Glasgow City ran out 3-1 victors over Celtic in the SWF Youth Cup final with a tight tactical battle eventually being settled thanks to some excellent set-pieces.
City lined up in a 4-1-2-3 formation, with Marianne MacDonald playing the holding midfield role that allowed Aimee McGourlick and Lyndsay McCall the space to roam forward in support of the front three. Brogan Hay, Olivia Crawford, and Katie Gardner Rice formed a fluid attack always willing to change positions and swap sides in a bid to get at the defence.
Celtic’s 4-2-3-1 formation meant they matched City girl-for-girl in every part of the park. Where City had one holding midfielder and two attacking, Celtic had two holding, Hannah Fulton and Lindsey Blues, and one attacking, Kaela McDonald. They also looked to switch positions up front, with Jamie-Lee Napier and Nicole Cairney providing support on the wings for the central striker Abby Callaghan.
The way the sides were setup ensured space was at a premium. There was no chance of either side getting the edge with the extra player in midfield or up front and this made for a cagey opening half with few clear-cut chances for either side. City perhaps had the best of it, with most of their good play coming down the left wing through Hay, but when they eventually got the opening goal it was through a rare attack down the right.
Celtic were mostly restricted to peppering long range efforts at goal in the first 45, hitting the crossbar from a free-kick the closest they came to troubling Erin Clachers.
At the start of the second half both sides switched their wide players, hoping the change would make a difference, but with the players evenly matched it looked like it needed a more drastic change to the formations to create something. However, neither coach was willing to blink first and it looked like sticking to the original game plan would pay off for Celtic when Kaela McDonald’s late run into the box saw her grab the equaliser. It was an all too rare foray into the opponents box for the attacking midfielder but, all credit to her, when the space opened up she was in the right place at the right time.
With the coaches sticking to their guns tactically, it fell to a substitute to make the telling difference. Glasgow City’s Annie Early replaced Hay and within a few minutes she had headed in from a set-piece. Then, not long after, another set-piece for Glasgow City and another goal. Daylight for City and one-hand on the cup.
It was no surprise it took set-plays to open this game up as the teams continued to cancel each other out tactically. At 3-1 up the Glasgow City coach may have been tempted to put on a defender for an attacker but with the game playing itself out in their favour they decided against it. When Hay returned onto the pitch for central midfielder McGourlick, McCall dropped back into midfield to keep the system intact.
Celtic had nothing to lose by this point, but again the coaching staff decided not to tinker with the formation and instead replace Callaghan with Fern Newbigging, perhaps hoping fresh legs and an injection of pace would be enough. While she certainly looked lively in her cameo role, unfortunately it wasn’t enough to unlock a City defence marshalled excellently by Chloe Gilfoyle.