McCulloch takes heart as Spartans secure SWPL Top 6 spot

2O2A1735Spartans will play SWPL Top 6 football after the summer break after defeating Hearts 0-4 in the first top-flight Edinburgh Derby between the two sides.

3 goals in a frantic six minute first half spell ensured Debbi McCulloch’s side broke the Jam Tarts hearts and made inroads on securing a vital win at a blustery Kings Park in Dalkeith.

Morgan Mitchell made her final appearance in Spartans colours before heading back across the pond whilst Captain Katie Reilly was rested on the bench for precautionary measures following a niggling injury.

Spartans started the hungrier of the two sides who both had ambitions of making the post-summer split and Sarah Ewens came close with a free-kick that flashed by Autumn Farrell in the Hearts goal.

The keeper foiled the same player moments later as the traffic continued to flow one way up the thick and bumpy lawn.

Two goals in as many minutes from striker Sarah Ewens settled Spartans as Hearts looked to control the pace of the game.

The first coming after Morgan Mitchell set up an opportunity for Ewens who slid the ball low out of the reach of Farrell.  The visiting supporters celebrations had barely died down before the Referee pointed to the spot after Mitchell was pole-axed in the box.  After a two minute delay to allow the match official to complete his yellow ticket paperwork, Ewens stepped up and drilled the ball home.

With Hearts reeling from the double-whammy, Louise Mason was on hand to benefit from industrious play by the tenacious Ronaigh Douglas and calmly placed the ball out of the reach of Farrell.

Half-Time: Hearts 0-3 Spartans

Hearts came out of the traps desperate to find an early way back into the game and the were almost offered one after a momentary lapse in Spartans defence allowed Kirsten Hughes to race in on goal but she could only shoot wide.

There was a worry for the visitors after Sarah Ewens received treatment for a foot injury, with her premature departure from the field allowing Michelle Russell to take over up front.

Another replacement followed shortly after, with Clare Crosbie earning valuable game time at the expense of the hard working Carla Jackson.

It was substitute Michelle Russell who found herself on the corner of the Hearts penalty box with 72 minutes on the clock and with a nonchalant lift of the head, she floated the ball out of the reach of the Summer to round off an emphatic win that delighted Debbi McCulloch.

The Spartans Manager said, “The pressure was on us – and nobody is going to hide away from that – but there’s a confidence in the team.  We’ve been playing really good football despite not getting the results so I asked everyone to step up and rise to the challenge and they did that, I thought they were superb today.

“We stuck to our game plan, everyone know what there role and responsibility was and we can away with a very convincing 0-4 win.

“When you are playing on grass you need to technically have good quality and that was never a concern for me as I knew we could adapt.  I knew that the first goal would be important for our confidence, then when Sarah (Ewens) stepped up to take the penalty, it caused a ripple effect.  After that, we were in full control and worthy of the three points.”

Full Time: Hearts 0-4 Spartans