A sense of excitement and expectation enveloped the Falkirk Stadium as kick-off of the Senior Girls Shield Final approached on Friday evening. The opportunity to grasp silverware is one that all young footballers aspire to and 2015’s final promised to be an entertaining spectacle with both sides notching twenty goals or more en route. Graeme High School traveled to Dingwall as they ousted 2014’s winners Nicholson Institute 1-0 in the Semi-Final, while Bathgate Academy despatched Glasgow’s Williamwood High School to secure their place.
The encounter opened in tense fashion as both teams ultimately realised there was a lot at stake and were determined not to allow a lapse in concentration to damage their chances of taking home the Shield. Graeme High School were the first to register an effort on goal in the third minute when Kim McAlpine demonstrated her quality with an enterprising turn on the edge of the Bathgate penalty area but her shot was held comfortably by goalkeeper Lauren Brown. Bathgate responded within five minutes by driving up the field and drawing a foul thirty yards from goal. Kirstie McIntosh whipped in a dangerous cross from the left but Graeme High did well to defend as a unit and nod the ball clear for a corner.
It would not take long for the deadlock to be broken, however, when in the ninth minute during a Graeme High attack the ball bounced loose in Bathgate’s penalty area. Zoe Young reacted sharply and showed strength to outmuscle her marker before prodding the ball into the net beyond the outstretched arm of Brown.
Bathgate Academy responded well, as they looked to get the ball forward immediately following kick-off, switching the play and opening up space. Graeme High recognised this and, as a result, began to press with intensity higher up the field. Winning the ball back in a dangerous attacking area with 17 minutes on the clock, Young’s pass found McAlpine who dinked a through-ball into the path of Claire Farquhar. The angle just proved too tight as Brown proved equal to the shot across goal. A minute following, McAlpine found herself released clean through on goal but Brown once again demonstrated her capability as a shot-stopper. This time narrowing the angle well before palming McAlpine’s strike to safety. Graeme High were looking for that second goal as they began to take charge in the middle of the pitch.
It would arrive in the 24th minute when a diagonal ball released Farquhar on the left. Controlling the ball with ease the midfielder bore down on goal and lashed the ball clinically into the roof of the net. A second goal meant that Graeme High’s confidence soared and this was evident when McAlpine sent a dipping long-range effort inches over the crossbar from 25 yards.
The midfielder really began to enjoy herself when on the 28-minute mark an exquisite turn in the opposition box afforded her the space to knock the ball back in the direction of captain Samantha Kerr on the edge of the box. Kerr was unfortunate to drill the ball just wide.
There was to be one more opportunity before the break and it fell to McAlpine once again as her darting box-to-box runs really proved to be a thorn in the side of Bathgate. Farquhar lobbed the ball in behind for McAlpine to pursue but Bathgate did well to force the innovative midfielder away from goal and keep the score at 2-0 going into half-time.