Spartans season review: Cup semi, incredible winning streak and wonder goals galore
A seventh-place finish wasn’t the aim for Spartans coming into the campaign but the club certainly made the most of their position after finding themselves in the bottom half of the SWPL. Throw a cup semi-final into the mix as well as victories over Hearts and Hibs and the season undeniably becomes one that lives long in the memories. Here of some of the highs and lows of their campaign.
The best moment of the season arguably came in the final game of the campaign. In her final game in football after announcing her retirement, midfielder Katherine Smart ended her career with a goal. The 35-year-old headed home from a free-kick to give the hosts a 2-0 lead against Glasgow Women and extend their unbeaten run to 10 games. After three years at the Edinburgh club and 77 appearances, Smart bowed out of football in style in a day that will live long in her memory.
Going into the final game before the split, Spartans needed a win away to Hearts if they were to stand any chance of getting into the top six. After a good performance against Rangers in the game prior, many fans had high hopes of getting the result they needed. However, Spartans just did not perform to their usual standards and were blown away by the Jam Tarts eventually losing 2-0. The game also left a sour taste in many fans mouths when it was revealed that Tegan Reynolds, one of the clubs best performing players throughout the season, had picked up an ACL injury in the game and was ruled out for the foreseeable future.
While the victories over Hibs and Hearts were certainly memorable, nothing this campaign came close to Spartans SWPL Cup quarter-final victory over Celtic. The Edinburgh side travelled to the Excelsior stadium as heavy underdogs against the Glaswegians giants and soon found themselves 1-0 down. However, a magnificent performance from Rachel Harrison ensured the side stayed in the game. The goalkeeper's heroics soon paid off as Louise Mason equalised deep into stoppage time. Spartans managed to quell Celtic’s attack for the duration of extra time to go on and win the penalty shootout.
After crashing losing 3-0 to Partick Thistle in January it looked as if Spartans season had unravelled. With the club out of the Scottish Cup and in the lower ends of the table there wasn’t too much to smile about for Debbi McCulloch. Yet a game later, Spartans would get a fantastic 2-1 win against Hibs that would help set up a crazy run of form for the Edinburgh side. 12 wins from their next 17 games helped the club finish seventh and end the season with more victories than Hearts or Hibs.
Amidst their end-of-season form, one player that started forcing her way into the team was Mya Bates. The 18-year-old joined Spartans last summer from Glasgow City with bags of potential and in the final few games she showed how big of a player she could be. After a few positive camos off the bench, the winger scored seven minutes in against Glasgow Women before continuing her goalscoring form into the next two games, netting against Dundee United and Aberdeen. After signing a new deal at the start of the month, McCulloch will be hoping her development continues to blossom next season.
Goal of the season
Spartans saw many wonder goals throughout their campaign but one that stood out was Mason’s brilliant effort against Hamilton in February. With the game standing at 0-0 and the McCulloch’s side unable to break down the Accies stubborn defence, up stepped Mason to curl a beautiful effort into the top corner. Her effort proved to be the decisive point in the game, a goal worthy of winning any match.
Another player for the future, Hannah Jordan signed for Spartans last summer with the attacker already looking like a good fit for the club. Since joining the club from Rangers, the 18-year-old already looks a good fit at her club and scored the winner past Hibs earlier in January. Now the attacker will be looking to score on a more consistent basis.
Player of the Season
After a great end to the season for Spartans a few players could be named as the player of the season but one did stand out above the rest. Alana Marshall helped push the boundaries of the players off and on the pitch this season. Despite struggling with multiple sclerosis, this has not affected the 36-year-old’s desire to keep performing to a high standard. The captain has helped Spartans to multiple wins this season scoring fantastic goals against Hibs and Hamilton. Now in the twilight of her career, Marshall is certainly a club legend as she continues to defy the odds.
While missing out on the top six may have been a real kick in the teeth for the club, it certainly benefited them in the long run. Their end-of-season form made Spartans one of the best places to be in the SWPL as their campaign panned out. Their SWPL Cup run also showed what the club is capable of as they became one of the few teams to overcome one of the big three. For McCulloch, there is plenty to build on going into next season. The club will be hoping that they can continue their form and cement themselves as a top-six club.