Friendly matches tough challenge for weakened women’s squad
Shetland Women’s FC took advantage of the break in the weather to travel south for two friendlies in Glasgow on 13th-14th February as previous arrangements for games against Kemnay and Inverness had fallen foul of the weather.
Queen’s Park WFC 3, Shetland WFC 2
First up was Second Division West champions Queen’s Park (formally Team Strathclyde) at 5.30pm, followed by a trip to East Kilbride to face EK Thistle at 9am the next day.
Shetland were without a few regular players through injury and late call offs; now we know how the Scotland manager feels when selecting a squad for an away trip! However these games are a good opportunity for some younger players to experience football at this level.
Shetland got off to a shaky start. With only two minutes gone a shot from the edge of the box dipped under the crossbar leaving keeper Sarah Couper no chance. This setback seemed to give Shetland a wake up call and they started to take the game to Queen’s Park with the centre midfield pairing of Lauren Devonald and Maggie Irvine dictating play and supplying a few quality balls to Josie Jamieson and Jessica Bradley up front.
After 10 minutes Shetland had their first real chance when Jamieson won the ball just inside the Queen’s Park half and jinked her way past a couple of defenders. Unfortunately her shot went narrowly over the bar. Queen’s Park were very quick to break up the field and the Shetland back four of Zoe Irvine, Captain Kristan Robertson, Debbie Sneddon and Stacey Laurenson had to constantly look lively to keep them out.
A further chance was created when right winger Lauren Ward won the ball in midfield and poked a good through ball to Bradley whose cross fizzed along the six yard line, but there was nobody there to capitalise. Shetland were looking good down both wings; the next effort was from left winger Andrea Henderson whose powerful drive from outside the box was well held by the Spiders keeper. Jamieson was unlucky not to have opened her account on 20 minutes when she gathered a good through ball from Maggie Irvine and rounded the keeper only to see her shot from the edge of the box rebound off the post into the arms of the keeper.
With just over half an hour gone Queen’s Park began to get the upper hand and most of the play was in the visitors’ half but the back four, aided by Henderson and Ward tracking back, were doing a fantastic job, clearing the danger time and time again. Towards the end of the half Bradley was forced off with a calf injury and was replaced by Megan Nicholson.
A few changes were made at half time; Julie Sandilands replaced the ever reliable Couper in goal and Karen MacKelvie came on for Ward who had put in a good shift at right midfield.
Queen’s Park got off to a positive start early on forcing a few corners and their persistence was rewarded on 50 minutes when they got the break of the ball from a corner and fired over Sandilands reach to make it 2-0. Again this setback seemed to spur Shetland on and straight from the kick off Jamieson drove forward and dispatched a wonderful strike from 25 yards that flew over the keeper and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.
With 15 minutes of the half gone Henderson was replaced with last second stand-in Caron Bews at left midfield. MacKelvie was putting herself about well in midfield and her persistence was rewarded on 58 minutes when she fired in Shetland’s equaliser from almost the exact same spot as Jamieson.
With the game now tied both sides were fighting hard for the goal that would surely win the game. Shetland had a few opportunities with Nicholson, MacKelvie and Jamieson all on target. However it was the Spiders that got the breakthrough with five minutes to go when a shot from the edge of the box found its way through a tangle of legs and past Sandilands’ reach. This set up a frantic last few minutes as Shetland threw everything at Queen’s Park to try and get a well deserved equaliser but despite their best efforts it wasn’t to be and the game ended 3-2.
Not much has been said about the back four individually as they all did their job superbly, never shirking a tackle and always giving 100 per cent for the team. This was a very entertaining game to watch and one that could have gone either way.
EK Thistle WFC 7, Shetland WFC 0
It soon became apparent that EK Thistle were a strong physical side and Shetland would have to work hard to get anything from this match.
There were a few changes for this game: Sarah Couper started in goals, Andrea Henderson moved to left back alongside Debbie Sneddon, Kristan Robertson and Stacey Laurenson, Zoe Irvine went to left wing with Maggie Irvine and Captain Karen MacKelvie in the centre and Megan Nicholson started at right wing. The effective pairing of Jessica Bradley and Josie Jamieson were unchanged up front.
Shetland had a more composed start to this game and were coping well with everything Thistle threw at them. Although Thistle had the bulk of the possession Shetland were getting up the park with Zoe Irvine and Bradley making promising breaks forward. Shetland’s first real chance came on 22 minutes when Bradley flicked the ball forward into the path of Jamieson who sidestepped the keeper and was just about to shoot into an empty net when a well timed challenge came in to take the ball to safety. A fraction of a second later and it would have been a stonewall penalty and red card. On the half hour mark Thistle won a corner and in the mêlée that followed Thistle cracked a shot off the crossbar and Jamieson hooked the rebound to safety. Shetland were cruelly denied a goal five minutes later when Jamieson turned provider for Bradley who beat the keeper only to see her net bound shot hold up in the mud. All she could do was watch the keeper nonchalantly pick the ball up off the goal line. To add insult to injury Thistle broke up the park and scored to make it 1-0 going into half time.
Two changes were made at half time. Julie Sandilands came on for Couper and Lauren Ward for Nicholson. Ward went to the unfamiliar role of left wing to accommodate Zoe Irvine at right wing. Shetland had a contrasting start to this half, conceding three quick goals in the first 10 minutes through long range shots over Sandilands’ reach. In stretching for the last one she pulled a muscle so was replaced by Couper. This stoppage in play was also used to send on the last pair of fresh legs, Caron Bews, and reorganise the team so Henderson came off and Zoe Irvine moved to left back. MacKelvie went to right midfield, Jamieson dropped back to centre midfield and Bews went up front. This steadied things for a bit but it was obvious that Shetland were feeling the effects of the heavy pitch and the previous night’s game.
In contrast Thistle had 18 players available so were constantly refreshing their team to keep the pressure on the visitors. Thistle got their fifth goal on 70 minutes when a shot went in off the post and five minutes later a sixth when a fresh Thistle player drove through the centre to score. Shetland did have brief forays into the Thistle half. The best of them was when Bews was brought down outside the box and from the resultant free kick the keeper had to look lively to hold a good strike from Jamieson on 82 minutes.
Thistle got their seventh on 85 minutes with another shot over Couper’s reach. For the last five minutes Shetland decided to go with three at the back and push Zoe Irvine up to try and get the consolation goal they deserved, much to the horror of Laurenson who’d given absolutely everything and was now being asked to give even more! Despite everyone digging deep and increasing their efforts the consolation goal never came and it was a weary Shetland team that trudged into the changing room at full time, then into the Bolts Car Hire minibus for the long drive to Aberdeen to catch the NorthLink Ferry at 5pm.
On reflection this was a worthwhile trip and a lot of positives can be taken from it, although two games in 16 hours is perhaps a bit ambitious. For future trips it was felt that we should aim to play in or near Aberdeen with midday kick-offs and continue to introduce younger players into the team.
Shetland Women’s FC would like to thank Bolts Car Hire and NorthLink Ferries for their continued support.