Mid-season review: Halfway House for the SWF Championship
by Tom Freeman
Scotland’s third tier and the most senior league administered by Scottish Women’s Football, the Championship, has thrown up another competitive spectacle in its second year as a national league.
As we approach the halfway point, let’s take a look at how the teams have fared and who has promotion to SWPL2 in their sights.
Rossvale remain unbeaten at the halfway point at the top of the table and in pole position for the automatic promotion slot. After missing out on promotion in the summer with a 1-0 loss to Stirling University in the playoff, manager Julie McSherry has enjoyed a more consistent squad and form this season, including the return of influential winger Jemma McQuillan and the signing of former Gartcairn player Sarah Wardlaw.
But it has been the form of former Glasgow City youth Megan Whiteford which has had Championship defences on edge for her pace and quick thinking, scoring a variety of goals among her 11 for the season so far, more than any individual Rossvale player scored in all of last season. Expect her to add to the tally.
Two sides which have clearly benefitted from the move the national-league football are Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ayr United, who currently sit in second and third. Both teams started last season struggling for consistency, but both have emerged this season as contenders, Ayr with a more settled formation and form with former Livingston goalie Charlotte Ferguson boosting their backline, and Inverness Caledonian Thistle looking fitter and more capable to see out games, with veteran Julia Ralph Scott finding a new lease of life as an influential playmaker.
Of the newcomers to the league, Aberdeenshire’s Westdyke have enjoyed the transition most, their young side full of attacking enthusiasm but vulnerable on the break, with forward Kayleigh Traynor a talismanic figure for her side, leading from the front.
East Fife took some time to adjust from their relegation from the SWPL2, but have strengthened and shown determination to find some form, thanks to experienced leaders on the park like Liz Anderson at the heart of defence and Teri Skivington leading the line.
Of course, what started as a ten-team league has been overshadowed by the disappointing decision by Edinburgh City to disband its successful women’s team, who won the League One and league cup double in 22/23 in invincible fashion. The withdrawal of the team just a week before Christmas was a reminder of the sometimes precarious nature of the status of women’s teams at clubs, regardless of their successes on the park.
Renfrew Ladies ran Rossvale all the way last season, the playoff spot being decided on the last game of the season. This season, though, the team have struggled with consistency, despite making some good signings in the summer. They will be looking to climb into the top six before the league split and look to their all-time top scorer Claire Rae to find the net with more regularity.
The sides sitting currently in the bottom three positions are the same teams who finished there last season, but each can find ways to move up the table.
Dryburgh Athletic lost their main goal threats in Megan Robb and Alma Codegoni in the summer, but Derrian Gollan has stepped up to enjoy great form in the first half of the season, scoring six goals so far. The Dundee side have also added some key young players from the successful Dundee East youth team and have a good platform to build on.
Morton have also had to rebuild following the loss of last year’s influential captain Rachel McConnachie to Queen’s Park in the summer and the loss of her replacement in defensive midfielder Nicole Haggerty to Glasgow Girls and Women. New young captain Laura Darroch will be looking to the upcoming match at Cappielow to kick start the Ton’s season.
Finally, Hutchison Vale have had to dig deep into their pathway to field a side in the early part of the season, leaving the club anchored to the foot of the table. But some key signings in the winter break has given the capital club a platform to build from and try and get some points on the board.