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Women's Football News
This week sees four Scottish Women's Premier League sides vying for the chance to compete for the first silverware of the season later this month as the SWPL Cup semi finals take place.
First up is the match between Spartans and Celtic on Wednesday 2nd May at Prestonfield in Linlithgow (kick off 7.30pm).
Spartans have been beaten finalists in the competition two years running but they face a difficult task in attempting to reach a third consecutive final against a Celtic side that have started the season strongly.
The Edinburgh side progressed to the semi finals following a close-run 2-1 victory over Inverness City in the last round, but their league form so far could at best be described as indifferent. They currently lie fifth in the SWPL table and this weekend saw them slump to a 2-0 home defeat against Forfar Farmington, their first ever loss to the north east side. Indeed, they have already lost to Celtic this season, as they went down 3-0 at Lennoxtown in late March.
Spartans Head Coach Debbi McCulloch is under no illusions about the task her side face on Wednesday evening, but retains an optimistic outlook. She said: "It will be an extremely tough challenge and I am sure Celtic will take confidence into the game when looking at our results. However, form can change at the toss of a coin and if we perform as I know we can and take the game to Celtic then hopefully we will see ourselves in the final."
When asked about her side's chances of progression considering their earlier defeat to the Glasgow side, she remained positive, explaining: "Cup games are a one-off and quite unique compared to the league with the immediate incentive of a trophy only two games away. So anything can happen. Sometimes special moments are required in games like this and hopefully our players will be on top form to get us through to the final."
Meanwhile, Celtic will approach the semi final with confidence despite their weekend 3-1 home loss to Glasgow City as they seek to replicate their victory in the tournament two years ago, where they defeated Spartans 4-1 in the final.
The Hoops have started the season in excellent form, with their weekend loss to City representing the only points they have dropped in the league so far this season. They currently lie fourth in the SWPL table, having played one game less than the teams that surround them following the postponement of their game against Inverness City two weeks ago.
Celtic's positive league form has carried over into their cup run, with a 3-1 victory over Rangers in the quarter-finals continuing their record of having never lost to their Old Firm rivals. They will certainly be confident of their chances of reaching the final having comfortably defeated Spartans only a month ago.
Though disappointed with his side's weekend league result, Celtic manager Robert Docherty was eager to praise his side's achievements so far this season. He said after Sunday's match: "The players gave their all and should have taken something from the game. We lacked a little bit of luck and composure at times and on another day we could easily have scored four or five goals. We are a new and young team and the progress has been excellent in the short time we have been together.
"The result is obviously a setback as we felt we could win the game. However, the players will learn from this and come back stronger next time. We now look forward to our semi final against Spartans in the League Cup on Wednesday."
The second of this week's SWPL Cup semi final clashes takes place on Thursday 3rd May as Forfar Farmington face Glasgow City at Keirs Park in Hill of Beath (7.30pm kick off).
Farmington will be pleased with their showing in the competition so far, especially as they exited at the first round last year following a 3-2 defeat to Spartans. A 2-1 victory over Hamilton Academicals in the last round secured their first ever semi final appearance this week.
The Angus side have made also made a positive start to their league campaign, demonstrated by their current high flying position of third in the SWPL table, a placing that was achieved following their 2-0 victory over Spartans at the weekend. That match marked another first for Farmington as they had never previously defeated the Edinburgh side.
Having lost 6-0 to Glasgow City on the opening day of the season, the size of the task facing Farmington on Thursday is certainly not lost on Assistant Coach Kev Candy. He said: "It's always exciting to be in the final four and we're really looking forward to the game. In any competition you know that at some point you're going to come across 'the best' and that's the situation we find ourselves in now against Glasgow City.
"Our preparations have gone well and despite a tough afternoon's work at Spartans on Sunday, the players are in good shape for Thursday night. We're in for another tough game I'm sure, but if the players apply themselves as they have done in previous weeks, I'm sure we will contribute to what should be an entertaining contest."
Meanwhile, Glasgow City will be desperate to reach the final of a competition in which they can perhaps be said to have underachieved in recent years considering the league dominance of the five time SWPL champions. City lost out to eventual winners Hibs after extra time in last year's semi finals and will be seeking to make up for that disappointment this time around having progressed easily to the last four with a comprehensive 7-0 victory over Aberdeen.
The champions have scored maximum points in their league campaign so far, racking up a massive goal difference in the process, but Head Coach Eddie Wolecki Black has expressed a degree of disappointment about his side's recent performances. After City's weekend victory against Celtic, Eddie said: "It is great to get three points, but to be honest, this was one of the poorest performances we have ever had at Lennoxtown. I was disappointed last week with our performance against Hibs and today I feel the same.
"I cannot fault the team for a good win, but we know we are far better than our performances of late and we now look forward to our semi final on Thursday and I hope we will turn the corner and start playing the way we can in that match. This group of players have never let me down in the past and they take great pride in their performances and I am sure they will respond in the typical City manner."
Having been knocked out at this stage of the competition last year, Glasgow City Assistant Coach Donald Jennow knows his side need to maintain their focus to progress against a talented and committed Forfar side. He said: "On Thursday we will take on Forfar for the second time this season. As is so often the case at City the big games keep coming. Having just faced Hibs and Celtic back to back we have this midweek game against a stubborn Forfar side. It was at this stage last year I tasted defeat for the first time with City and in seasons past the League Cup has proved a bit of a stumbling block for us. We hope to put that right this year.
"All involved at the club are very keen to progress in the competition but are fully aware of the challenge we will face. Forfar will be a determined side and I'm sure all involved at Forfar will relish the opportunity to compete in the club's first semi final. For us, we will rely on our experience to hopefully guide us through to the final. Make no mistake we do not take any opposition or any competition for granted. We must earn every victory, every point and every trophy we ever want to hold and that is what we aim to do on Thursday."
The SWPL Cup final will take place at Recreation Park in Alloa on Wednesday 30th May (kick off 7.30pm).
(Scottish Women's Football)
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