SWPL1: Uni sunk by Spartans

The Stirling University ladies football team left Spartans Academy today felling very frustrated with losing 3 points.

In what proved to be a very feisty 90 minutes the Edinburgh side recorded their second win of the season against Stirling.

The game started at a frantic pace with both sides playing a very high pressing game.

Stirling had the better of the early chances as the pace of striker Nicole Pullar causing the Spartans defence some problems. But the early chances were not converted and an inconsistent awarding of free kicks was starting to rile up both sets of players.

The breakthrough came in the 25th minute when the Spartans striker was brought down in the box and the home side were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Alana Marshall to slot the ball home and a 1-0 lead.

The goal gave the Spartans players a boost and they pushed for a second goal which came in the 37th minute after a quick break down the wing and into the box, saw the resulting cross tapped home.

The rest of the first half saw numerous fouls and free kicks, with Stirling Uni's best chance coming after Captain Emma Lyons was flattened just outside the box, but the resulting free kick floated over the crossbar.

Half-time 2-0

At half-time Stirling Head Coach Tommy Craig made two changes, bringing on fresh legs with Kerry Kennedy and Ashley McDonald.

The half-time talk and changes saw the visitors once again upping the pace and taking the game to Spartans.

An early chance for Rachel Donaldson as she hit a low drive from 18 yards but it was gathered by the Spartans goalkeeper.

In the 55th minute Stirling had a throw-in on the right and the ball broke to Lisa Sutherland 35 yards out and she hit a powerful strike that sailed into the top corner over the head of the diving home goalie.

Now 2-1, the momentum was swinging back Stirling's way as they pushed for the equaliser. Striker Pullar found herself in the 6 yard box and stabbed the ball towards the goal, only to have it well blocked by the Spartans goalie.

The comeback was ended in the 62nd minute when an inexplicable decision by the referee saw a poor reaction from Stirling's Rebecca Galbraith, which earned her a red card and the visitors were now down to 10 players with just under 30 minutes left to play.

Within 2 minutes of the restart Stirling's Jade Gallon was flattened after a very high challenge but not even a yellow card was shown, the inconsistent referee decisions were ruining what had been a very competitive game until now.

The final 20 minutes of the game was marred by a serious of fouls and free kicks and ill tempered players and coaching staff on both sides.

Spartans sealed the 3 points in the 84th minute as they used the extra player advantage to move the ball down the wing and overload in the box.

Their initial save was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Taylor Brown but her save was finished off by their striker in the 6 yard box. The Stirling players did not give up and had a couple of half chances late in the game but were unable to find the back of the net.

Final score Spartans 3 - 1 Stirling Uni LFC.

Head Coach Tommy Craig said after the game "Yet again we are talking about the referee decisions ruining the game rather than the quality of the match itself! It has been a constant theme already this year and not just in our game.

Every team in the SWPL is training more, has better qualified coaches, more resources for players.

The SWPL requirements aim to improve marketability of the game which involves a competitive league contributing to the national team's success, but every week it is the same poor standard of refereeing, referees who have not developed at the same rate the game has.

Today many decisions were wrong, including where we were awarded a free kick for our own player tripping over the ball!

But the big decisions all went against us without exception, to the extent where the Spartans players apologised after the game for the decisions.

All every team is looking for is a level playing field and consistency from the officials.

The team will now however put the game behind them and focus on next Sunday's home match against Aberdeen Ladies, 2.00pm kick off at the university."

Reported by Alison Mackie Pictures: Stirling University