SWPL Cup First Round, Sunday 28th February 2016, Ainslie Park.
A Trish McLaughlin hat-trick helped Spartans progress in the SWPL Cup as they beat Stirling University 5-1, after an extra-time. However, that barely tells the full story in what was a pulsating match where Stirling had a goal controversially ruled out, and both sides hit the woodwork.
The first 45 minutes were tight, with neither side wanting to make the mistake, although Stirling’s Rachel Donaldson was a constant menace as the away side had the better chances.
The second 45 minutes were a complete contrast, with Spartans quickly out of the traps to take the lead through McLaughlin. Stirling though showed great resilience and fought back through Jade Gallon’s wonder-strike from the edge of the box.
Within a minute of each other, both sides hit the post, frist Lauren Gavin for Spartans and then Emma Lyons for Stirling. Late on, Spartans’ Alana Marshall’s shot smashed off the crossbar, but neither side could get the winner so the game went into extra-time.
In the first minute of extra-time, Stirling had a goal ruled out for offside. Jade Gallon’s free-kick was spilled by Spartans’ keeper Eartha Cummings, who stopped the ball on the line and Lauren Gallon fired the ball over the line. However, the assistant ruled the goal out, as Cummings had both hands on the ball.
Just before half-time in extra-time time, Katie Reilly was fouled by the Stirling keeper, and Alana Marshall converted the spot-kick.
In the second half of extra-time, Rachel Donaldson missed a great chance to equalise – and then Spartans punished them with two goals from McLaughlin as well as Gavin getting on the scoresheet, as the Stirling side tired.
In the early stages, Spartans controlled possession with the visitors happy to sit back with nine players behind the ball, so it wasn’t a surprise that the home side’s first chance came from a set-piece. They had won a free-kick in a dangerous position – 25 yards from goal in a central position. Alana Marshall tapped it to Louise Mason, who drilled the ball into the wall. Marshall chased down the deflection and shot wide.
Then Stirling started to create counter-attacks with an end product. Rachel Donaldson played the ball over the Spartans’ backline, sending Jade Gallon into the box and she forced Spartans’ keeper Eartha Cumings into a good save low down.
Minutes later, Donaldson was once again played through, but Cumings was alert and made a great save with her legs.
Whilst Spartans continued to dominate the possession stats, they were really struggling to open up a disciplined Stirling defence. The closest they came in the first half came from Marshall’s corner, which Stirling’s keeper Chloe Logan nervously tipped the ball over.
Stirling were gaining confidence, and after Donaldson held the ball up brilliantly, she played Lisa Sutherland through, but she failed to hit the target.
Late on in the first half, Stirling had two great chances from Donaldson runs. The first saw her shoot across goal, just wide of the far post, whilst the second saw her break from the half-way line and narrowly slotted the ball wide of the left post.
Whatever Spartans’ boss Suzy Shepherd said at half-time worked, as Spartans came quickly out of the blocks to take the lead. Louise Mason broke down the right, and her cross picked out McLaughlin who was left with a simple finish as Spartans took the lead with their first shot on target.
Spartans could have doubled their lead minutes later, as a corner picked out Danni Pagliarulo whose shot was tipped onto the post by Logan.
Once Stirling had weathered the resulting storm, they regained their composure and discipline and started threatening again, and they soon equalised. After a period of great play from the visitors, Jade Gallon turned on the edge of the box, and her thunderbolt of a shot went in off the top-right corner.
Ashley McDonald broke into the Spartans’ box, she turned her marker before her stabbed finish was saved by Cummings. This kick-started a frantic period as within a minute of each other, both sides hit the woodwork. Spartans’ chance came when McLaughlin’s cross picked out Lauren Gavin whose shot smashed off the left-post. Then Stirling broke down the other end to win a corner, from which Lyons made a brilliant run, but her shot hit the near post.
The match calmed down, but in the closing stages, it looked like only Spartans would find the winner, and once again, they were denied by the frame of the goal. Mariel Kaney’s cross was cleared only to McDonald whose shot rattled the crossbar.
Both teams had a chance to get the winner in the final minutes. Bobby Beveridge crossed to Donaldson, but her attempt was brilliantly blocked by Simone McMahon.
And then, with seconds left, Spartan’s Gavin stabbed wide from Nicola Mawson’s teasing cross.
The game went into extra-time, and immediately there was a moment of huge controversy. Stirling won a free-kick fro 35 yards, and Jade Gallon’s shot seemed like a simple save for Cummings. Instead, the ball squirmed through her hands, but she recovered quickly to stop the ball crossing the line. Lauren Gallon pounced to fire the ball into the net, but after a long discussion between the officials, they decided that the Stirling player had kicked the ball whilst the keeper had both hands on the ball.
Spartans nearly took an immediate advantage of the reprieve as Jen Malone headed just wide of the near post from a corner.
The first half of extra-time looked like it was following the same story as the equivalent in regulation time, until the closing minute. Simone McMahon’s long ball was allowed to bounce in the box, and whilst Reilly’s header was blocked by Logan, the referee decided the keeper had taken the Spartans’ captain out and awarded the penalty. Marshall took the spot-kick and sent Logan the wrong way.
Stirling had a great chance to equalise moments into the second period of extra-time when Jade Gallon’s early cross was fired over by Donaldson who was stretching to make it.
The next minute, it was game over. Marshall’s ball split the Stirling defence, and Gavin converted with a composed finish as the Stirling defence appealed for an offside.
And then, as a tiring Stirling team tried to mount a comeback, Spartans added two more goals. Bobby Beveridge’s cross picked out McLaughlin who scored with an outrageous overhead kick. And then she completed her hat-trick minutes later, as Reilly sent McLaughlin free and she placed the shot past the keeper.
Spartans progressed in the cup, but the difference between the two sides was slim.
Spartans (4-4-2): Eartha Cumings; Simone McMahon, Dion McMahon (Jen Malone HT), Danni Pagliarulo, Nicola Mawson (Jamie-Lee Smith 115); Mariel Kaney (Bobby Beveridge 100), Katie Reilly, Alana Marshall, Louise Mason; Trish McLaughlin, Ashley Fish (Lauren Gavin 67).
Subs not Used: Jo Viollaz (GK), Michelle Russell, Suzy Shepherd.
Goals: Trish McLaughlin 47, 103, 118; Alana Marshall pen 104, Lauren Gavin 110.
Booking: Jen Malone.
Stirling University (5-3-1-1): Chloe Logan; Ashley McDonald, Rebecca Blair, Lauren Gallon, Lauren Eadie, Megan Moss; Jade Gallon, Lisa Sutherland, Rachel Hailliday; Emma Lyons (Jen Godfrey 114); Rachel Donaldson.
Subs not Used: Beth McKay, Rachel Haliday
Goal: Jade Gallon 60.
Referee: Lorraine Clark
Assistant Referees: Dougie Kerr, James Wilson.