Rangers and Glasgow City maintained their five point advantage at the top of the table on an afternoon where Forfar Farmington’s Northern Irish goalkeeper Lauren Perry would be an unlikely hero for her side. Chris Marshall is back to look at his three takeaways from the weekend’s SWPL1 action.
GOALS ARE GOING TO MATTER
For the first time since they were routed by Rangers back in December Scott Booth’s Glasgow City ended a SWPL1 game week at the top of the table following a comprehensive 8-0 victory over bottom side Motherwell in the BBC Alba live game. Victory for the defending champions was to be expected but it was the way in which they continued to rack up the goals – Leanne Crichton’s final strike of the game was City’s 18th in the three games since the season returned – that saw them leapfrog their rivals by virtue of goals scored.
Only four players retained their place from the side that defeated Forfar Farmington 7-0 last week as Booth rotated his now vast squad and it would be one of those retained that would make the most telling contribution. After a pandemic-related delay to her career in the SWPL South African international Ode Fulutudilu has started at a blistering pace and she followed up last week’s treble in Angus with a further three as City played their first “home” game at Broadwood for nearly four months.
Five of those six goals have come from within the six yard box and it was her second that perhaps best illustrated her quality in close quarters. After some neat build up play a Sharon Wojcik cross found Fulutudilu close to goal where the South African would flick the ball around a static Motherwell defender before smashing it past on-loan Kilmarnock keeper Lauren McGregor. Those quick reactions and improvised finishes have quickly become a trademark of her short time in Scotland and it will be interesting to see if those skills will translate against higher calibre opposition.
As City racked up eight Rangers were only able to convert one of their 17 attempts on goal as Lizzie Arnot volleyed home her ninth of the season after good work from the effervescent Brogan Hay in a game that Rangers never looked like losing despite a late flurry of Hibernian pressure. Neither Rangers or City can expect to canter to victory every week, a point that both Malky Thomson and Nicola Docherty were keen to stress post-match, but with both sides looking in relentless winning form the destination of the title could come down to who sticks it in the net most come season end and in that respect, for this weekend at least, it was advantage to the defending champions.
LEAH CAN BE HIBS STEADY EDDIE
It has been a tough 2020/21 season for Hibernian, they currently find themselves 15 points outside the Champions League places with a tally that sees them closer to the bottom than the top.
Against Rangers, a team they have regularly humbled in recent seasons, they set up to nullify the hosts attack from the wings with Rachael Boyle dropped back into a right back role she usually frequents for the national side and Amy Muir providing energetic support to 16-year-old Eilidh Adams in attack. It was a premeditated approach from Dean Gibson that worked in limiting the quality of chance that Rangers could create, goal aside only once was Emily Mutch truly tested saving well from a Chantelle Swaby header, but it also saw them end the game without a single shot on goal.
A warm up injury to Amy Gallacher meant the Hibs boss was shorn of one of his more potent attacking options and a threat in attack was a facet acknowledged as needing work but with a performance centred around a heavy rearguard action it was the display of Leah Eddie that stood out, the defender having been forced to miss the majority of the 2019 season through injury.
With her side under the cosh throughout she was a constant presence, reading the game well to snuff out attacks and showing composure on the ball as the Edinburgh side looked for a rare release of pressure. She was also able to do something that not many have been able to and help keep the league’s top goalscorer Kirsty Howat quiet. This may now be a season of transition for the Hibees and reinforcements will need to arrive if they are to make a push towards the top end of the table but in Eddie they have a defender who looks more than ready to make up for lost time.
GOALKEEPER GOALS ARE CLASS BUT…
Let me say this first, I love the fact that Forfar Farmington goalkeeper Lauren Perry scored a 90th minute equaliser in the same week her nation, Northern Ireland, qualified for their first ever major tournament finals. I loved the late scenes it brought in an SWPL season that has had it’s fair share so far but…it wasn’t a very good goal.
A cursory look at some of the Twitter back and forth with her Forfar teammates in the aftermath suggest that the last gasp free kick from 35 yards should have been destined for the penalty spot instead of falling just under Charlotte Parker-Smith’s crossbar. The Hearts keeper will also know she should have done better, caught out by the flight of the ball as her side had to to settle for a point that would still prove to be enough to move them off the foot of the table. Words such as “screamer“, “incredible” and “unbelievable” were used to describe it but in truth it was a mix of fortune and misfortune that sparked the celebrations. Similar analysis could also be attributed to Alana Marshall’s Olympic goal for Spartans during their 5-1 defeat to Celtic, her corner squirming past the finger tips of Celtic keeper Chloe Logan. Whether Marshall intended to score only she will know.
It’s a tricky subject. There is still a shortage of goalkeeper specific coaching in the women’s game in Scotland and despite that situation improving even the league’s best – in the shape of Scotland duo Lee Alexander and Jenna Fife – have experienced lapses over the course of the campaign. That doesn’t mean all the goalkeeping is poor, both Fife and Logan put on brilliant displays during their Old Firm clash earlier in the season in a pair of performances that immediately come to mind but it does mean that from time to time criticism will come. Now, sometimes that criticism will come from “women’s football is rubbish” VL’s who spend their Sunday afternoon’s furiously typing from behind their *insert EPL footballer’s name here* profile pictures but other times it will be more rational. You are allowed to criticise women’s football, a growing profile will lead to an increasing discourse where critical analysis will become the norm but that criticism should be fair and evidential in much the same way that praise should be earned and not patronising. Whisper it, but you can support women’s football without thinking everything that happens during the course of a game is brilliant.
That approach means that when something is actually pretty spectacular, such as the latest top drawer save from Christiane Endler as PSG ended Lyon’s Champions League dominance, it gets the appropriate widespread praise. With enough time and the right support there is nothing to prevent Scottish goalkeepers reaching the very top of the women’s game too, but for now there will most likely be a few bumps along the way.