If the 2016 SSE Scottish Cup Semi-Finalists Hearts are to secure promotion, the goals of Ashley Carse is going to be key. She was their top goal scorer in 2016 and her partnership with fellow striker Brogan Anderson contributed over 40% of their goals in the SWPL 2 season.
Looking back at last season, Carse felt there were lots of positives to take for Hearts, including their SSE Scottish Cup run that saw them reach the Semi-Finals for the first time ever. However, she added that “as a squad, we were disappointed not to reach our main target of promotion to (the) SWPL 1”.
Carse stated that the Hearts squad was delighted to return to training in January and she said that the “coaching staff have all been working us hard and demanding a high standard from us”. Hearts’ pre-season has seen “competitive” games according to Carse, including last Sunday’s defeat to SWPL 1 side Spartans in an entertaining friendly.
The new Hearts’ Head Coach Andy Enwood has made one of the signings of the SWPL 2 with the addition of Katie Reilly from Spartans, and Carse commented that Reilly and the other additions “have fitted in very well” and that she was personally “loving training”.
Hearts have been drawn against Hamilton Academical in the 2017 SWPL Cup First Round, the side that pipped them to the SWPL 2 title on the final day. They will play the game at their home ground King’s Park in Dalkeith where last season they lost just two games – to Forfar Farmington in the SWPL Cup First Round and to Glasgow Girls in the SWPL 2. In fact, if they progress in the cup, they will have gone 10 months unbeaten at home. Carse spoke about her hope that Hearts could take the confidence from last season’s good results into 2017. She also praised their groundsman, Grant McDermid, “who puts a lot of time and effort into providing the best playing surface possible.”
Last season, although Hamilton went on to secure the SWPL 2 title, Hearts had the better head-to-head record – defeating Accies three times. However, Hamilton picked up the crucial 3-1 victory in October 2016 which saw the title slip out of Hearts’ control. Carse felt that these results will not impact on Sunday’s cup-tie, saying that “things will have changed from last season, for both us and Hamilton”.
But she also spoke about her excitement towards playing Hamilton, calling it a “great fixture to start the season with.” The games between the sides last season were competitive and she said: “it was always one of the games we looked forward to last season and we can’t wait to get the season started.”
Looking ahead to the season ahead, when we asked Carse about her goals for the upcoming season and her answer was definitive. “To go one step further than last season and win promotion.”