After the eighth week of the SWPL season, what are the main talking points?
Forfar Farmington’s Turnaround
Things were not looking good for Forfar Farmington. After losing their opening five league games, including a heavy defeat to Hibernian, they sat bottom of the SWPL 1 table with zero points.
But within a couple of weeks, they can count themselves unlucky not to have nine points. The two wins over four days against the two teams struggling at the bottom of the league – Stirling University and Aberdeen – saw them climb up to sixth place.
On Sunday, they played Celtic at home and showed great character to come back from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 – but eventually lost 3-2 to the Glasgow side. Celtic’s equaliser came from a controversial penalty, and they will feel aggrieved not to have at least come away from the game with a point.
However, they seem to be turning Station Park into a ground that is challenging to travel to, having pushed both Glasgow City and Celtic close. If they can continue that trend, then they will move up the table.
It is still too early to draw firm conclusions about home and away, especially as we are only eight games into the season, but two sides are still struggling on the road.
Both Spartans and Stirling University are still waiting for a single away point. They’ve both lost four away games, and both have conceded the most away goals – Spartans 15 and Stirling 17. In fact, Spartans has yet to even score an away goal.
It goes without saying both of these teams will have to improve this record if they have any chance of moving up the table.
Glasgow City’s Dominance
Glasgow City. Eight wins out of eight. 28 goals scored, three goals conceded. Eight point lead.
Can they be caught? Of course, they can, but the second round of games will be critical. Will Hibernian be distracted by upcoming Champions League football? Do Celtic and Hibernian believe that they can beat City?
Writing these notes now, I think City must lose to either Celtic or Hibs over the second round of games if there is a realistic title challenge, let alone either of the challengers winning the league.
I think the SWPL Cup Final will be critical. If Hibernian beat Glasgow City, that will give them confidence in the league. If City wins the Final, will Hibernian believe they can ever beat City/
Can Hibernian win the Final? They definitely will have a chance, especially if they play Abi Harrison out on the right-wing unlike playing her centrally as they did in the league.
Unlike the SWPL 1 where people are wondering if there will be a title race at all, the same cannot be said about the SWPL 2.
One point separates the top three, whilst the top two are level on points.
Leaders, Hamilton Academical has a huge advantage with a highly superior goal difference of +28, thanks in large to large wins over Queen’s Park and Inverness City.
Glasgow Girls are behind Hamilton on goal difference on +5, after beating Hutchison Vale 2-0. If they can win their next two games, when they play Hamilton on 26 June, that could be a critical game in the season.
And just one point behind them is Hearts who returned to winning ways, beating Buchan 4-1. They have shown they have the ability to mount a title challenge.
The SWPL 2 looks excitingly unpredictable at the moment.
Four points behind Hearts is a group of three sides – Jeanfield Swifts, Hutchison Vale and Buchan – who are themselves separated by three points.
Of those three, only Jeanfield won at the weekend, astonishingly beating Queen’s Park 13-0. With Jeanfield playing both Hamilton and Hearts over the next two games, they have a great chance of closing that gap.
Hutchison Vale, who are unbeaten away from home, travel to Buchan next. Buchan is currently unbeaten at home, so that will be an intriguing game.
What remains true, is that these sides need to pick up wins against the top three to close the gap on them.
Two sides are relegated from the SWPL 2 and the two clubs that occupy those spots at the moment – Queen’s Park and Inverness City – look isolated. Queen’s Park has won a match this season, but that was against Inverness.
If either of them is going to be able to escape those spots, they need to cut out defensive errors at the back. One thing in Inverness’ favour is their home record is much better and has picked up a goalless draw against Hutchison Vale. If they can improve that record further, maybe they will start to pick up further points?
Queen’s Park, on the other hand, need to return to their performances a few games ago where they pushed Hutchison Vale and Buchan close to at least a draw.