Written by Tom Harle, Sportsbeat.
The pressure is off – that’s the message Mark Nisbet will be giving Forfar Farmington as they face eight-time winners Glasgow City in the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup.
Sunday’s second-round tie pits newly-promoted Farmington against a City juggernaut that has been crowned Scottish Women’s Premier League champions for 11 straight seasons. But Nisbet can call on momentum – his side surging to fourth in the top flight with five wins in six – and experience in his bid to oust the giants.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to see where we are as a team,” said the Station Park chief, who guided the team to the Women’s Cup final in 2012. “We always look forward to testing ourselves against the best teams and the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup has given the opportunity to do that this weekend.
“We’ve had a successful season up to this point but it’s really interesting now to get a proper test and see where we’re sitting. I think there’s a bit of pressure off us in the fact that nobody’s expecting us to beat them – apart from ourselves.”
The cup contenders have already fought it out in the league, City edging a tight game late on thanks to Christie Murray’s fortuitous effort. Having seen his charges learn from their mistakes, the SFA Performance Coach took plenty of encouragement from the narrow 1-0 defeat at Petershill Park in April.
“We’ve played Glasgow earlier this season so we know their strengths and weaknesses,” he said. We know they’ve got good players and threats all over the pitch, but so do we. I think that’s the main thing we need to focus on – what they’re good at, but also what problems we can cause them.”
Forfar have in winger Robyn Smith a pacey player well capable of hurting City, having netted in the 2-1 win over Hamilton Academical last time out. Nisbet has identified the tactical approach he feels will be most effective, taking advantage of his team’s underdog status and the element of surprise.
“Without a doubt, they’ll be favourites,” he said. “We’ll be very cautious in our approach to the game. We want to make sure it’s as tight as possible for as long as possible. We’ll try to play them on the counter. They like to get their players forward so we’ll hope to exploit the space that comes in behind that with our pace.”
What do you give the manager that has everything – despite 11 straight league titles Glasgow City’s Scott Booth seeks the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup, his one that got away.
City have been crowned Scottish Women’s Premier League champions in each of the three seasons since the former Borussia Dortmund striker took over in July 2015. But as they head to Forfar Farmington for the tie of the second round on Sunday, Booth senses the motivation in his squad to avenge final defeats to Hibernian. Glasgow’s run of four successive triumphs was snapped by 6-5 penalty shootout heartbreak in 2016 and a 3-0 humbling in 2017.
“There’s a lot of motivation within the camp get the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup back,” said Booth, capped 22 times by his country under Craig Brown. “We haven’t done ourselves justice in the finals and that’s something we want to put right.
“The whole competition has been much, much tighter in the last couple of seasons and we haven’t managed to hit our levels in specific high-pressure games to win that trophy. The players are focused, driven and love to win, so we’ll be looking to get the right result but also to play better football than we have in this competition recently.”
The eight-time SSE Scottish Women’s Cup winners came up short in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, suffering defeat in the last 32 on away goals to Kazakhstan’s BIIK Kazygurt. But their league campaign has been a tour de force, winning nine of 11 games and conceding just five goals in the process. Still, the Petershill Park chief feels the progress of sides like Forfar Farmington – newly-promoted into SWPL 1 – shows how the game is growing in Scotland.
“Women’s football in this country is definitely becoming more competitive and the field is evening out,” said Booth. “Forfar deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve played since getting promoted and they’re an impressive side.
“There’s a lot more interest in the game and I think the standard of player in our leagues has definitely risen. It’s very tough to win the league and our run of titles becomes an incredible achievement, but we’re expecting to a fight to the end this time.”
Only Hibs have taken points from City this season, with Farmington’s narrow 1-0 defeat in April a highly-charged affair. Mark Nisbet set his team up to contain Glasgow and succeeded for much of the contest, but Christie Murray’s strike settled matters in fortuitous fashion.
Booth is clear on what he wants to see from his charges tomorrow – take their chances, or they could be in for one of those famous dressing-room rollockings.
“We created numerous chances against Forfar in the league but I was a little bit disappointed by those we spurned,” he said. When you play against a side who are organised, strong, athletic and hard to break down it’s important you take those chances especially early in the game. We didn’t have that clinical edge and we were wasteful – that’s something we need to make sure we put right.”
As the energy behind Scottish women’s football, SSE are dedicated to supporting Scottish women’s football from grassroots through to elite level. For more information and what SSE does for women’s football visit sponsorship.sse.com.