Scotland's women showed what they were made of last night at Tynecastle and it was not sugar and spice but grit and determination. After going a goal down within four minutes of the game against the Republic of Ireland, they fought back and were rewarded late in the second half for the increasing pressure they were putting the visitors under. Rachel Jones and Christie Murray scored in the 85 and 86 minute to put Scotland into second place in their qualifying group for the UEFA Women's European Championship 2011/13. And the quality of the goals is something to savour and deserved every decibel of cheers that greeted both. The fact that the cheers which welcomed the first goal was tinged with a collective sigh of relief should not be ignored. By the time the Jones had powerfully headed the ball into the net, Scotland had won and had a penalty saved and should have scored from a scramble at the Ireland goal post. No matter that the grey hairs were increased, the women deserved their win.
Both sides were tentative in the first half with Scotland nearly unrecognisable from the side which lost to France last weekend. There appeared to be a lack of confidence and lack of swagger that is the traditional game the women play. The lack of quick and accurate interplay should have suggested that all was not right on the night, in the first half anyway. A number of players appeared to feel out of sorts or position with decision making taking what appeared to be an age. The Republic of Ireland may have sensed this could be their night when Denise O'Sullivan opened the scoring in four minutes and they managed to cope with Scotland for the rest of the half without too much effort. Scotland lost Suzanne Grant to injury with an ankle injury when nobody was around her. It could have been her boot got caught in the pitch and she was replaced by Leanne Ross after lengthy treatment on the pitch. Thank goodness for half time team talks. During the first half, coach Anna Signeul was guiding from the sidelines but here messages of how to get the pace of the game right did not appear to get through to the whole team. After the game Signeul explained that the team were doing most of the talking during the break. They knew they were not delivering and were determined to make up for their shortcomings in the second half. Signeul needed only to channel the determination with a few of her words and positional changes. The pace of the game was rather different in the second 45 with Scotland spending most of their time in the visitors half probing and troubling them on both wings. As time was ticking on the 1,700 crowd were getting worried this was going to a 'plucky Scotland' story. However, things looked up just before the hour mark when Aine O’Gorman handled in the box.
Kim Little is the penalty queen but her Arsenal team-mate Emma Byrne anticipated the direction and saved low to her right. Shortly after this save, Scotland should have equalised when a Leanne Ross shot was parried by Byrne, and the follow up from Jane Ross was pushed onto the post. With the final ten minutes ticking by the crowd were rewarded for their support when Jones rose to connect with a Leanne Ross corner to bullet the equaliser past Byrne. No sooner had the crowd sat down from their celebration that they were off the seats again 60 seconds later. This time the seats were emptied to celebrate a Murray rocket to score what turned out to be the winning goal. The relief was evident throughout the team as they all piled on top of the diminutive Murray in celebration. Despite four minutes of extra time being played, Scotland controlled the rest of the game and ran out worthy winners.
Scotland: Fay, Jones, Small, Dieke, Love, Lauder, Little, Sneddon, Ross (J), CorsieSubs: Lynn. Ross (L), Murray(C), Fernon, Evans, Brown, Murray (J) Republic of Ireland: Byrne, Perry, McDonnel, Campbell, Quinn, Fahey, Grant, O'Gorman, Smyth, Russell, O'Sullivan (D)Subs: Badana, Tracy, Caldwell, Curtin, O'Sullivan (F), Littlejohn, O'Brien