Rangers made a winning start to their 2020 Scottish Building Society SWPL 1 campaign with a hard fought 3-0 victory over newly promoted Hearts at the Hummel Training Centre.
The home side started with six new faces in a much changed starting eleven from last term with recent capture from Glasgow City, Nicola Docherty, starting on the bench. For Hearts, who were looking to bounce back following a 2-1 SWPL Cup defeat to Aberdeen last week, Charlotte Parker-Smith replaced Emily Mutch in goal whilst captain Mariel Kaney returned in place of Georgie Hunter.
It would be the home side that would have the majority of the play in the first period and their dominance in possession would soon pay off as newly anointed Northern Ireland call-up, Megan Bell, picked the ball up on the left hand side and eased a low effort past Parker-Smith to give the Gers the advantage on the 12th minute.
Despite Rangers dominance they struggled to fashion many clear cut chances as the half progressed and although they continued to keep the Jambos penned inside their own half, the deficit remained at one going into the interval.
The Edinburgh side started the second period with renewed vigour and they nearly equalised on the 52nd minute but Aisha Maughan’s free kick would skip just wide of Fife’s right hand post.
With the game still in the balance, Rangers co-coaching duo of Malky Thomson and Gregory Vignal introduced Docherty and Venezuelan international Sonia O’Neill. The duo’s experience and increased physicality helped turn the tide back in the home side’s favour with Bell doubling the home side’s lead with 61 minutes on the clock. The Ulsterwoman touching the ball past Eliis Dalgliesh after receiving a pass out wide from Kirsten Reilly before showing composure to slot past Parker-Smith.
Bell would then turn provider for Reilly as Parker-Smith could only parry a Bell cross ball back into the area where the former Bristol City midfielder was there to cooly tuck home Rangers’ third.
Bell should have had a hat-trick however she couldn’t get the decisive touch on a Chelsea Cornet cross with the goal gaping but that miss shouldn’t diminish what was an impressive display of dynamism from the 18-year-old.
Both sides return to midweek SWPL Cup action as Hearts host Boroughmuir Thistle and Rangers welcome Queen’s Park but the day belonged to Bell as Rangers ended match day one top of the Scottish Building Society SWPL 1 table.
Rangers: Fife, Brownlie, Vance, Martinez, Bourma, Reilly, Gemmell, Devi, Hay, Bell, Cornet. Subs: Cunningham (GK), MacDonald, McQuillen, Girasoli, O’Neill, Docherty.
Hearts: Parker-Smith, Whyte, Williamson, Cunningham, Swanson, Smith, McDaniel, Dalgliesh, Kaney, Higgins, Maughan. Subs: Hamilton (GK), Delworth, Hunter, Mason, Hamill.
Post-match interviews with Rangers Co-Head Coach, Gregory Vignal, Heart of Midlothian Manager, Kevin Murphy, and Rangers Forward, Megan Bell: