The Road to the SWPL Cup Final

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16 teams set off on the road to the SWPL Cup Final back in February and after 14 games in which 73 goals were scored at a rate of 5.2 per game across the competition it is once again Glasgow City and Hibernian that will face off in what will be their third SWPL Cup final encounter in the last six years and their first since 2016 when the Edinburgh side raised the trophy after a 2-1 victory. In fact the Edinburgh side have won every tournament since that victory three years ago with last year’s 9-0 demolition of Celtic providing the biggest final victory in the history of the competition but how did the two sides competing at Airdrie’s Penny Cars Stadium on Friday 10th May get here? This is their Road to the SWPL Cup Final.

February 24th 2019 First Round

Hibernian 1-0 Heart of Midlothian, Ainslie Park

In a repeat of Grant Scott’s side’s 2018 tournament opener the Hibees faced local rivals, SWPL2 Heart of Midlothian. Hibernian, despite their dominance were unable to convert their chances and the deadlock was only broken thanks to a 25 yard effort from midfielder Kirsten Reilly after a string of missed opportunities and saves from Emily Mutch in the Hearts goal. Her top corner effort was enough to see off their Oriam based opponents as the defending champions successfully started their quest to add a sixth SWPL Cup triumph to the honour roll.

St. Johnstone 0-9 Glasgow City, McDiarmid Park

Glasgow City eased into the Quarter Finals with a nine goal demolition of SWPL2 St. Johnstone in Perth. Hat trick’s from Hayley Lauder and Kirsty Howat, along with goals from Nicola Docherty, Jenna Clark and Sam Kerr, with two of Lauder’s goals coming inside the first 8 minutes, ensured the six times winners safe passage into the next round.

March 24th 2019 Quarter Final

Stirling University 0-6 Hibernian, Ochilview

The visiting Hibees would make quick work of current SWPL1 bottom side Stirling University as they booked their Semi Final place with a 6-0 victory at Ochilview. Goals from captain Joelle Murray, Jamielee Napier, Siobhan Hunter and Ashley Fish plus two own goals courtesy of the Uni side’s defence meant that the Ainslie Park outfit were able to comfortably take their place in the final four.

Glasgow City 4-0 Celtic, Petershill Park

In what was arguable the tie of the round City saw off the first of two Old Firm rivals. A double from Republic of Ireland international cap Clare Shine along with goals from Hayley Lauder and Megan Foley completed what in the end would be a routine, but professionally executed win, for Scott Booth’s side.

April 14th Semi Finals

Spartans 0-3 Hibernian, Broadwood Stadium

Hibernian saw off Edinburgh based opponents once again after a hard fought 3-0 win against league rivals Spartans in game one of a SWPL Cup Super Sunday at Clyde FC’s Broadwood Stadium. Goals from Lauren Davidson, Jamielee Napier and Beth Tweedie were enough to book a spot in this year’s final with Grant Scott’s side having done so without conceding a goal.

Glasgow City 5-1 Rangers

Glasgow City completed a comfortable victory over their Govan based opponents but it was a stunning double from Scotland International Nicola Docherty that was the buzz of the terraces come the final whistle. Further goals from Kirsty Howat and Clare Shine ensured that City would go into the break 4-1 to the good with Caitlin O’Hara getting a goal back for Rangers just before half time. Any notion of a comeback was short-lived though as Leanne Ross added a fifth six minutes after the interval to ensure the two most dominant sides of recent Scottish Women’s Football times would face off once again.

For more information on Friday’s final you can follow the SWPL & Scottish Women’s Football social media channels.

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SWPL1 – Motherwell v Rangers

Two goals deep into second half injury time saw Rangers rescue a point in dramatic fashion as a depleted Motherwell side were unable to hold out for victory with seven minutes remaining of this SWPL1 clash at Ravenscraig.

Both teams had come into this encounter on the back of a poor recent run of results and the home side were hampered before a ball was kicked as they were only able to list one fully fit substitute. Visiting head coach Amy McDonald made seven changes to the side that was defeated 5-1 by Glasgow City in the SWPL Cup Semi Final last time out with a number of experienced faces coming into the starting line up. It was the Women of Steel that started the quickest though and, after a long range effort from Chelsea McEachran was juggled to safety by Rangers goalkeeper Jade Baillie, they took the lead with 15 minutes on the clock. Good work down the left by Lori Gardner, who was dangerous throughout the first half, saw her cut inside and hit a shot that was deflected on route to the goal. In the resulting race for the ball it was Mhairi Fyfe who managed to gain control to poke the ball past Baillie.

Two minutes later Motherwell found themselves two nil up. Gardner was again at the centre of things as she picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and, with no pressure forthcoming from the Rangers defence, hit a dipping long range effort that made its way into the top right hand corner of the net. It was a high quality strike from a player who was continuing to cause problems with her willing running and trickery despite not being 100% fit herself.

Rangers eventually awoke from their early slumber and started putting pressure on the Motherwell goal but were resorted to long range efforts up until the stroke of half time where an error from goalkeeper Morgan Hunter should have given the visitors a way back in. Her fumble fell to the feet of striker Carla Boyce but she dwelled on the ball for too long with her eventual shot being blocked thanks to a diving Kirsten Rolph in the ‘Well defence.

Rangers made two changes at half time in attempt to find the breakthrough but it was Donald Jennow’s side who would extend their lead on the hour mark. Right midfielder Sarah Crilly found herself in yards of space on the edge of the Rangers area and maintained her composure to steer the ball into the top left hand corver. That seemed to be game over but with twenty minutes to go Rangers ability to freshen things up started to tell as fatigue set in for the hosts. With pressure building McDonald rolled the dice one final time bringing on Holly Napier and newly crowned Rangers Women’s Player of the Year Amy Muir and both players would play a part as Rangers completed a remarkable comeback. Firstly on the 83rd minute Muir was the recipient of a long cross field pass on the corner of the Motherwell area and, after taking the ball down she took a couple of strides before rifling an angled drive past Hunter. It would have been easy for the visitors to accept that as nothing but a consolation but with the home players looking increasingly weary the momentum had shifted in the Light Blues favour.

The likelihood of a comeback was increased further when Motherwell keeper Hunter was unable to get enough of a hand to Jade Gallon’s low long range drive with the midfielders 92nd minute strike reducing Rangers deficit to one with time still on the clock. The fresh legs of Muir had the home defence reeling and it would be her near post corner in the 94th minute that would fall to fellow substitute Napier who was able to get free and snatch what had seemed a highly unlikely point for the Glasgow side.

Motherwell will be left to rue a lack of player availability through injury and suspension especially after being 3-0 up with half an hour left to play but conversely Rangers Head Coach McDonald will have been pleased to see her side eventually take advantage of their hosts tiredness during what has been a challenging few weeks for her side.

Full Time: Motherwell 3-3 Rangers

Motherwell: Hunter, Knox, Rolph, Rice, Crilly, Montgomery, Gardner, McEachran, Roberts, Fyfe, Adams

Subs: McManus, MacLeod, Liddell.

Goals: Fyfe (’15), Gardner (’17), Crilly (’60)

Rangers: Baillie, Inglis, Donnelly, Watson, Brown, Gemmell, Robertson, Sinclair, J. Gallon, McCartney, Boyce.

Subs: Ramsay, Coakley, Dalgliesh, Pullar, Napier, Muir, L. Gallon

Goals: Muir (’83), J. Gallon (’90+2), Napier (’90+4)

Ashes Final Test: 37 A New Hope?

 

It is a mark of how far Australia have fell that a debutant who makes just 37 is being hailed as the Green Baggy’s next big thing. Usman Khawaja showed more than the man he replaced, Ricky Ponting, in his 95 ball innings than Punter had managed in the entire series. In a first over sprinkled with a good leave, a nicely timed nick and an elegant boundary there was enough variety on display to suggest he may indeed be the real deal.

Unfortunately for the debutant, inexperience was his undoing and as Graeme Swann niggled and span at him the pressure got too much and a swing and a towering looping ball later the ball had nestle safe in hand and the exciting youngster had gone. Last ball of the day and with it the momentum firmly swung in England’s favour.

Not that the test hadn’t started in England’s favour anyway, the decision to bat on an overcast UK-esque was strange and given the nature of the decision by stand in skipper Michael Clarke you would expect the Aussies to come out all guns blazing. Clarke himself didn’t help his debuting colleague with another innings of ineptitude. Instead of leading by example it appeared the he and his side were playing with something that I certainly haven’t seen in my lifetime. Fear against the English.

The scoreboard ticking at a run rate that even Mike Atherton would have been hurtling past as batsmen erred on the side of caution that would make Craig Levein’s infamous 4-6-0 look almost kamikaze. Afraid to play their shots the performance on day one gave the impression of an Australian side hanging on until the end of the series where they can slip away to think again. In Usman Khawaja they have a shining light and in Michael Beer they will hope they have finally found another spin king but who would have thought the day that 37 in 95 balls would lift the hopes of a nation who pride themselves on being associated with excellence in the field of willow and leather.

Cricket on the Spot

I have tried to do this a few times now so this will be the amalgumation of my thoughts on the story of Three Men, A Couple of Spots and a Few Thousand Pounds. What has transpired, guilty or not, has tarred the sport of Cricket once again, a game gripped in a battle between The Traditionalists and the dwinding crowds of Test Cricket and The Radicals, the IPL and matches that last just a few hours. Like all sport cricket needed to evolve to keep up with a life now spent living in the moment. The revamp was working, the ICC and IPL have seen advertising revenue explode in the short form of the games but in Test’s outside The Ashes and the very rare clashes between India and Pakistan, it is the same formula that legends such as Lillie, Richards and Bradman played to except people don’t quite have the time or patience to fully appreciate it.

It may be a coincidince but while the radicals have been progressing the game of old has lurched from one problem to another. The latest though is one that could easily have happened at any ground and in any form. Spot fixing although not strictly match altering is, by any other definition, conspiring to effect the events and result of a match that should be played in a true competitive spirit. The balls that were allegedly thrown away by Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, could have induced an edge, sent the bails flying or resulted in the batsman launching the cherry over the boundary for a six and eveything in between and the calls for them to be banished if found guilty are correct. Or are they?

Yes what they have done is wrong, very wrong and as a passionate sports fan, it irritates me immensely that people blessed with skills I can only dream of may have risked it all for a fast buck. What has transpired but if these two men along with Salman Butt have done what they are being accused of then the reasons why they have are yet to come to surface. In my mind it could be one of 3 reasons.

1. Greed – Unfortunately no matter how much success some people have they will never be happy with their lot. They will always want more, bigger, faster, sexier. If personal financial gain has been the catalyst that led to these men supposedly carrying out these acts then indeed the rather hefty, and to many confusing, cricketing rulebook should be launched at them by a wound up Stuart Broad, it’s not like he hasn’t been getting in the practice.

2. Naivity – Not the Christmas story based on 3 Kings and a baby Jesus, no just plain lack of comprehension of what they have done. They have viewed the mis-stepping of a few run ups as nothing more than a small foible of the game, an inconsequence of a match that is played over 5 days, though very few get that far. If it is naievity then the same people within the Pakistani Criceting authorities who are claiming it is a stitch up, something which they have failed to provide any backing for, should be guiding these players on the rights and wrongs of the game. Amir is only 18 and seen as one of the future stars of the game, with commentators and analysts alike waxing lyrical about his potential. Was he merely following orders from his more experienced team mates or was he a more than willing accomplice? At the moment nobody knows. Do you ruin the career of somebody who could boost the game because somewhere along the line he was given some really bad advice? 

To argue naievity in the cases of Butt and Asif is perhaps a stretch too far, Butt is the recently appointed captain of his country, a dream for millions of Pakistani children. They are far more experienced not just in cricket but in life in general. They would of been old enough to remember the Hansie Cronje Scandal and so questions must be raised as to what exactly would have been going through their head other than kerching!

3. Fear – Betting is a massive business in the Middle East, you can bet on how often Billy Bowden scratches his nose during an innings if you look at the markets hard enough. And what of Mazhar Majeed, ‘The Fixer’, pitched as the brians behind the operation, is he really the big hitter in all this or just the tail that does a bit of wagging? If any of these menhave found themselves in circumstances which has meant those of a dubious nature have them over a barrel then although what they have done is wrong, everything should be done by the same authorities investigating these men, to find the true cause of the problem. Theres too many questiosn still unanswered.

Whatever the outcome and for whatever the reason if found guilty these men and anyone else involved should be punished. They have brought the sport into disrepute while also letting down millions of fans back home who will be looking to the cricket team to provide some much-needed relief from a series of flooding that refuses to subside. Those who say ‘Ban them Forever’ may get their way, but only after a a rational and considered investigation is carried out into if they are guilty of the charges being levied against them and what caused thme to make the decision to sully the game. We can only hope that this has all been a massive misunderstanding but as more and more information creeps out of the woodwork we just have to cross our fingers and hope that whatever the result and resolution, Cricket comes out stronger and more resolute against the challenges it faces today. While football had hooliganism in the 70’s and 80’s, betting and fixing seems to be ‘Cricket’s Disease’ for the 21st Century.

Dan Parks: Scotland’s No. 10

Two matches and two losses, against the French we were outclassed and against the Welsh we capitulated to such a degree there isn’t a metaphor strong enough, the one difference between those two matches: Dan Parks . I was astonished when Phil Godman was picked ahead of the Glasgow fly half for the first Test against France, there did not seem to be any logic for picking the Edinburgh man ahead of the Aussie born Scot.

Godman’s form for Edinburgh has been decidedly average and his kicking game lacks that sparkle whilst in a Scotland shirt you never feel that buzz that something is going to happen, with Parks you get that feeling. It is retrospective now but the 1872 Cup games over the Christmas period should have been used as an auditioning process by Andy Robinson, he would get a chance to see his two top number 10’s battle out and there was only one winner in that contest.

There are many detractors for Dan Parks, to be honest I’m not a hundred percent sure why, yes he can be abrasive but that’s just his manner, in fact that’s just the nature of his homeland Australia, but his frank opinions at the end of the Wales match were far more interesting than listening to some insipid line that we were unlucky. I like the fact that when he does something good he will revel in it. His form can be inconsistent but when he is hot, he is very hot and for Glasgow in the Magners League he has been instrumental in their title push. There are those that say he never cut it in a Scotland shirt, and that may of been the case but that was several years ago and he is matured into a pivotal figure for club and now country.

This was epitomised by two touches of magic from his boot in Cardiff, firstly the intelligent little grubber kick to the corner which Max Evans pounced on as Scotland went about efficiently picking apart the Welsh defence. The vision to spot Lee Byrne miles off his mark made the kick even better as Evans only had to land on the ball to score. The second was a mammoth drop goal which at the point seemed to have pushed Scotland into a, seemingly, unassailable lead. He had just missed a simpler kick minutes earlier and it shows his belief in his ability that he went for goal from near the half way line. For the remainder of the Six Nations Parks is the stand out choice, quite literally, he has imagination and invention something that has been badly lacking from the Scottish team for the last decade.

Scotland were the better team against Wales  when left 15 on 15, they were more incisive, tighter in the defence and broke the game line more often against a Welsh barrier made from crepe paper as shown by the ease in which John Barclay went over for the first try.  Indiscipline and stupendous idiocy by Scott Lawson cost Scotland the game coupled with the bizarre decision by Mike Blair to keep the ball in play instead of taking the draw with his team down to 13 men. If anything, this Championship has shown that if you lose a man you will be punished, with the average loss to the penalised team so far being just over 14 points.

Scotland can feel aggrieved at the way results have gone as they have looked a far more organised side and with Parks in the team more creative. The loss of Chris Paterson, Thom Evans and in particular Rory Lamont can not be under-estimated, it’s a hammer blow. Lamont so far has been Scotland’s stand out player along the backline while the Brown, Barclay and Beattie combination is bearing considerable fruit. The metronomic boot of Paterson will be missed but in Parks there is a capable replacement, whilst to Thom Evans we wish a speedy recovery. The scrum is the main worry, annihilated by the French and pressurised repeatedly by the Welsh. The onus will be on Euan Murray and Moray Low to find a way to wrestle control whilst operating with a lighter pack.

If you were to ask Scotland coach Andy Robinson about the results so far, he would be bitterly disappointed. Ask him about the performances and apart from seven minutes of utter lunacy at the Millennium Stadium the signs are good. Scotland should still be aiming for three wins from three. So far in this tournament England, Ireland and Italy have shown nothing that should give Scotland reason to fear facing them. It will be hard and backs against the wall but it’s the Scottish way to do things. With Dan Parks and some willing runners anything could be possible.

Tiger Woods: It’s His Game

What came first the chicken or the egg? Nobody knows; ask the question, what came first Tiger Woods or golf? The answer is golf, but for some Tiger Woods is golf. Bare that in mind as one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar continues in the background Tiger Woods decided it was his time to apologize for his past discretions. What followed was a 14 minute PR stunt that did little for anyone.

This may have been a corporate, sponsor driven enterprise but the delivery and rhetoric which Woods produced did little to improve his tarnished image if that was the aim of the piece. Seven ‘highly staged’ minutes in and the word sorry was being more overused than the picture messaging service on Ashley Cole’s phone. He listed his past transgressions saying sorry for each, sorry to his wife, to his family, to his fans, to his sponsors and to the world of golf. With each word sounding like it was not what he wanted to say but more what he was told to say. Personally what he does in his private life is of no interest, save that for ‘Loose Women’ and ‘The Wright Stuff’ but that last apology is the one that should be addressed. It’s hard to avoid the impact that the Woods fiasco has had on golf, he is their marquee player and the man the PGA paraded as their flag bearer.

Woods’ choice of location was safe and secure, he wanted to say his piece without being hounded by questions he wasn’t ready to answer, and perhaps that he will never answer but the one thing that grates from a purely sporting standpoint is his decision to make his announcement now.

He announced that his indefinite sabbatical from the game would remain in place for some time but when he does return what kind of reaction will he get from his peers and fans? He is a one man marketing machine for the fairways and prize funds are that little bit healthier when Tiger’s in town but Ernie Els has already derided Tiger for the timing of his announcement. Are there more that feel the same? When he does return it will be just another circus that will take away from the sport itself. While some fans will see past his personal life as irrelevant to his sporting life, and quite rightly so, others will fail to separate the lines that are becoming increasing blurred between sports star and celebrity.

This may have been a PR exercise that was not Woods’ idea but in the end he had the final call. He could have kept quiet and made his comeback without addressing the issue in hand, an issue that has nothing to do with his ability as a golfer. It would have helped rebuild his reputation on the circuit and draw clear distinction between his personal and public life. If he felt the need to speak then get it done on a chat show or current affairs programming. I’m sure his ‘people’ could have restricted the direction of the questioning to protect him.

In the end his timing and his words have done nothing to help the game of golf other than take away from the World Matchplay. It gives the impression that those around him think he is bigger than the game but without the game he would be just another man. I hope Woods can come back from this, as a person the damage is done, but as a golfer he has single handedly raised the bar. We can only hope that he hasn’t single handedly brought it down because no matter how much you try some people will not be able to distinguish between the man and the sport.

TNA v WWE MondayNightWars II

I’m a wrestling fan, last night I stayed up till 4am so I could watch the biggest night in wrestling history since Shane O’Mac popped up on Monday Night Nitro. That signalled the end of Monday Night wars I, could II be on the horizon. I’m still struggling to decide whether it was worth it. I primarily write articles about football, or as its called stateside soccer, and various other sports but I thought this was worthy of comment. What follows is my assessment of the night.

The Good
Bret/Shawn – It was emotionally charged, it was gripping it was tense, and you were just waiting for the superkick. I hope that that is the hatchet buried and if it is full credit to them. It may still be the greatest piece of Wrestling TV in 2010 by the end of the year.

TNA Knockout Tag Team Title Match – Just breathtaking, and when considered that at the same time Raw had Maryse against Conquistador Uno and Dos, sorry I mean the Bellas, it was a massive win for TNA. Fantastic ring work all round and unlike the earlier title change done really well.

Impact Zone Audience – Didn’t stop all night and it is amazing the difference that
live TV made to the atmosphere on the screen.

Christy Hemme – Lauren who?? All you can say is oooft.

Vince/Randy/Legacy – The Legacy have been searching for a storyline for about a year now is this going to be it, I like the look of where it is going. Also like that for a change WWE remembered recent history with Vince turning down Randy’s proposal. Feel for Kofi Kingston, hope there are big plans for his future.

AJ Styles/Kurt Angle – Should have finished the show with that. Angle permanently looks ill but boy he can still go. Counters, finishers, near falls, plenty of build. One black mark, the masked man shtick needs some direction and fast.

TNA Teases – What did Ric Flair have to do with AJ? Who attacked everyone? Who is the masked man? Is the nWo back? Brilliant use of teases to try and capture casual fans for the next episode.

The Miz – Did anyone else notice the crowd joining in with ‘I’m Awesome’, I liked that, and if the WWE are going to need to get edgier he could and should be a man to push.

Unified Tag Titles – Four men who knew they had to raise their game and they did, highly entertaining and hopefully the end of the Jericho to Raw campaign. I like Jericho but he can’t do everything although I’m sure given the chance he would.

The Bad

Ad breaks – Now I understand that Spike TV is a business and advertising revenue is a huge part of the survival of that business but my oh my, I think I counted 12 Mississippi’s in between ad breaks. At one point Kurt Angle had popped his hips and before AJ Styles hit the mat I was being advised to buy an 89 cent burrito. It was poorly edited and poorly done.

Triple H – Playing with a midget, then a disparaging aside about one of the greatest reconciliations in wrestling history. Childish, though the brainwashing maybe working, I thought Hornswoggle was quite amusing.

Sound edits – You cannot pitch a show to 18-34 year old males and then fuzz out the crowd shouting ‘This is Bullshit’, that in itself was bullshit.

The Introduction to TNA of Ric Flair – He comes in through the back door, shakes a few hands and then disappears into a locker room. If he was going to come to the ring during the AJ and Kurt match then surely he should have just come out with no introduction. Imagine the reaction, imagine the surprise, it would add even more intrigue as to why he was there.

Sean Waltman/Scott Hall – It was just lame. Hall is a mess, and I really, really, really hope he does not appear in a ring at any time. I got excited when Hogan said things were going to be different and there is no band. I hope they are only here for a short term angle to help Hogan establish he is determined to push the young guys.

The Beautiful People/ Strip Poker – A ratings grabber in 1992 not now, I was even disappointed with The Big Valbowski’s role in it all. And not being pernickety but do the TBP not always dress like that anyway, there was nothing new to see.

The WTF

The Nasty Boys – I really don’t feel like I need to say anything else, a jobber tag team from the WWF and while I’m on that since when was Orlando Jordan a Legend!! Though I have to say his appearance was worth it purely for The Pope calling him ‘Whoopi’, boy has Vince missed the boat with that guy.

Jeff Hardy – Well I guess he is done with WWE either way. If indeed he had failed a third test and was banned from the WWE for a year then Vince surely must have been aware that one of his biggest assets of 2009 would be at TNA. Full credit to TNA, that is plenty star power right there, I just hope they keep an eye on Jeff’s well being and if he is found guilty they do not glamorise his situation in anyway.

The End of Impact – They had an ideal opportunity to end on a high with AJ/Angle/Flair and Hogan congratulating them both and saying this is the future, perhaps bring out one more star from their back pocket to end the show. Instead we were transported 15 years in the past to some crappy backstage beat down of a bunch of guys who would qualify for SAGA Insurance (for over 50’s). And then of course Hogan at the end. It was such a damp squib.

The End of Raw – Speaking of damp squibs, WWE totally blew the Vince confrontation with Bret, it was so blatantly obvious what was going to happen and to end with a kick to the gut was just disappointing. What they should of done was, as Vince was backing up the ramp, the guitar hits and the Hart Dynasty appear, back him back down the ramp, into the ring, Vince grovels for Bret not to hit him, Bret just pats him on the head and walks away. Leaves Vince furious, angle continues, Bret Hart night ends with Bret with the upper hand and also goes towards elevating The Hart Dynasty.

So that’s my assessment, there were other things but that’s what stood out for me. Bobby Lashley is just boring, US Championship match was just there and the Steel asylum was a spot fest that never got started. TNA brought the star power but did nothing with it, though they did plant seeds for future stories. Raw was a normal flat raw save a couple of good matches and Bret Hart, what they needed was a big turn, a heel HBK/Triple H something to seal the deal. I just give the edge to TNA but they need a plan because at the moment it just seems to be throwing everything together and seeing what sticks.