leah Jones. Collins pierced a through ball for Emily Neish, and Sopel showed great awareness to gamble, and profit, from another pinpoint assist. Neish herself was consistently excellent, a stand out performance. 3-0.
Sopel had another chance seconds later following interchange with Henderson, the shot whistling past the post. Meanwhile, Hearts posed a threat with a nice combination almost putting Eve Mooney in the clear.
Moments from the break, Mhairi Whittingham squandered the best of the remaining as she couldn’t convert a free header from another Collins corner. The advantage stayed at three as the sides convened with their coaches.
Half Time: Aberdeen LFC Ladies 3-0 Hearts FC
Into the second half and Aberdeen began in similar fashion to how they had left off. Sopel with magnificent driving down the right side, the catalyst for a shooting effort by Eilidh McHattie. At the other end, Hearts were much improved following the introduction of Megan Gallagher to lead their line upfront.
On 56 minutes, the Gorgie team were asking a question of the official. An initial shot had come in from the burrowing Brodie Clark. Kirsten Pratt palmed it into the path of Megan Gallagher and her rebound may have hit the hand of the blocking defender. Waved away amid loud calls.
Aberdeen were at this point being restricted to longer shots. Bailey Collins and Leah Jones among a couple of players to test the gloves of the keeper. Erin Henderson was replaced by Hannah Innes beyond the hour.
So, how do you announce your arrival? 64 minutes, Innes was found square by Jones, worked through Collins. There looked to have been little danger, but Innes blasted it right footed high into the net from fully thirty yards. This one was travelling with authority, and arched beautifully for the fourth. Goal of the match by some way. A wonder strike.
Over the next ten minutes, play slowed as both teams made further changes with the best opportunities from set pieces. Both Innes and Collins whipped in dangerous corners, whilst Hearts were caught offside after a free kick of their own. Megan Gallagher the offender as the ball was kept alive in the area. Hearts were alive in the game still.
They had a reward on 79 minutes. Again, a high hanging ball, this time from the boot of Amy Denholm, and as it bounced Gallagher was the bravest of the bunch, contorting to flick it expertly over the advancing Pratt. A much merited response for their refusal to quit. Hearts can rightly be proud of their endeavours today.
A single consolation could have easily been double trouble too, and in next to no time. Clark pushed the ball forward to Eve Mooney, who skilfully found Gallagher. From around the penalty spot, she then rifled it off the post. An unerring threat in the second half.
It is however, Aberdeen who continue their fine league form, Scott Duncan’s Reds deserving winners today on the balance of the game. Hearts will refresh and regroup.
As mentioned above, the two teams will lock it up again in North Lanarkshire next Sunday, with Cup glory up for grabs. Two great teams. Simply put, if you are lucky enough to be in the south, go along and give them your support. They deserve it.
Full Time: Aberdeen FC Ladies 4-1 Heart of Midlothian Women FC
Aberdeen FC Ladies: Pratt, Rogers, Collins, Proctor, Broadrick, Whittingham, Sopel, McHattie, Neish, Henderson, Jones
Substitutes: Hannah, Reid, Shand, Innes, Park, Dalgetty
Heart of Midlothian Women FC: Marwaha, Clark, Begg, Yorkston, Dodds, Denholm, Mooney, Simmons, Horn, Hathaway, Gorman
Substitutes: Marriott, Bain, Hood, Gallagher