Hamilton Accies earned a hard-fought point at Station Park in a 2-2 draw against a Forfar side which finished second in the Scottish Women’s Premier League last season. Goals from Susan Lang and Clare Gemmell were enough to cancel out strikes from Forfar’s Aimee Godfrey and Caroline Heron and give the Accies their first point of the Premier League season. Cheryl Smith reports from Station Park, Forfar.
With the clubs first game of the season against Spartans falling foul to the weather on the opening day, Hamilton manager Kevin Murphy was relieved to see kick off and was delighted with the result.
He said: “It’s always good to get your first competitive game out-of-the-way. The girls have been training for so long now it seems like the longest pre season we have ever had.
“We were all frustrated with the postponement last week and coming away to Forfar is always a tough venue to play at, not many teams come away with any points so to get our first competitive game played and to get a point, we are extremely pleased.”
The game was played in torrid conditions with both teams battling against showers of hail and swirling winds as they tried to control the play. Mark Nisbet’s side started the stronger of the two with the majority of possession, and could have taken the lead after only five minutes when defender Gemma Collier saw a headed shot fly narrowly past the post. The Station Park side again came close to opening the scoring in the tenth minute when striker Caroline Heron found herself through on goal only for the shot to be hit straight at Hamilton goalkeeper Megan Cunningham.
The away side were working hard to gain possession of the ball as Forfar attacked for the majority of the opening twenty minutes, with Hamilton’s lack of competitive action this season giving there opponents an advantage. Accies striker Cheryl McCulloch was working hard up front to hold up the ball and was consistently looking for the support of her teammates as Forfar tried to close her down. Kevin Murphy’s side were beginning to settle into the game when on the 21st minute Forfar midfielder Aimee Godfrey dispossessed defender Terri Donnelly and slotted the ball past Cunningham into the net, to make it 1-0 to the home side.
The away team found themselves under pressure with further attacks from Forfar’s Caroline Heron and Abbi Grant but were able to weather the storm, with defender Susan Lang displaying excellent composure on the ball at the back. Hamilton began to play their way into the game with creative passing in the midfield through Toni Mason and strong hold up play by striker Cheryl McCulloch, this paid off on the 40th minute when Gillian Inglis swung in a corner which was met at the back post by Susan Lang, who coolly slotted the ball home for a Hamilton equalizer.
However only a minute later Hamilton found themselves trailing again when Forfar’s Caroline Heron struck a shot from outside the box, which flew past Megan Cunningham into the corner of the net, restoring the home sides lead going into the halftime break.
The second half kicked off at pace with Forfar forward Abbi Grants jinking run into the box causing a threat to the Hamilton back line only for the offside whistle to halt her in her tracks. The game developed into a midfield battle with Hamilton looking for an equalizer which almost came on the 55th minute after they were awarded a free kick just outside the box, with Forfar’s Julia Scott being shown the yellow card for a poor tackle. Cara McBrearty stepped up to take the shot which flew over the wall at pace and into the arms of the Forfar keeper.
The away side began to dominate with Forfar’s only real chance of the half coming on the 60th minute from Caroline Heron when the striker found herself through on goal only for her shot to crash off the Hamilton crossbar and skid out for a goal kick. On the 65th minute Hamilton’s Terri Donnelly was cautioned for a tackle on Alana Bruce on the halfway line, with both teams competing strongly for control of the play. Hamilton’s determination paid off on the 75th minute of the game when Clare Gemmell found herself in space and hit a superb strike five yards outside the box, which sailed past the Forfar keeper and into the net to make it all square at 2-2.
As the clock ticked away Hamilton had the momentum and where battling for the winner which almost came five minutes from time through a long-range effort by Cheryl McCulloch, however it was held well by the Forfar goalkeeper. As Accies pushed for the win the home side found themselves playing deep in their own half narrowly managing to hold on for the draw.
As the final whistle blew it was Hamilton who could have found themselves in front but Kevin Murphy’s side where happy to settle for a well-earned point against a difficult Forfar side.
Murphy was delighted with the overall display from his team and is looking forward to the run of games coming up.
He added: “The first half performance wasn’t the best but credit to the team in the second half we were far better, sharper on the ball and reacting to things. In the end I think we could have actually won it in the second half but I think you’ve got to be happy with a point.
“It was a team performance today, I don’t think the conditions alluded to any individual to do something special. I’m happy with the goals we scored, it’s always nice to score from a set play and Clare scored a great goal from distance. It was a real team effort, when you come away and play a team like Forfar you don’t rely on any individuals.
“I think the team can take a lot of positives from their second half performance and now its about building on that now for the games coming up.”