By Craig Edwards
The 18th of October 2020. Remember that day? A 2-0 victory over Celtic kick started the strangest season in living memory where the majority of games were played in front of empty stands. This is the story of another historic title triumph. This, is 14 in a row.
Rewind almost eight months when the nights were darker and the 2020-21 SWPL season was ready to begin. City had played two competitive fixtures in 2020 before welcoming Celtic to Broadwood Stadium in front of the BBC ALBA cameras. The two sides had met on the opening day of the scrapped 2020 SWPL season on a very very wet night in East Kilbride but this time, City controlled the affair. It took till the second half, but goals from Rachel McLauchlan and Kirsty Howat secured the first of 18 SWPL victories this season and the first step towards 14 in a row.
City started the season with a second home game in a row when Forfar Farmington visited Broadwood Stadium. Aoife Colvill and Mairead Fulton scored their first goals for the club in a 8-1 victory. The UEFA Women’s Champions League returned in the midweek prior to the trip to Motherwell with Irish champions Peamount United beaten in Cumbernauld via a penalty shoot out.
For the second time in the opening three games, City went in at half time goalless but three goals in ten second half minutes in Airdrie, including a great volley from Tyler Toland for her first goal for City made it three wins from three before another three goals, this time against Hibernian grabbed the points with Nicole Robertson scoring on her debut for the club.
A trip to Iceland and another penalty shoot out secured a spot in the Round of 32 in the UEFA Women’s Champions League for a tenth consecutive season was sandwiched in between the Hibernian match and our first match against newly promoted Hearts since a Scottish Cup tie in 2017.
City started quickly against the Jambos with Rachel McLauchlan scoring within three minutes and another four in the second half from four different goalscorers made it five wins from five to start the season.
The international break led us into December and the month started well with a 3-1 victory away at Spartans with Zaneta Wyne getting on the scoresheet for the first time. That would be the last win of 2020.
The UEFA Women’s Champions League Round of 32 draw gave City a tie against Czech side, Sparta Praha with the first leg taking place at the Letni Stadion in the city of Chomutov. Sharon Wojcik’s second half strike from the edge of the box gave City an away goal in a narrow 2-1 defeat before the final SWPL game of the calendar year against Rangers.
City entered the match at Broadwood Stadium three points clear of their Glasgow rivals but would end the day behind them as a first, and only defeat of the season would occur with Rangers winning 5-0.
There would be another tough result for City before the year was out as Sparta secured victory to progress in the UWCL.
Women’s football once again ground to a halt at the start of January and a football wouldn’t be kicked in anger for another four months. Prior to the stoppage of the SWPL, City had been busy in the transfer market bringing in six new signings.
Cailin Michie, Arna Sif Ásgrimsdóttir, Julia Molin, Ode Fulutudilu, Niamh Farrelly and Priscila Chinchilla all joined the club as City went in search of reclaiming top spot in the league.
Eventually the return of the SWPL was announced with the trip to K Park taking place on Easter Sunday, with the remaining 14 games to be played in just two months. The race for the title was on.
TWO HECTIC MONTHS BEGIN
City returned from action with a comfortable 3-0 victory away to Celtic with Arna Sif Ásgrimsdóttir and Niamh Farrelly both scoring on their debut to move City five points clear of Celtic.
Victories over Forfar Farmington and Motherwell continued City’s perfect start with 18 goals scored and three clean sheets with new signing Ode Fulutudilu settling into Scottish football nicely with hat-tricks in both games.
The first midweek game of the restart saw City’s defence breached for the first time in over six hours when Eilidh Adams scored. A wonder strike from Janine Van Wyk brought City level and a Priscila Chinchilla penalty completed the turnaround at Ainslie Park. That victory moved City top of the SWPL, a position that City would not let go, as Rangers suffered defeat at Celtic Park.
A second trip to the capital in four days saw City beat Hearts on a beautiful sunny afternoon at the Oriam with Cailin Michie scoring her first goal since joining the club from Pitea. A third game in a row against a side from Edinburgh saw Spartans visit Broadwood Stadium with a late red card for Erin Clachers giving City fans a nervous ending ahead of a trip to the Rangers Training Centre.
FOUR DAYS OF DESTINY
The 9th of May saw City travel to Auchenhowie to face Rangers for the first time since that afternoon at Broadwood in December. In front of the BBC ALBA cameras, City put out a statement within 90 seconds. Priscila Chinchilla’s shot hit the post before nestling in the back of the net and she got her second of the game later in the first half to send City five points clear of Celtic, and six clear of Rangers with a third of the season to go.
Four days after victory against Rangers, City were on their travels again as they headed to K Park to face second placed Celtic. It was a match that would be remembered for two saved penalties. In the first half, Janine Van Wyk would be denied before Lee Alexander saved from Sarah Ewens in the second half.
THE RUN IN AND THE RETURN OF FANS
Eight goals secured all three points at Broadwood Stadium against Forfar Farmington before a midweek trip to Airdrie saw City have to work hard to earn all three points against Motherwell.
The first game in front of supporters took place at Broadwood Stadium as City welcomed Hibernian but the fans were not able to celebrate a goal on their return as the defences came out on top in a goalless draw. This left City three points clear of Celtic, who had beaten Rangers, who themselves now sat five points adrift of City with three games remaining.
City had to play their penultimate home game at the Falkirk Stadium with Hearts the visitors and despite a slight scare at the start of the second half, City moved to within four points of the title thanks to goals from Hayley Lauder, Janine Van Wyk, Niamh Farrelly and Aoife Colvill.
Celtic’s victory over Forfar Farmington in the early kick off on the Sunday meant City couldn’t win the league at Ainslie Park but six goals and three points meant it was in City’s hands going into the final day of the SWPL season.
ONE LAST PUSH
232 days after the SWPL season had got underway, it was time for one last game, and one last push to secure a 14th consecutive title.
City knew a point would secure the title and as Celtic raced into an early lead away at Motherwell to keep the pressure on, City got an opening goal. Priscila Chinchilla’s perfectly weighted pass was straight into the path of Hayley Lauder who finished first time past Megan Cunningham. The lead was doubled when Niamh Farrelly was given the freedom of Cumbernauld to head the ball into the back of the net and the title was won!
The victory meant City finished the season three points clear of closest challengers Celtic to secure a 14th consecutive SWPL title and a place in the champions path of the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers with the draw taking place at the start of next month.