League leaders Rangers picked up where they left off following 112 days of competitive inactivity as they completed a convincing 6-0 victory over Hearts to maintain their spot at the top of the Scottish Building Society SWPL 1 table at a blustery Oriam. A relentless first half performance proved to be the undoing of a young Edinburgh side.
Having ended 2020 at opposite ends of the table, expectations were that the visitors would emerge victorious. It only took five minutes for Malky Thomson’s side to take the lead when a short pass inside the box from Emma Brownlie, who impressed playing a more advanced role in the absence of injured Northern Ireland winger Megan Bell, found Zoe Ness, who’s swiel and shoot effort was blocked only for the the rebound to fall to Sam Kerr who managed to push the ball home to score her first for the Glasgow side.
The Rangers attack was swaying from flank to flank with Rachel McLauchlan looking particularly dangerous but it would be her counterpart on the other side that would provide the assist for the second with Nicola Docherty’s low cross being slid home by Kirsty Howat to put the striker out on her own at the top of the league goalscoring charts with nine.
A penalty double from Lizzie Arnot made it four, both finding the right hand corner following little protestation from the Jambos defence before Ness showed composure to sit down Parker Smith and pass the ball home after a beautifully weighted through ball from Brownlie to make it five going into the break.
Hearts brought on Mariel Kaney and Jenny Smith to try and stem the tide, something that the Edinburgh side should be commended for doing in a more disciplined second half showing but there was still time for a sixth. A cross from Arnot found the head of Kerr who nodded home for her second goal of the game.
It was a tough afternoon for Andy Kirk’s side with the Northern Irish head coach giving out a number of debuts including to recent signings Kirstie McIntosh (from Hamilton Accies) and Beth McKay (from Spartans) and there will be disappointment at the manner in which some of the goals were conceded ahead of a rematch against a Celtic side who defeated them 10-0 earlier this season.
For Rangers it was a win that kept them in poll position following Glasgow City’ impressive victory over Celtic as they look to claim a first ever SWPL 1 title.
Rangers Head Coach Malky Thomson: “If we get seven or eight of us firing at the same time then we’re going to be hard to beat and we got that.”
“The ten outfield players all contributed even the ones directly contributing to the play by keeping in their shape, their structure and everything about it allowed us to be relentless in that first half.”
Rangers Double Goalscorer Lizzie Arnot: “It’s been a while so to get six goals and a clean sheet we’ve got to be happy with that.”
“I think we showed we are all so excited to be back and to put all the hard work we’ve been doing over the second lockdown into this game and get off to a good start. These games especially when you’ve been out for so long can go either way so to get that early goal set the tone.”
Rangers: Fife, Docherty, Brownlie , Reilly, Ness, McLauchlan, Girasoli, Arnot, Howat, Kerr, Westrup. Subs: Cunningham, Bourma, O’Neill, Hay, Devi, Gemmell, Cornet.
Hearts: Parker Smith, Delworth, Forsyth, Cunningham, Turner, Tweedie, Williamson, McIntosh, Walkingshaw, Cowan , McAllister. Subs: Tebbit, Kaney, Smith, Birse, Shepperd, Mckay, Smith.