/SWPL Preview – 20th March 2016

SWPL Preview – 20th March 2016

SWPL 1

Aberdeen vs Hibernian Ladies

Aberdeen vs Hibernian

Sunnybank Juniors, Kick-off: 1 pm

The last time these two sides met up in Aberdeen, it proved pivotal in last season’s title race. Hibernian had kept toe-to-toe with Glasgow City all season, but on the 6th September 2015, Aberdeen produced a shock result by beating the Edinburgh side 3-0 – the first club to do so in the league. So there will be a small matter of revenge on the mind of the Hibernian players going into the match.

Aberdeen started the 2016 season with a difficult defeat to Spartans, losing 2-1. All the goals came in the first half as Spartans went 2-0 up, but Aberdeen pulled a goal back through Shannon McGregor. During the second half, Aberdeen couldn’t break down the Spartans defence to find an equaliser. And as they attempt to get their first points of the season, they face one of the expected title challengers in Hibs – a mark of how competitive the SWPL 1 will be.

Hibernian had started their season with an impressive 3-1 win over Rangers. The Edinburgh side was 3-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Abi Harrison, Siobhan Hunter and Caroline Heron. The only downside was conceding a late Rangers’ goal from Chantelle Brown. They will appreciate the importance of putting together an early winning run if they are to put together a title challenge.

Glasgow City vs Celtic

City vs Celtic

Excelsior Stadium, Kick-off: 1 pm

Glasgow City and Celtic meet in the battle between two teams being spoken about as title rivals, although Celtic more of a dark horse. But nonetheless, there is an added spice as several players moved between the two clubs over the close season. Gemma Fay and Ruesha Littlejohn moved from Celtic to City, whilst Megan Cunningham, Georgie Rafferty, Courtney Whyte and Kerry Montgomery moved in the other direction.

Glasgow City started their defence of their SWPL title with a tricky away win against Stirling University. The only goal of the game came in the first half when a City free-kick routine saw Leanne Ross’ shot hit the crossbar, and defender Cheryl McCulloch reacted quickest to score. But, they failed to find the net again during the match, as they came up against an impressive Stirling rearguard display.

Celtic produced a strong performance to become the early leaders of the SWPL 1. The home side opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Forfar gifted possession to Suzanne Mulvey who took full advantage. Four minutes, they doubled their advantage. Kirsty Howat’s misdirected shot turned into the perfect cross to allow Kirstin McGuire to score. After a more even second half, Celtic extended their lead further in the 77th minute when Mulvey poked home Joanne Paton’s cross. And then in second half stoppage time, Mulvey completed her hat-trick to make it 4-0.

Spartans vs Forfar Farmington

Spartans vs Forfar Farmington

Spartans Academy, Kick-off: 1 pm

The new SWPL 1 structure has managed to improve competitiveness and Spartans and Forfar Farmington is an indication of this. Both sides could be dragged into the relegation battle, and both sides could end up fighting for a top-half spot. Saying this, both teams had contrasting fortunes in their opening matches.

Spartans began with a tricky match against Aberdeen and came up with an impressive 2-1 win. This included their opener from Alana Marshall which is a contender for goal of the month. Mariel Kaney doubled their advantage, but just after the half-hour mark, Aberdeen pulled a goal back. But Spartans held on to mean player-manager Suzy Shepherd’s SWPL reign began with a victory.

Forfar Farmington meanwhile began with a heavy 4-0 defeat to Celtic. Celtic are being talked about as a dark horse for the title race and they produced a strong display to secure the win. Forfar now has to recover and regroup to try and view this match as another start to the season to get their first points.

The two sides met at Ainslie Park in last season’s opening game, which Spartans comprehensively won 5-0.

Rangers vs Stirling University

Rangers Ladies vs Stirling University

New Tinto Park, Kick-off: 2 pm

These two sides go into this match having lost their opening matches to the expected title challengers, but their performances were very different.

Rangers went to Albyn Park against Hibernian and lost 3-1 in a performance where they struggled to contain Hibernian’s attacking speed whilst failing to threaten the Hibernian defence. But, their head coach Kevin Murphy should be pleased with how Rangers played in the second half, restricting Hibs’ chances and eventually when they created their first chance late on – Chantelle Brown scored. That response in character will be critical in Rangers’ chances of finishing high up the table.

Stirling University opened their season at home, and started with a huge challenge against Glasgow City – and like they did last season, they gave the champions huge challenges. Whilst Glasgow City did win 1-0 – when Cheryl McCulloch reacted quickest when a City free-kick rebounded off the crossbar – Stirling’s defensive performance nullified the one of the league’s best attacking side, if not the best. And their counter-attacking threat managed to cause City’s defences issues.

Last season, Rangers beat Stirling University at home 3-1, although Stirling had equalised during the game.

SWPL 2

Hutchison Vale vs Buchan Ladies

Hutchison Vale vs Buchan

Saughton Enclosure, Kick-Off: 2 pm

Both of these teams go into Sunday’s game with points on the board, although, Buchan will be looking for their first win.

Hutchison Vale gained revenge on Glasgow Girls, who had knocked them out of the League Cup, by beating them in the league’s opening day. And this was when things went against them. When Hutchie were 2-1 up, they were reduced down to ten players when Parker-Smith conceded a penalty which Glasgow Girls missed. But Hutchie showed great character to hold on, and eventually scored late on to secure a 3-1 win.

Buchan Ladies had to deal with a late venue change in their opening match against a very strong Hearts side and came away with a 2-2 draw.

The last time these two met was during the 2014 season when both were competing in the SWPL. The two games played at Hutchie ended in 2-1 wins for the Edinburgh side, whereas Buchan thrashed Hutchie 7-2 at their ground. In the last nine games between them, the side playing at home won seven times and the other two matches were drawn.

Hearts vs Inverness City

Hearts vs Inverness

Kings Park, Dalkeith, Kick-Off: 2 pm

Hearts entertain Inverness City at Kings Park, looking to build upon their hard-fought 2-2 draw with Buchan on the season’s opening day.

Inverness travel down to Edinburgh, looking for their first league win since October 2014. Despite losing their opening game to Hamilton, they can take heart from their performance. Last season, they only scored three goals once, yet they began this season by fighting back twice against a team expected to fight for the SWPL 2 title – as well as never giving up as they scored their third with the game’s last action.

Last season, these two teams met at a similar point at Kings Park which ended in a 1-1 draw. The other two games ended in Hearts wins, without Inverness scoring.

Hamilton Academical vs Jeanfield Swifts

Hamilton Academical vs Jeanfield Swifts

New Douglas Park, Hamilton, Kick-Off: 4 pm

An intriguing battle between the current top two.

Hamilton is being spoken about as the pre-season title favourites and began with a 5-3 win over Inverness City. They had the honour of scoring the first goal of the 2016 SWPL season when MT McGuiness scored from close range. And although Inverness equalised twice, Hamilton kept going to pick up three points.

Jeanfield Swifts began their time at McDiarmid Park with a resounding 5-1 win over Queen’s Park, with Danni McGinley scoring four times. Queen’s Park turned up looking to spoil the party, and they looked like they were going to do that as they took the lead. But Jeanfield fought back to score five goals to top the table at the end of the first day.

This will be the first meeting between these two clubs.

Queen’s Park vs Glasgow Girls

Queen's Park vs Glasgow Girls

Lesser Hampden, Glasgow, Kick-Off: 4 pm

Both Queen’s Park and Glasgow Girls sit in the two relegation places and will be looking to kick-start their campaign with a win. Queen’s Park had taken the lead in their match against Jeanfield Swifts but went on to lose 5-1.

Glasgow Girls will be bitterly disappointed not to take anything from their opening game. When they were 2-1 down, they had a glorious chance to equalise but missed the penalty. But, they can take heart from the fact they did beat Hutchison Vale in the League Cup.

In the First Division last season, the two sides shared a victory each – with the team playing away winning both times.