Unbeaten SWPL run comes to an end v Spartans

Report by Graham Semple

Glasgow City suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Spartans in the SWPL at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie this afternoon, writes Graham Semple.

The only goal of the game was scored nine minutes into the second half by Katie Reilly. City created chances throughout the match but were denied by an inspired performance from Spartans’ goalkeeper, Rachel Harrison.

Suzanne Lappin action. Image by Andy Buist

Suzanne Lappin action. Image by Andy Buist

In a quiet opening thirty minutes there was plenty of commitment and endeavour on display but neither goalkeeper was called into action. Denise O’Sullivan had the best opportunity but she was unable to connect with Emma Black’s teasing cross.

City have not had their troubles to seek regarding injuries this season, and they were dealt a further blow when the influential Eilish McSorley had to be replaced by Julie Nelson after just twenty minutes. Three minutes later, they were again forced to shuffle the pack when Fiona Brown was substituted after a clash of heads. Suzanne Lappin took her place.

The stop-start nature of the first half did not help the flow of the game, but gradually City began to find their stride and create opportunities. After 33 minutes a slick move involving O’Sullivan and debutant, Morgan Marlborough, presented Jo Love with a good opportunity but she was denied by Harrison in the Spartans goal. Moments later the new loan signing from the United States was inches away from notching her first goal for the club but she was unable to reach a wicked Black cross.

Spartans enjoyed sporadic spells of possession and they grew in confidence the longer the match remained deadlocked. Sarah Ewens had the visitors’ first meaningful attempt but her well-struck effort was well held by Niki Deiter.

The game became stretched as both teams pushed for the first goal and when Love found Marlborough in space, her right-foot shot forced the Spartans captain to make a decent stop.

Louise Mason then had a great chance to grab the lead for Spartans, but she fluffed her golden opportunity. City responded immediately on the counter attack but O’Sullivan was denied from close range by Harrison in the Spartans goal. The Republic of Ireland internationalist was out of luck again from the resulting corner and a goalless first period came to a close after eight minutes of injury time.

The only goal of the game came after 54 minutes. A long punt from the Spartans goalkeeper was latched on to by Reilly who directed her twenty yard shot into the far corner leaving Deiter with no chance.

City looked for a swift response and a Love shot found the side-netting immediately after the restart. Shortly afterwards a superb 25 yard free-kick from substitute, Leanne Crichton, crashed off the crossbar as the home side searched for an equaliser.

Marlborough was next to try her luck but her effort from inside the box was deflected over the crossbar. With 18 minutes remaining Lappin rose to meet a Crichton corner, but her header was cleared off the line as the Spartans goal led a charmed life.

City continued to push for the elusive equaliser in an attempt restore parity, and a sizzling effort from Abbi Grant forced Harrison into another impressive stop - but time was running out for the champions.

Chances continued to come and go in the latter stages, but under intense scrutiny a gritty and determined Spartans side held firm to record a famous win and inflict a first league defeat on City since November 2008.

On another day, City might have taken something from the game, but nothing should detract from Spartans’ fine victory.

A philosophical City boss, Eddie Wolecki Black, said afterwards: “I have just come out of the dressing room and I couldn’t be any prouder of them. The reason being is that for any club to go almost six years without a League defeat is an incredible achievement and it is a record I am not sure will ever be beaten. The disappointment will abate because we have plenty of big games to come and still plenty to play for. We will respond - there is no doubt about that - and I am more than confident that we will be the champions despite this loss. Today it is Spartans’ day and we congratulate them on their victory.”

Teams:

Glasgow City: Deiter, Black, Docherty, McCulloch, McSorley (Nelson 20), McMurchie (Crichton 60), Love, O’Sullivan, Grant, Brown (Lappin 23), Marlborough

Subs Not Used: Alexander, Farrell, Whyte, Fairlie

Spartans: Harrison, Crosbie, Pagliarulo, Briggs, Ewens (Nicolson 88), Montgomery, Reilly, McLaughlin, Mason, Marshall, Shepherd

Subs Not Used: Beveridge, Clelland, Hamilton, Kerr

Referee: Colin Muir