This Friday night sees Stirling University host Forfar Farmington in front of a live television audience on BBC Alba for what is surely the most important game of the season in the SWPL1 relegation battle. The University side come into the game three points behind their Angus visitors and will know that defeat could provide a fatal blow in their survival bid.
A big game deserves a big preview and so here at Leading the Line, we’re once again bringing you all you need to know ahead of Friday’s fixture.
When you have two sides that have amassed a solitary victory between them over the course of a season the form guide becomes a relatively easy write. That victory belongs to Forfar Farmington’s whose sole three point haul came back in week two, although the manner of that 3-2 win against Motherwell came in controversial fashion when the referee blew for full time just as a Kerry Montgomery strike had made its way into the net scoring what seemed to be a last gasp equaliser.
It’s been a particularly tough couple of weeks for Nathan Flight and his side as a 13-0 midweek defeat to Hibernian was followed by a 5-0 loss at home to Glasgow City last weekend. Although a 2-1 defeat to Rangers prior to those two losses did at least show the competitive edge is still there.
For Stirling University, the road to Ochilview this Friday has been even more fraught with Craig Beveridge’s side unable to register a victory so far this season with their only points of the campaign coming against this weeks opponents.
Recent weeks have seen home defeats to Spartans and Rangers, as well as heavy away loss to City, however on all threee occasions they have managed to get on the scoresheet a trait that will be of massive importance come Friday.
Head to Head this Season
As mentioned above Uni’s only points of the season have come against their Forfar foes meaning that both contests between the sides have ended in stalemate. In March a first half Demi-Lee Falconer effort was cancelled out by a 67th minute Hannah Stewart strike as the spoils were shared at Ochilview and then seven game weeks later in August, with both sides having lost all their games in the interim period, they played out a goalless draw at Station Park, with Nathan Flight having replaced former head coach Stevie Baxter in the Forfar hot seat during that time.
The return of Naomi Welch after a month on the sidelines to the Stirling University squad during Sunday’s 5-2 defeat to Spartans has a provided a timely boost for Craig Beveridge. Starting on the bench she came on at half time, and although her side would ultimately fall to yet another defeat, she did score both goals showing composure to put past the experienced Rachel Harrison twice in the closing stages.
Those goals were her third and fourth of the SWPL campaign, and despite her absence she has still been responsible for 40% of Uni’s goals in the league this season. With Jade Menzies out through injury and Clare Petersen still finding her feet the return of Welch and her dynamism in the frontline could provide the impact that turns the relegation tide in her, and her teammates, favour.
With Stirling’s renewed attacking options there will be additional focus on a Farmington defence that has conceded the most goals in the league this campaign but experienced defender Paterson on form can be a match for any of the Uni frontline. She can be strong in the tackle and has also chipped in with a goal this season during that 3-2 victory over Motherwell earlier in the season.
Her experience will be key for an increasingly young Farmington side, and it is the emergence in recent weeks of one of these youngsters in the shape of 15-year-old Maria McSherry where Nathan Flight may place his hope should he find himself in search of a goal. Having made her debut against Motherwell in front of the Alba cameras she got her first goal for the club during a 2-1 defeat to Rangers at the end of last month.
Thoughts From the Dugout
Stirling University Head Coach, Craig Beveridge: “We’ve got a bus running from the University and local girls side from Stenhousemuir and Riverside are coming along to be ball girls and play at half time and we have a lot of the staff at the university coming too. Obviously we want to make it a good night, and do ourselves and Scottish football proud.”
“Everyone knows it’s our biggest game of the season and it will probably define it but we need to go and win and it’s these games that you look forward to. I’ve spoken about it with the players and it doesn’t matter if it’s on the telly, a game’s a game, and we spoke about how we need to work on keeping our heads up better if we concede a goal and be more resilient.”
Forfar Farmington Head Coach, Nathan Flight: “Friday night is a game which we know exactly what we need to do. We have had a couple of tough weeks having come up against Hibs and Glasgow City, but Friday presents us with a terrific opportunity to achieve a positive result.
The previous games against Stirling University have been tough and competitive however we know we should have done better in those games, in particularly in the first meeting at Ochilview. However, we did not do that and we now find ourselves in our situation where Friday nights game is a great chance for Stirling University.
We are prepared well. We know their strengths and weaknesses, and we know their individual players’ strengths and weaknesses. So Friday night is a case of us executing our jobs properly, and if we do that then we will come away with a positive result. The recent additions to the team undoubtedly give us a heightened threat in attack and I am really excited to see what both players can do!
We are all really looking forward to the game, on what should be a great occasion, and I’m sure we will come out with the result we want.”
Friday’s game is live on BBC Alba with a 19:35 kick off at Ochilview.
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