By Chris Marshall (@mershdoes)
As the steel drums of the UEFA Women’s Champions League wondered quite how they ended up reverberating around an empty Broadwood on a sharp November evening so began the recommencent of Glasgow CIty’s latest European campaign.
The sound of silence in North Lanarkshire seemed particularly stark 370 days since City last hosted a side from foreign shores and on a night where the home side would produce a muted display it would be Lee Alexander on hand to save the day just as she had done that frenzied All Hallow’s Eve against Brondby last year as City progressed on penalties after a frustrating, goalless evening.
At full time of that game bodies shot off everywhere in celebration. Club founder Laura Montgomery, who had made a beeline for the melee that evening, was instead restricted to a view behind the red and white tape, shouts muffled through a mask. There was joy come the final whistle but also relief as City produced one of their most lacklustre displays of recent times.
In a performance that had similarities with the way in which Scotland meandered their way through their recent two Euro 2021(2) qualifiers against Albania and Finland City would be disjointed throughout against a Peamount United side who had all the vim and vigour of a team enthused by the opportunity to shoot their shot.
The Irish side, who came into the game top of the Irish Women’s National League, impressed throughout with an organisation and work-rate that their hosts never seemed to match. Marshalled by an always energetic James O’Callaghan from the touchline and encouraged by a vocal travelling entourage it was a game plan that with a little more composure in the final third may have seen the Peas pull off a well-earned victory.
There was an early header from captain Aine O’Gorman, left unmarked at the back post which Alexander would smother before a series of half breaks that the visiting attack could never really capitalise on.
In a first half performance that had those watching on scratching their heads City produced very little with on field communications down as passes failed to hit their mark and as set piece after set piece limply headed to the penalty area and safely wide or into the hands of Niamh Reid-Burke.
The second half started with a smidgen more impetus from the Scottish champions and good work down the left nearly produced an opener for Kirsty Howat but her close range stab was turned clear by Reid-Burke. Scott Booth tried to freshen things up, and whilst each change raised a temporary spark it would soon regress to the mean as shouts of frustration began to pierce through the night air.
Substitute Maddie Fulton had the best chance of the game but her low effort was steered clear by the outstretched boot of Reid-Burke before the stopper denied Howat from the edge of the area in injury time. The Peamount energy remained high throughout even if the attacking adventure would be replaced by even more discipline in defence as the game trudged into extra time.
City started the additional thirty teasing a spriteness that had deserted them most of the evening as a Rachel McLauchlan cross was snaffled by Reid-Burke with the orange shirts swarming but it was short-lived and the inevitability of the upcoming closing scenes were summed up in the 108th minute when a misplaced pass from Jo Love, playing centre back for the evening, found Peamount attackers too fatigued by their mental and physical exercisions to capitalise.
And so to penalties. The long walk from the centre circle to the penalty spot can look even more daunting when framed inside an empty stadium. The isolation of the moment and the straightforwardness of the contest laid bare for the smattering of faces in the crowd all with nothing else to watch as the shooter steps ever closer and the keeper fidgets on their line.
The penalties are good from both sides, and for a moment it felt as if we were set for the long haul with both sides missing a kick apiece in the opening ten, but in Alexander City have a keeper who thrives in this environment and it would be she who would once again secure her sides path to the next round of European competition denying both O’Gorman and finally Lauryn O’Callaghan to send her team-mates off in her direction, a fist pump of anger and celebration from the Scotland international providing a perfect snapshot to a frustrating evening that saw City scramble to their slot in the second round.
If you enjoyed this then please share, subscribe to the podcast at all the usual places, leave a review of many stars and tell all your friends. Remember you can follow the latest flights of fancy from Leading the Line via the Twitter page @LeadingtheLine.