It was a weekend where a long standing run was broken, final day title drama was guaranteed and relegation was confirmed for one SWPL side. So without much further ado here are this week’s three takeaways from the weekend’s action.
A four season run comes to an end
It had been a pleasing couple of weeks for all those connected to Glasgow City. Scott Booth’s side followed sealing a British record 13th consecutive SWPL title with a penalty shoot out victory over Danish side Brøndby booking a place in the Champions League last eight in the process.
On Sunday they headed to K Park with a view to maintaining their 100% record against a Celtic side who have perhaps failed to hit the heights their early season promised. Celtic had run City close in the league on both their previous encounters however were tame in their 2-0 Scottish Cup Quarter Final loss in September and so to see that the Hoops had ran out 4-1 victors against the newly crowned champions came as somewhat of a surprise.
A Sarah Ewens double along with goals from Natalie Ross and Josephine Giard ensured that Eddie Wolecki Black’s side joined in City in being one of only two teams to have beaten all of their competitors over the course of the league campaign. Whilst that in itself is an achievement worth recognition it will also be a source of frustration for the Celtic Head Coach that his side never truly got close enough to their city rivals to mount a sustained title challenge.
For the champions, who had Jo Love to thank for their sole reply, it was a first league defeat since a 3-0 loss to Spartans back in June 2016, a record stretching across four campaigns and 72 matches with the defeat also bringing to an end a remarkable 32 game winning streak in the league. It will be interesting to see how long records such as these now stand given the much talked about investment now being made by some of their rivals.
The SWPL2 title race will officially go to the wire
The scenario for both Hearts and Hamilton Academical was straightforward going into this weekend’s round of fixtures. For Accies anything other than a win at home to St. Johnstone and their chances of securing a return to SWPL1 at the first attempt would be up in smoke whilst for Hearts, a win at home to Glasgow Girls would ensure they would go into the final day with their fate in their own hands.
Accies held up their end of the bargain in handing the Perth Saints their heaviest defeat of the season as a double from Nic Sturrock along with goals from Chloe Muir, Teigan McCann and Amy Anderson sealed what was a comprehensive 5-0 victory for the home side.
That result keeps Gary Doctor’s side top of the table although Hearts are now in a position to overhaul their title foes after goals from Aisha Maughan and Maddie Brill Edwards sealed a 2-0 victory. The Jambos face a re-arranged tie against bottom side Hutchison Vale after the SWF Board deemed the appeals from both sides worthy of replay, a decision that received criticism from FC Kilmarnock who had found themselves in a similar situation earlier in the season. With the game now to be played Andy Enwood will see it as an opportunity to eat into the 26 goal advantage Accies currently hold. With it possible that both sides finish on identical points tallies once the 21st and final game of the season is done, goal difference could turn into a deciding factor.
As an aside it was disappointing to see yet another SWPL game not receive coverage from club social media channels, a follow up to the lack of coverage from Rangers for their 2-1 midweek victory over Spartans. Both Hearts and Rangers have made significant noise around their focus on growing the women’s arms of their clubs and you would hope that consistent and regular coverage will be viewed as a key part of that growth going forward.
Stirling Univerity’s fate is sealed
As Hearts and Hamilton Academical jostle for SWPL2 promotion the name of the team that would be replacing them was confirmed as Stirling University exited Scotland’s top tier following a 7-2 defeat away to Scottish Cup finalists Hibernian. In truth, their fate was sealed the previous week following a 2-0 home defeat to Forfar Farmington and even if the uni side had pulled off a remarkable result against the Hibees it would have ultimately been in vain as Nathan Flight’s side got the point they needed to guarantee survival courtesy of a 0-0 draw at home to Spartans.
It was always going to be a tough season for the Stirling side with more clubs than ever being able to offer players the chance of progression that for so long had been one of the benefits of Stirling’s student catchment. Of the eleven players that started their opening game of the season away to Motherwell four are now at other SWPL1 clubs with Loren Doran-Barr, Abby Callaghan and Rachel Connor now turning out for the Lanarkshire side whilst goalkeeper Chloe Logan moved to Celtic during the summer. The challenge of SWPL2 will give Craig Beveridge the chance to start anew but in an increasingly competitive division an instant return can be far from guaranteed and consolidation could be a more realistic objective after a tricky campaign.
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