It has been a productive ten days in Spain for Shelley Kerr and her squad, Chris Marshall (@MFPTasty) has a look at three of the main takeaways from a triumphant Pinatar Cup campaign.
A winning momentum
Yes, it was only a friendly tournament and Shelley Kerr rotated her squad heavily throughout but there has to be some satisfaction taken in the fact that despite the constantly shifting personnel the Scots were able to coming away with a trio of victories against competitive opposition.
In the opener against Ukraine they were made to work hard for 45 minutes as Rangers goalkeeper Jenna Fife claimed a well earned clean sheet before Scotland’s squad depth and overall quality saw them ease to a comfortable 3-0 victory with the combination on the right of Manchester United teammates Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnot in particular standing out with debutant Martha Thomas also grabbing a double.
That was a followed by a surprisingly dominant victory over Iceland. The 1-0 scoreline perhaps masking the dominance of Kerr’s side with the Icelandics unable to register a single shot on target over the 90 minutes while giving up 67% of possession to Scotland in the process as Abbi Grant’s well taken goal sealed victory.
The final game, a dead rubber in terms of who would claim tournament honours, saw victory after a sluggish start in which a disjointed Scotland side were pressed hard by Northern Ireland as Rachel Furness nodded home an early opener. An on-field conference led by captain Rachel Corsie seemed to settle things down as a howitzer from Erin Cuthbert and a second goal in two games for Grant ensured Scotland ended the campaign with a perfect record and as winners of the Pinatar Cup.
Scotland have now won five from five since that fateful June evening in Paris during last summer’s World Cup and with important Euro 2021 qualifiers away to Cyprus and at home to Portugal to come in April a winning habit is a useful one to get into.
More attacking arrows in the quiver
Of the three out and out forwards to be called into Shelley Kerr’s squad for the tournament only the vastly experienced Jane Ross had netted in Scotland colours but come competition end both Martha Thomas and Abbi Grant could mark the number 2 into their international goals column.
The pursuit of Thomas has been well documented by this point and the West Ham forward’s introduction to the international fold couldn’t have got off to a better start as she opened her account with a brace against the Ukrainians. A calm finish after defensive confusion set the tone before the post would deny her a second after a neat turn inside and low strike. A composed turn inside the Ukranian defence, after being played through by Caroline Weir, saw her slot past Kateryna Samson and her direct running towards the heart of opposing defences was a constant whenever she featured.
For Grant, the rise has been more measured, having had successful spells at Glasgow City and with Anderlecht the forward has turned into a key component of Birmingham City’s FAWSL survival bid. Her winner against Iceland saw the forward cut in from the right past a static Icelandic defence before curling a shot past Sandra Sigurðardóttir whilst her goal against Northern Ireland was a result of sharp thinking and poachers instinct.
The Scottish front line looks as competitive as it has ever been with at least five recent call ups, including the likes of Lana Clelland, Fiona Brown and Kirsty Hanson, all unavailable. The performances of both Thomas and Grant in Spain will ensure they remain in the mix come April’s Euro qualifiers along with now stalwarts Claire Emslie and Erin Cuthbert who both got on the scoresheet against Ukraine and Northern Ireland respectively.
First choice full backs
In the five games Scotland have competed in since the World Cup Shelley Kerr has used four different full back combinations with only the pairing of Glasgow City’s Hayley Lauder and Manchester United’s Kirsty Smith (who started against Ukraine and featured at home to Cyprus in Euro qualifying) a recurring duo.
One of the most eye catching inclusions on the defensive wings was that of Hibernian’s Rachael Boyle who saw her return to the international fold take place on the right hand side of the Scottish defence. Boyle has been the stand out creative spark for the Edinburgh side since making her way back to full fitness but showed enough to suggest she may be able to provide an alternative option when called upon.
Another who has recently returned to full fitness has been Arsenal’s Emma Mitchell with the left back enjoying a fruitful loan spell at North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Throw in Nicola Docherty who started against the Irish before having to come off injured early on and the versatility of Arsenal’s Lisa Evans (absent from the squad in Spain) and Kerr has a plethora of combinations to play with either as straight full backs or more attacking wing backs in a 3-5-2 formation.
Whether she continues to chop and change or has a settled starting eleven in her mind with the challenges of Portugal and Finland still come remains to be seen but she should be content with a successful sojourn to the Spanish coast.
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