Stirling University all but secured their place in next season’s SWPL 1 with a hard-fought win over Forfar Farmington. The win saw Stirling move ten points clear of bottom-placed club Forfar, and with seven points left, that gap should be enough. An example of their position now is that they are three points off fourth place.
The game’s only goal came in the fifth minute when Rachel Donaldson leapt like a salmon to head in Jade Gallon’s corner. Stirling should have had the game wrapped up by half-time, with Donaldson having a shot cleared off the line and Ashley McDonald going close.
That policy could have cost them in the second half which was a tighter affair, perhaps due to the enormity of the match. And Forfar could, and perhaps should, have punished them when Louise Magilton was found free at the far post, but ending up shooting over.
The only positive Forfar can take from the result is that Aberdeen lost to Celtic, which means they are still four points behind seventh. And with the win, Stirling can for the first time this season dream of loftier ambitions.
With good form on their side, it was no surprise that it was Stirling who started the better of the two teams and they came close to taking the lead in the opening minute. A long ball confused the Forfar defence as they tried to work out which Stirling players were offside, but the ball fell to the one onside player Ashley McDonald who was only denied by a stunning save from the visitor’s keeper Fiona McNicoll.
Minutes later, McNicoll came to Forfar’s rescue, this time denying Jade Gallon.
But she could do nothing in the fifth minute as Stirling took the lead. Jade Gallon’s inswinging corner was delivered into the danger zone where Rachel Donaldson rose highest to get her head on the ball and the ball dipped in time to creep under the crossbar.
Forfar was struggling to really get going, and when they did, they were missing the final product like Julia Scott’s corner going straight out and Robyn Smith’s through-ball being overhit to Stirling’s keeper Chloe Logan.
And they could have been further behind if not for some stunning defending. A long ball sent Donaldson through, she took one touch to round the keeper, one more to send the ball goalwards only to be denied by a last-gasp clearance on the line by Gemma Collier who had cleverly predicted the direction of the shot.
Just before the half-hour mark, Forfar got their first shot on target, and it nearly led to an equaliser as Kirsty Deans saw her shot superbly saved by Logan, and Stirling managed to scramble the ball clear.
Stirling came close once more with a fast-paced attack which saw Nicole Pullar hold off her marker to send Ashley McDonald free down the left, but her shot was kept out by a fabulous finger-tipped save from McNicoll.
Late on in the first half, Forfar had another decent chance through Robyn Smith, but Logan made a great save from the one-on-one chance.
Forfar started the second half stronger and had a good half-chance early on bu they weren’t able to take advantage of Scott’s corner.
The home side reminded Forfar of their threat when the ball set up invitingly for Jade Gallon but McNicoll was up to the challenge and made the save.
Forfar came close through Louise Magilton, but her effort went over the crossbar.
Stirling came close to their second goal from a Jade Gallon corner, but under pressure from Collier, Nicole Pullar could only head wide.
But in the 71st minute, Forfar should have equalised. Lindsey Dunbar’s cross eventually fell to Magilton but the far post, ten yards out, but she could only shoot over. They came close once again, but this time, Dunbar headed over.
Late on, Stirling had two great chances to seal the points. Emma Lyons’ 20-yard strike was destined to find the top corner, only for McNicoll to make a wonder save. And then Pullar broke down the left wing but she couldn’t find the target.
However, Stirling secured the crucial win.