Penalty poser leaves Debbi “in disbelief” as Spartans draw with Gers

Debbi01An early Sarah Ewens strike was cancelled out by a Megan Sneddon second half header in an end to end SWPL clash which saw Debbi McCulloch’s side maintain their unbeaten run against Rangers this season.

A contentious 73rd minute penalty claim however left Spartans Manager Debbi McCulloch “in disbelief” after seeing her side denied a spot kick during the 1-1 draw.

In what she described as a well-earned point gained rather than two lost against second placed Rangers, McCulloch was perplexed over Referee Erin Cunningham’s decision not to award a spot kick.  “I am in disbelief – in fact – I’m actually gobsmacked.  When I spoke to the Ref after reviewing the footage (of the 73rd minute challenge on Trisha McLaughlin in the Rangers box) she told me that the defender had played the ball but it’s quite clear that the only contact made was with my player.

“I can’t say too much as it may land me in hot water, however the standard of refereeing in the Premier League in Scottish Women’s Football has to improve.  Teams are committing to training three, four times a week then on a Sunday, we’ve got Referees who are clearly unable to fulfil their primary function.”

The game itself burst into life from the off, with Rangers goalkeeper Khym Ramsay looking sharp (and very bright in her kit) to pull of fine save from Sarah Ewens before Kerry Montgomery’s shot went wide.

At the other end, play raced on and it took an alert Danni Pagliarulo to head the ball off her own goal line as Rangers bounced back.

Spartans made a 17th minute breakthrough when a through ball went through the heart of the Rangers defence before Sarah Ewens pounced to lift her shot over the head of Ramsay to send the home support wild.

Both Swanson and Sneddon had opportunities to equalise however a mixture of poor finishing and the safe hands of Harrison ensured Spartans went in to the break 1-0 ahead.

Rangers had claims of a penalty waved aside as Bobbi Beveridge and Suzanne Mulvey tangled on the just inside the home 18 yard box.

The scores were levelled in the 55th minute as the home defence looked like they were suspended in animation which allowed Megan Sneddon to rise above the static Spartans players to head home.

Louise Mason entered the fray in the 62nd minute replacing Claire Crosbie who has adapted well after her return from injury.

The contentious penalty claim came after a tremendous defence to attack piercing run by Trish McLaughlin saw her race into the box but only to find herself crash to the ground under what looked like a mis-timed tackle by her covering opponent.

Strong appeals for a spot-kick were discounted by Referee Erin Cunningham who consulted her stand-side linesman before pointing for a corner kick leaving the home support, players and bench bewildered.

Amidst the mayhem, Rangers regrouped and it Swanson came close to scoring after beating both the offside trap and goalkeeper Rachel Harrison however the ball hit the post and squirted away to safety.

With an interested spectator in Scotland National Coach Anna Signeul watching on, the Spartans stopper would have done her reputation no harm pulled off what turned out to be a match saving one handed save, diving low to thwart Eric Cuthbert.

Final Score: Spartans 1-1 Rangers

McCulloch added, “I thought we controlled the first half and made several fantastic chances and played some really good football and got the goal we deserved.  Rangers will always look to hit you on the counter attack however I felt we dealt with that threat really well too.

“At half time I asked the girls to go out and kill the game off, unfortunately that didn’t materialise – a bit similar to last week’s outing against Celtic – and credit to Rangers, they took control of the game.  On reflection, the result was a fair result.”

In other games, the Reserves defeated Leith Athletic 9-0 whilst the Under 17s came back from 0-2 down to secure a 3-3 draw v Hearts to qualify from their group stage to progress to the League Cup semi-final.