Ayr United Ladies 3 Renfrew Ladies FC 4
Renfrew Ladies clinched their first ever League title after a hard fought victory at Ayr United. The match had everything with seven goals, a penalty, and a wonderful last minute free kick winner from 30 yards.
Renfrew started with the same team for the third match in a row, knowing that one point would be enough to be Champions, and within the first minute Claire Rae had a chance to open the scoring.
She shrugged off the last defender, and bore down on the keeper, but her shot was the wrong side of the post. Ayr have had an impressive first season themselves and weren’t in any mood to make things easy for the league leaders. They forced Renfrew onto the back foot with an early corner which was scrambled clear.
Renfrew responded when Eilidh McDonald played the ball wide to Erin Gould, who cut inside before threading a though ball to Claire, but her first time shot was wide of the target. Both sides were doing their best to cope in the windy conditions, and it was the visitors who went close again when Claire tried one from edge of the box, but it was comfortably saved. With 10 minutes played Ayr had sight of goal when they were awarded a free kick just outside the box but it was easily collected by Sam McQuillian in the Renfrew goal. It was a good battle between two good sides and Sam was quick off her line to thwart another attack from the home side. It was looking like the teams were going to go in level at the break when the visitors struck with just five minutes remaining.
Eilidh stepped out of defence and drove down the left wing, evading a couple of tackles, before she was brought down in the final third of the pitch. Renfrew captain Janice McIntyre lined up the free kick from the corner of the box and struck a powerful shot straight over the keeper and into the top corner to make it 1-0. Renfrew almost doubled their lead in the dying seconds when Janice played in Claire who rounded the keeper, but she was forced wide and her shot hit the outside of the post.
HT Ayr United 0-1 Renfrew
After waiting so long for an opening goal, the equaliser came within a minute of the restart. Utd did well to work the ball wide and a first time cross was headed home from close range to make it 1-1. Renfrew tried to respond on the break but Ayr’s keeper was just ahead of Gail Hawthorn to deny the chance. The hosts then caused confusion in the Renfrew defence but with Sam out of position, their player shot wide of the target. They weren’t to be denied however and took the lead from the penalty spot in the 50th minute. Sam appeared to win the ball but also took out the Ayr forward, and after a successful kick it was 2-1 to the home side. Gail was then replaced by Sammy Jo Smith before Jane Murphy was booked for a heavy challenge. Sam saved well to keep the hosts from increasing their lead. Their tails were up and they were looking good for their lead.
Erin Gould made way as Natalie O’Neill entered the action. Just after the hour Ayr came close with a free kick from 30 yards but it flew just over the bar. Back came Renfrew and on 68 minutes they scored an equaliser. After Ayr failed to clear a Renfrew corner Lindsay Fitzpatrick crossed for Karen Baillie who held off her marker and played in Claire who made no mistake, her powerful shot making it 2-2.
Renfrew now piled forward looking for a winner and Karen tried one from distance but the keeper held on. Yet again Ayr broke and were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position. It was deflected off the wall for a corner. With 15 minutes left another great save by Sam kept the score level but from the resultant corner Ayr scored to make it 3-2. Almost from the kick off Natalie went forward but her cross/shot across the 6 yard box had no takers. Sian Francis replaced Lindsay as Renfrew threw everything forward to try and get level yet again. With ten minutes remaining their efforts paid off when Jane shot home from a corner to make it 3-3.
In the final five minutes the Ayr keeper had a wonderful save, touching Claire’s drive onto the bar. A draw, which would have been enough for Renfrew to secure the title, looked the likely outcome as the last few minutes approached. However Claire Rae had something to say about that!
Renfrew were awarded a free kick fully 30 yards from goal, and up stepped Claire to fire a magnificent shot straight into the postage stamp corner. It sparked wild celebrations on the pitch and the sidelines, and left Ayr deflated.
Despite their best efforts, Renfrew won and maintained their 100% record clinching the Championship with games to spare. The team fully deserve all the plaudits as they notched their 100th league goal of the season, but they know they were in a battle today.
Both sides were excellent and, on this showing, Ayr United will be contenders for the title in 12 months time. However Renfrew will be celebrating this evening and deservedly so. Well done to Aldo and Stevie, and the whole squad who have performed so well all season.
Renfrew- Sam, Jane, Debz, Eilidh, Lindsay, Lee, Janice, Erin, Gail, Claire, Karen
Subs used Sammy Jo, Natalie, Sian
Subs unused Emma, Sophie
Reported by Alan Liddell
Pic: Renfrew Ladies FC