Women’s football: McCulloch delighted as Spartans show grit

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Spartans coach Debbi McCulloch praised the character of her side after they came from behind to defeat Inverness City 2-1 and progress into the last four of the Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup.

After the disappointment of throwing away a two-goal lead to the same opponents last weekend in the league, the Ainslie Park girls had to dig deep on Sunday to book a semi-final showdown with Celtic next month after conceding the opening goal.

The Highlanders started the better of the teams and almost made the breakthrough in the opening moments when Zoe Johnston connected with a cross from Natalie Bodiam but could only guide her effort into the side netting.

Megan McCarthy then headed just over for the visitors before Inverness took a well-deserved lead on 13 minutes. A cross from the right by Finella Annand was flicked on by Johnstone for Karen Mason who fired and unstoppable shot in the Spartans net.

City’s joy however would be short-lived as Spartans levelled within minutes when Lana Clellend’s cross was cushioned into the path of Sarah Ewens by Nichola Sturrock and she made no mistake, firing past Kim Jappy from close range.

Inverness had the opportunity to regain their lead when Bodiam was taken down inside the penalty box by Victoria Farquhar, however Rachel Harrison saved brilliantly from Mason’s spot kick to ensure parity at the interval.

A half-time team talk from McCulloch injected some much needed urgency into Spartans play in the second half with Claire Crosbie, Diana Barry and Louise Moultray all going close for the home side.

With time running out Spartans pressure paid off as Ewens latched onto a through ball from Barry before showing terrific composure to round Jappy and roll the ball into the empty net for her second goal of the afternoon, sealing the win for her side.

Afterwards Spartans coach McCulloch commented: “I think over the 90 minutes we did enough to deserve the victory because we created so many chances and enjoyed lots of possession.

“I was delighted with the character shown by the girls and I’m really pleased to get through to the next round because there is a growing feeling within the club that we can win this competition.”