Spartans put City to the sword

Report by Paul Elliott

Following the midweek SWPL Cup final defeat to Hibs, Spartans doubled the pain for Glasgow City with a 3-0 league win over the champions.

Games between City and Spartans are always action packed and this one would be no different. It was the visitors that started the brighter of the two with Louise Mason making a good run into the box for Spartans. Mason’s resulting shot was wayward but the linesman had his flag raised for offside regardless.

City’s first foray into the Spartans box came soon after with Leanne Ross peeling out wide as City broke. The cross for Sarah Crilly, who made up a lot of ground to get into the box, found the little winger throwing herself at the ball but unable to connect a header.

Then Erin Cuthbert conceded a free kick for climbing on the back of a Spartans attacker about 25 yards from the City goal. Alana Marshall stepped up for Spartans and smashed a left foot rocket into the bottom corner of the net. Gemma Fay between the sticks didn’t move as the ball flew past her to make it 1-0 to Spartans.

The reaction from City was instant with Ross bursting forward, but the captain shot wide at pace. Then Crilly showed sensational acceleration to chase a pass in behind the Spartans defence from Ross. Crilly was too quick for the ball however and couldn’t get her foot under it enough to lob the keeper.

City thought they’d equalised through Ruesha Littlejohn. The Irish midfielder’s shot was deflected, and initially looked over the line before being cleared to Ross who rattled the post. The Crilly follow up effort fired just wide.

City continued to turn the screw in search of an equaliser. A corner kick routine set up Brogan Hay just inside the Spartans box; she played in Lauren McMurchie on the edge of the six yard box but her shot was blocked. The ball then landed for Cheryl McCulloch who couldn’t quite connect in front of goal. Spartans survived again.

Despite City dominance, Spartans were powerful and aggressive and always looked a threat on the break. Kirsty McLaughlin completely turned the game on its head when she doubled Spartans’ lead through a ‘worldy’ of a goal. The ball found its way to McLaughlin who unchallenged looped a long ranger over Fay with her left foot, which then crashed off the bar and in. It was a great goal and gave City a real mountain to climb. 2-0.

To make matters worse for City the end of the first half saw McCulloch carried off with a painful injury. An innocuous collision saw the defender take a bad one on the knee, and then replaced by Jo Love as a make-shift central defender.

The last piece of action in the first half saw City denied a stonewall penalty kick. From a corner, Crilly in the process of a bicycle kick, was blatantly knocked over and the danger was cleared. The referee waved away all complaints and blew for half time.

HT 2-0

For the second half City made changes with Clare Shine, Fiona Brown and Hayley Lauder coming on at half time. The urgency in the play for City was clear as they went all out attack from the restart.

This attacking approach was almost punished early doors through a Spartans break. Bearing down on the City box, Marshall elected to shoot rather than play in substitute Sarah Clelland or Katie Reilly who had both run into good positions. The resulting shot went way over the bar and let City off the hook.

City substitute Shine almost made an immediate impact. The Irish striker peeled off her marker at the far post but glanced her header just wide of the mark.

Eartha Cummings in goal for Spartans is making a name for herself as a talented young prospect, and her performance in this game will have done her reputation no harm. The young keeper made a magnificent save when Brown ran through one-on-one. It looked a certain goal for City but the keeper rushed out quick to block with her ankle.

Scotland international Lauder was next to have a shot at goal for City. She showed great vision before skilfully turning her marker to shoot, but watched her effort ping just over the bar. 

Attacking again, Shine was next to burst into the box, leaving the impressive Simone McMahon in her wake, but her left foot shot blasted over the bar.

It was one-way traffic but then Spartans reminded the champions of their danger on the break. The visitors surged forward in numbers and a deep cross from the left wing saw Michelle Russell rise at the far post to loop a header over Fay, and off the post.

With the clock ticking down City were throwing everything at the visitors, and found Spartans solid at the back. McMahon in particular was sensational. 

It became clear that City weren’t going to hit the net at any point in this game when Lauder missed the best chance of the match with around ten minutes to play. Shine burst forward to the touchline and her cut-back was missed by Crilly, but arriving just behind was Lauder who shot straight into Cummings’ arms unchallenged.

Often ex-players come back to haunt their old team when they first meet. Up step ex-City full back Sarah Clelland. On the break, Clelland surged down the right flank and sent a ball into the box which looped over Fay and into the back of the net. The goal was most likely a fluke but glorious for Clelland, and typical of the day for City. 3-0.

A tough week ended with two defeats for City. The team’s next outing is a tough trip north to Aberdeen.