First NPL win for Swifts
By Iwan Davies
Jeanfield Swifts Girls U19 Performance Squad notched up their first league win on Sunday, with a strong display against Hamilton Academical
A week after meeting in the League Cup Quarter Final, Jeanfield Swifts and Hamilton Academical U19s once again crossed swords last on Sunday in an entertaining Scottish Women's Football National Performance League game. Near perfect conditions at McDiarmid Park welcomed the visitors, who started brightly looking to carry on momentum from their previous week's 5-1 victory at home. The first Accies shot on goal came after just 50 seconds, but did not pose a test to Swifts' Claire Nellies, who gathered securely to calm any home crowd nerves.
At the other end, Accies keeper Niamh Simmonette was pressed into action some three minutes later, when a Beth Dakers pass out of defence found Eilidh Davies on the edge of the centre circle. Playing as a lone striker rather than in her more usual centre-midfield role, Davies barrelled upfield with a pass to speedy right wing Caitlin Ritchie forcing Simmonette out of goal to clear her lines. The ball was soon back at Davies' feet however, as she made her way over to the left and into the box, putting in a looping cross that was put behind by the Hamilton defender. Swifts left wing Leah Sidey was unfortunate not to find the net from Rachel Wolecki's corner kick, her left-footed volley flying wide and high. Moments later, Sidey turned provider, gathering the ball on the edge of the centre circle and playing in Davies whose first-time left-footed shot across the goal went agonisingly past the right post with the Hamilton keeper in no man's land.
From the goal kick Accies failed to clear their own half and the ball fell to Wolecki. Her trademark zing from wide right rattled the post. The three clear chances in the first 5 minutes amounted to more than Swifts had managed in the whole game the week before.
It would be another five minutes before Eilidh Davies opened the scoring for the home side. Taking a pass from Alex Robson in centre-midfield she just ran out of space in the box, but when the ensuing Accies goal kick once again failed to result in the ball being cleared securely, Davies was on hand to pounce, showing a great turn of pace and a striker's instinct to net with a first-time finish.
A clearly confident home side were showing much greater composure, with Beth Dakers a constant source of fine long passes to the wings and into the feet of the striker. Dakers was unlucky not to extend Swifts' lead on 14 minutes when a corner swung in by Leah Sidey was cleared only as far as the edge of the box to the waiting midfielder. Dakers calmly pushed the ball onto her right foot and produced a lovely clean strike that forced a save from Simonnette in the Accies goal, who was at this stage by far the busier of the two keepers. She parried the ball straight to the feet of Sidey, who slotted the ball home only to be ruled offside by the ever-vigilent referee.
Davies arguably should have got her and her team's second moments later, but forced the volley over the bar. Dakers also had another chance, as did Caitlin Ritchie whose speed on the right hand side was a constant threat to the away side. Swifts were by now enjoying the majority of pressure, possession and territory and it was only a matter of time before the second would come. On the rare occasions that Accies pushed forward into the Swifts box their attacks were calmly dealt with by the Swifts fullbacks Bernie Young and Kaitlin Doig and centre backs Eilidh Angus and Millie Coffield. Eventually it was Rachel Wolecki who doubled the advantage on the half-hour mark. Beth Dakers won a clearance inside the Accies half and laid the ball off to Wolecki who waltzed through the defence and blasted the shot home.
The goal spurred Accies into action, and they entered the Swifts penalty area forcing Nellies into a fine save trapping the ball beneath her legs inches from the post. The away side pressed again and having won a couple of further corners were successful when the ball ended up in the net off the back of a Jeanfield defender. Ritchie then had another chance to restore the two goal advantage but was unable to bend her foot around the ball sufficiently. With the game finely poised, half time was blown with the score 2-1.
Accies came out strongly in the second half, trying to use the pace of their two strikers to beat the Swifts' offside trap. However both Eilidh Angus and Millie Coffield kept a strong line and the away side found it difficult to break through. Seven minutes into the half Rachel Wolecki came close to increasing the lead when her shot drew a save from the keeper, who pushed the ball behind.
While Accies were coming more and more into the game, Swifts' continued pressing was reaping rewards, forcing mistakes from the Hamilton players. However, on 60 minutes Accies levelled from a simple tap in after Claire Nellies had palmed the ball out from a shot into the path of the attacker.
Going in search of the winner, Swifts introduced Megan Sidey up front, with Eilidh Davies dropping back into centre-midfield and Alex Robson moving out wide right in place of Caitlin Ritchie, who had enjoyed a fine game. Robson had been the main threat in the previous week's encounter, and again in the right wing position she started to feed off Megan Sidey who used her presence to hold the ball up well. on 63 minutes Robson put the ball just over the bar. Ten minutes later, the youngster again found herself in front of goal with just the keeper to beat but squeezed the ball left-footed past the post. With fifteen minutes to go, the breakthrough came, however, and it was Robson who got the rewards for her hard work. Leah Sidey broke down the left-hand side, beating two defenders and sweeping in a lovely cross. Her ball found Robson at the back post from where she nudged the half-volley into the roof of the net.
Hamilton continued to press for another equaliser, but were thwarted by some exceptional Swifts defending, while Robson had another chance to stretch the lead further with two minutes remaining, but her shot went past the wrong side of the right hand corner of the goal. The game finished shortly after with the score 3-2. It was a pleasing first three points in the league for the Swifts.