One of the many, many things I have a bee in my bonnet about is the promotion of women’s football, particularly in Scotland. As we enter 2019, a year where the national side have qualified for their first ever World Cup and standards have been set by the governing bodies for the forthcoming domestic campaign it seems that now is as good as time as any for clubs and organisations to really make a push onto bigger and better things for the women’s game.
Two clubs who have very recently been vocal about the renewed focus they will be putting on the women’s arm of their clubs have been Rangers and Hearts. Rangers chairman Dave King recently committed to tripling the clubs investment in their women’s section whilst Hearts owner Ann Budge announced year-on-year six figure investments into the Edinburgh sides female squads along with the appointment of Manchester City technical director Kevin Murphy, himself a former Rangers coach, to oversee the new operation. With both sides hierarchies showing a renewed vigour I headed to New Tinto Park in Govan to take in my first women’s game of the 2019 season.
The home side started well maintaining possession in what were blustery and sometimes wet conditions, and their early dominance soon paid off. After five minutes Rangers were awarded a free kick from around 30 yards out. Clare Gemmell stepped up and had a fairly speculative attempt at goal that bounced six yards in front of the Hearts goalkeeper, Whitaker. Whether the bounce caused the ball to do something the keeper wasn’t expecting only she will know as the ball seemed to go through her body on its way into the net to give Rangers the lead.
Ten minutes later the lead was doubled, however on review of the Rangers WFC Twitter feed I think there is some debate as to who scored. After good work down the right flank a teasing ball was whipped into the area. From my view I thought it was an own goal with the Hearts’ defenders post-goal reaction being a tell-tale sign however the good folk behind the RWFC Twitter machine awarded it to striker Sarah Robertson who was definitely in the mix as the ball came over. Either way with the goal scored the half continued to follow a similar theme as Rangers continued to have a lot of the ball but mainly resorting to long-range efforts in the hope of catching out the Hearts goalkeeper again. The best of these came from Caitlin O’Hara who rattled the underside of the crossbar from around 20 yards out. Hearts created some chances as the half wore on but at this point were relying on counters as a way back into the game.
This pattern continued into the start of the second half as Hearts continued to try and grow into the game. On the 67th minute, and with the rain clouds blown away, the away side were given their opportunity. Rachel Walkingshaw, the standout player for the Jambos in the second half, showed some neat footwork near the edge of the box to put through her Hearts’ teammate who was clattered as she made strides to reach the pass. A penalty was rightly awarded and Walkingshaw dispatched it into the corner. The Hearts midfielder wasn’t done there though as just three minutes later her long range free kick looped into the top right hand corner of Jade Baillie’s goal to level the scores. They were only level for seven minutes though as a corner whipped into the box was met by Terri Donnelly who placed her header back into the corner of the goal from whence it came to restore the Rangers lead. Hearts had one final chance to bring the game level again but Jade Baillie was up to the one on one challenge in the Rangers goal.
Overall a fairly entertaining game between two sides stretching their legs for the first time this season. That said there were a couple of disappointments. Firstly the crowd, which I estimated at a generous 40, was no bigger than the crowds that I have seen over the last few seasons at New Tinto Park. I don’t know what the answer is to atract fans to the women’s game in Scotland but as the recent attendance at the Scotland v USA game showed there is an appetite there. Secondly the zero luck I’ve had pre and post match in sourcing the Hearts’ team, this is one of those “standards” that I referenced earlier in the report that I hope will be raised when the season starts proper next month.
With all that said I remain optimistic that with the renewed focus that qualifying for the World Cup has brought to the women’s game that this could finally be the season it all starts to really take off.
Attendance: c. 40
Rangers: Baillie, Dalgleish, L. Gallon, Coakley, Inglis, Gemmell, O’Hara, Robertson, Sinclair, Boyce, Pullar
Subs: Ramsay, Donnelly, Watson, Napier, Muir, J. Gallon