There was a full card of SWPL action this weekend, well at least there should have been. On this week’s three takeaways we look at missed opportunities at Station Park, SWPL2 getting back to it’s unpredictable best and the need to address the elephant in the SWPL room after a week of positive feedback in relation to changes in the structure of our domestic game.
There were positives to take from Friday’s night live SWPL game on BBC Alba for Forfar Farmington. After some impressive community engagement throughout the week the Angus side were rewarded with a new club record crowd of 423 at Station Park and for 84 minutes it looked like they were on course for at least a point as they continue their relegation fight with Stirling University. The latter though would prove not to be.
With Donald Jennow’s side creating the best of the chances Motherwell substitute Lori Gardner broke into the box only to be fouled by home keeper Fiona McNicoll. It wasn’t a clattering tackle but it was certainly enough for referee Abbie Hendry to correctly point to the spot with Motherwell captain Kerry Montgomery stepping up to fire the penalty home and with that take a deserved three points back to Lanarkshire.
For all the organisation in defence that Nathan Flight’s side showed their inability to break free from their deep-seated positions meant that they rarely troubled Morgan Hunter’s goal, a skill required if you want to win games and there must have been an element of wondering what could have been had they showed just a little more endeavour as the game progressed. This should have been a game to target three points in, and with Stirling University losing 4-1 to Rangers on Sunday, the bottom of the table clash between the two sides at the end of October gains more and more significance.
SWPL2 back to its unpredictable best
For a couple of weeks at least it looked like we finally knew what we would be getting from SWPL2. Hearts and Hamilton Accies would always find a way to win, St. Johnstone would always find a way to just lose out, every one else in the league would lose or win by the odd goal and Hutchison Vale would be on the end of another heavy debate. This weekend none of those things happened.
The biggest story of the weekend occurred at Petershill Park as goals from Loren Christie and Sophie Gallacher saw Partick Thistle claim a 2-1 victory over Hamilton Academical, with Scotland U19 Kirstie McIntosh replying for Accies. It was a poor performance from the former league leaders but Thistle’s win ensures they close in on their rivals and keep Hearts just about in sight. Meanwhile in Kinnoull, St. Johnstone claimed a first league win in seven, as Nicole Carter’s first league goal of the season sealed a 1-0 victory over Glasgow Girls whilst in Ayrshire, FC Kilmarnock ran four past Dundee United as a Claire Docherty double along with an own goal and a Lisa Swanson strike saw the Ayrshire side move into 4th with a game in hand against bottom side Hutchison Vale. League leaders Hearts were due to face their Edinburgh neighbours at Oriam however come 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon not a kick off whistle was to be heard.
The Hutchison Vale situation needs addressed
That game, in which Hearts would have been near certainties to win, was called off just hours before kick off meaning that I had to quickly change my plans after covering Hibernian’s 3-0 win over Celtic earlier in the day. I instead headed to Lesser Hampden where I took in an enjoyable hour of Boroughmuir Thistle’s 2-1 victory over SWFL 1 – South promotion rivals Queen’s Park. Back in Edinburgh it soon became apparent that the call off was caused by Hutchison Vale being unable to raise a side for the second time this season, with an away fixture to FC Kilmarnock also having to be abandoned for similar reasons.
It’s not a great look, and on the pitch performances haven’t been much better as in 14 league games so far this season they have conceded 141 goals and scored just four. The end of their partnership with Edinburgh University on the eve of the campaign has severely hamstrung Vale but their inability to fulfil yet another fixture needs to be dealt with.
There has been plenty of (rightly placed) positivity around the announced league restructure earlier in the week and the Edinburgh side have ended up as a beneficiary of some of the changes with relegation removed from Scotland’s second tier. As an onlooker, it seems like that situation is currently being taken advantage of. Not only is it a disservice to their opponents and to a women’s game that is trying to grow but it is also hurts those within the Hutchie squad who turn up week in and week out despite knowing a heavy defeat will almost certainly be the outcome and those who help to keep the club going during these difficult times.
I wish Hutchison Vale nothing but success as they try and sort out the mess they currently find themselves in but the question now needs to be asked as to whether that mess needs to be sorted away from the spotlight a number of people are currently trying to shine on the SWPL.
Remember you can now follow Leading the Line via Twitter @LeadingtheLine. Here there will be live insight from the games, comments on the breaking stories from the world of women’s football news as well as early sight of what will be coming via the podcast and on the website. It’s right good!