Stirling University 0 Celtic 2
Ross 17, 88
Natalie Ross was in scoring form for Celtic once again this week with an opportunistic double giving the Hoops a 2-0 victory. In this, the final game of the 2017 summer season, the midfielder was in sparkling form, driving the team on and netting a goal in each half.
Initially Celtic, unaccustomed to playing on grass, found it difficult to judge the weight of their passes. This, combined with the University’s tenacious approach made it difficult for them to take control of the match.
Consequently the opening period was scrappy, with Celtic’s goalkeeper the busier of the two, although she was mainly involved in scooping up long, stray passes. Celtic gradually began to have the upper hand, with penetrating runs by Sarah Ewens and Jamie-Lee Napier testing the Stirling defence.
In 12 minutes, an excellent through-ball from Ross found Ewens in the clear but she was ruled offside. Just after the quarter-hour Celtic took the lead when a corner from the right eluded everyone in the penalty area. The in-form Ross was first to react and she drove home with her left foot from point-blank range.
Stirling were undaunted by this setback, and continued to press and tackle, making it difficult for the visitors to develop any rhythm to their play.
Ewens and Napier continued to look lively, driving down the wings, but it was Stirling who were beginning to gain the upper hand as the half progressed. They were unable to test keeper Cunningham, though, as their shots were not finding the target.
After 30 minutes, Celtic had to re-shuffle their defence when centre-back Cheryl McCulloch was substituted by Nina Fitzsimmons.
This was when Stirling enjoyed their best spell of the match, winning a series of corners and forcing Celtic on to the back foot. It was still 1-0 at the interval, but the University would have been the happier with their form at that stage.
Celtic opened the second half displaying more determination than earlier and Heather Richards began to influence the game. She broke free on 49 minutes, but was pulled up for offside.
Shortly after that, Kirsty Howat, replacing Rachel Connor joined Celtic’s attack.
This change profoundly altered the match.
Howat’s enthusiasm, skill and pace caused Stirling all sorts of problems and her influence raised confidence throughout her team.
Stirling had let-offs after 64 and 75 minutes when first Richards had a first-rate strike saved by keeper Logan and then Ross rattled the crossbar with a header from a pin-point cross from Ewens.
Stirling, playing on the counter, used their pace to create several openings late in the game but they seldom created enough space to test Cunningham although the keeper did make a fine save in 82 minutes.
The match was sealed by Celtic’s second goal from what was the best move of the game. Howat won the ball about 30 yards out, and with searing pace drove in on goal. As keeper Logan threw herself at Howat’s feet, she unselfishly, and with great accuracy, squared the ball to the onrushing Ross to make it 2-0.
Just before the end, manager David Haley handed a debut to 15-year-old Jade Menzies, who replaced Ewens.
Celtic: M Cunningham, Middleton, McCulloch (Fitzsimmons), Rafferty, Knox, Connor (Howat), Clark, Richards, Ross, Napier, Ewens (Menzies). Subs not used: Gibson, Warrington.
Report & Picture: Celtic FC