A crowd of over 200 were treated to a barnstorming Scottish Building Society SWPL 2 top of the table clash as both Hamilton Academical and Heart of Midlothian had to settle for a point following a highly entertaining 2-2 draw at the Fountain of Youth Stadium.
Pre-match Accies were able to welcome back captain Amy Anderson to the starting line up as they went with the same side that had defeated Dundee United in their first game after the summer break.
Hearts welcomed new loan signing Murron Cunningham from Glasgow City into the centre of defence whilst Rachel Walkingshaw, Mariel Kaney and Aisha Maughan all started. One enforced change saw Charlotte Parker-Smith start in goal for the visitors as a result of a concussion injury picked up by Emily Mutch during last week’s 2-1 victory against Glasgow Girls.
With stakes high it would be the home side that would start the fastest, implementing a high-pressing game that afforded little time on the ball for their opponents and it would be this early intensity that would see them break the game. Hearts midfielder Maughan was dispossessed on the edge of the area by Megan Quinn with the ball finding it’s way to MT Gardiner who blasted the ball past Parker-Smith giving the keeper little chance and Accies a deserved 7th minute lead.
Hearts were unable to get into their rhythm and struggled to maintain possession with Accies players swarming at any given opportunity but despite the home sides dominance they were finding themselves being restricted to long range efforts with the best of these coming just before half time. The constantly dangerous Kirstie McIntosh would cut inside before unleashing an effort that would crash off the bar with home support shouts that keeper Parker-Smith may have managed to get her fingertips to it.
Hearts, who have come from behind on multiple occasions throughout the season, started quickly after the interval and within one second half minute were level. The Accies defence were unable to clear their lines which allowed striker Danni McGinley to put a 20 yard effort into the top corner past an onlooking Grant.
That goal would see the tempo of the game go into overdrive with spectator heads required to be on a swivel to keep up with the action. On the 54th minute Aisha Maughan was denied by a sliding Nina Fitzsimmons after keeper Grant couldn’t grasp a cross ball however despite their renewed vigour the Jambos would find themselves behind once again just a couple of minutes later.
Hamilton midfielder Megan Quigley drove towards the Hearts goal, riding challenges before being taken down on the edge of the area. From the resultant free-kick Nichola Sturrock would step up to place the ball into the bottom right hand corner of Parker-Smith’s goal.
The game continued at pace and this time it would be McGinley’s turn to slalom her way through the opposition defence although on this occasion she would slide her effort wide when through one on one but two minutes later it was all square again. Hearts substitute Madeline Brill-Edwards picked up the ball 25 yards out before looking up and putting a shot that Lauren Grant in the Accies goal had very little chance with.
The ball continued to move from byline to byline, and McGinley would miss another opportunity after being put through by Maughan but again her attempted lob would fall off target. Maughan was growing into the game and some neat interplay with full back Claire WIlliamson put the Hibs-loanee in position to shoot but her effort was easily saved.
Hamilton were still creating chances of their own though and it would be they that would have the best two chances as the game headed towards a frantic conclusion. On 81 minutes, a long range Kirstie McIntosh effort, who was still causing numerous problems down both flanks, was tipped over the bar by Parker-Smith who, after that good work, nearly gifted the home side a winner on the 88th minute when a weak punch fell to Sturrock on the edge of the area. The midfielder composed herself before seeing her effort sail over the stretching stopper only for Hearts captain Danni Pagliarulo to head off the line.
The game would come to a breathless conclusion with both sides sharing the points and, with closest challengers Partick Thistle losing, it means both sides extend their lead over the chasing pack and remained locked together at the top of the table with seven games remaining.
Hamilton Academical: Grant, Quinn, Connolly, Fraser, McIntosh, Anderson, Brown, Sturrock, Fitzsimmons, Quigley, MT McGuiness. Subs: Pollard, McCann, Kane, Bulloch, Muir, Ross.
Heart of Midlothian: Parker-Smith, Delworth, Williamson, Cunningham, Walkingshaw, Smith, McGinley, Pagliarulo, Kaney, Evans, Maughan. Subs: Watson, Horn, Mason, Kidd, Brill Edwards, Hall, Egg