Second Division League Cup
Sunday 29th April 2012
Claremont v Spartans websites
A strange day in East Kilbride, alternating between sunny and warm with not a breath of wind to breezy Baltic conditions but at least it remained dry.
The match kicked off on time by the whistle of referee Hayley Irvine, where Claremont took the game by the scruff of the neck immediately. They received a throw-in on the right, which was delivered long into the box. The ball was nodded down to Kim Gilmour, whose shot was inches over the bar.
It soon became apparent that Steph Crichton was a long-throw specialist. The distance this lass can throw a ball has to be seen to be believed and it was from these throw-ins that the home side created an abundance of opportunities. Once the ball was in the box, little knock downs, allowed others to get on the end of the loose ball.
They had two excellent chances from Crichton’s throws, one shot skimming the bar, the other hit straight at keeper Steph Ireland.
Spartans in the first ten minutes or so didn’t appear to have much to offer, especially up front. That was until Laura McRitchie broke down the left, turned inside and from a ridiculous angle, sent is a high curling shot, which had it been six inches lower, was a certain goal.
It was Claremont who remained the most likely to score however and it came as a result of a long throw from Crichton from the left. The ball deep into the box for Dionne Brown’s overhead kick to open the scoring. It was no more than the blue’s deserved at this point in the game, 16 minutes played.
The pace of McRitchie down the left was beginning to pay dividends for the visitors, however the goal came from an innocuous cross to the back post from the winger, where Lina Spilkowska’s attempted clearance found its way into the empty net from two yards out. Not what anyone wants to see but the unfortunate defender’s confidence took a blow, and as much as she gave it her all during the game, I don’t think she fully recovered from the own goal.
Spartans obtained a huge lift from the goal and it wasn’t long before they added a second. Anne Smollett’s run down the left drew keeper Stacey McCallum out to meet her, giving Smollett the opportunity to square the ball for Emma Stewart, whose outstretch leg beat that of the defender to give the visitors the lead.
Half Time: Claremont 1 Spartans 2. Not the most exciting first 45 minutes, despite there being three goals but it was evenly matched by two capable teams, with some terrific battles in the centre of the park. Many unsung heroes often go unmentioned in match reports, and this is one of them.
Spartans began the second period on the ascendency with a good ball from the left, along the ground from Smollett, setting up Stewart with a shot on goal but McCallum dived to her left to save.
Stewart and McCallum came face to face again as the striker broke through the middle only to be thwarted by the keeper as she bravely dived at the feet of her adversary.
However, this match was far from over. Claremont were awarded a penalty for a handball offence inside the box. Dionne Brown stepped up, firing low towards the left post but with the keeper guessing correctly, there were a few hearts in mouths as it snuck in at the post.
So the match was back to parity and you felt the next goal would decide this one. Both teams had ample fire power to get the conclusive goal but it was the fitness of the Spartans girls that would be the telling factor. Claremont girls were departing the field of play with injuries and cramp as Spartans introduced fresh legs to add to their problems, despite being short on subs due to late call offs.
Lina Spilkowska was put through from a long ball but under pressure from an ensuing defender, her 20 yard hot was high over the bar.
At the other end Stewart received a similar ball, marshalled by three defenders and her shot from a comparable position also concluded its journey above the crossbar.
Spartans fitness was coming to the forefront on events. The tired legs at the back were being taken advantage of by Smollett, McRitchie and substitute Lianne Gray. The three linking up twice, resulting in narrow misses.
Claremont skipper Brown was involved in a bone crunching tackle just outside the 18 yard area. She won the ball cleanly, despite the Spartans player lying pole-axed on the deck. The ball was lifted on into the path of Crichton by Gilmour, who under pressure from the remaining defender fired low against the left post. A lovely move and unfortunate not to have produced the winning goal.
At the other end, the pressure was mounting. Things were so desperate, Claremont threw on keeper Vikki Gavin from a depleted bench.
Brown blocked a certain goal as the ball was heading towards the net – a leg stuck in the right place at the right time.
The home side went down to ten players due to players suffering from cramp and Spartans did not need to be asked twice to make the most of the opportunity. The fresh legs of Sharon Hughes finding space on the far left, where she delivered an inch perfect pass to the other side of the box for Stewart. As the keeper advanced the centre forward shot beyond her to give the Edinburgh lassies the winner and a place in the next round.
However the game wasn’t finished. Anne Smollett broke through just right of centre and again keeper McCallum advanced to narrow the angle. Smollett shot brought off an incredible save from McCallum, diving to her right to get her fingers to the ball at full stretch.
As the final whistle blew, Spartans claimed the spoils of a hard fought battle and to be honest, I don’t believe anyone could deny they were worthy winners, particularly with their second half performance.
Claremont however can take some solace knowing that they have five players who were fit but could not play today and yet they pushed this Spartans side to the limits. If they had that little but more stamina, we may have been treated to 30 minutes of extra time and penalties.
A first for me today. I like to get close to the action and for reporting purposes – get as near to the half way line as possible. Yours truly was hit by a stray ball courtesy of Spartans Lianne Gray but she made up for it by shouting “sorry camera boy” – made my day
Player of the Match: A number of candidates today. I thought the tall, athletic Heather Smart was a rock in the heart of the Spartans defence and Laura McRitchie put in a great shift on the left wing for them too. For Claremont Kim Gilmour had a very good game and credit to her for getting up immediately after taking a ball full in the face. But for skill on the ball, the ability to hold play up as she waited on support and commitment; the award went to Dionne Brown. Our interview with this fun girl will appear late in the week.
Claremont: McCallum, McKenzie, McLennan, Chattam, Williamson, Crichton, Spilkowska, Everett, Gimour, Brown, McIntyre Subs: Kirkland, Gavin, Bunting
Spartans: Ireland, Meiklejohn, Magee, Smart, Laine, Montgomery, Donald, McRitchie, Smollett, Lyon, Stewart Subs: Gray, Hughes
Referee: Hayley Irvine