National Competitions (606)
This week’s SPFL Development league fixtures saw Hibernian retain their advantage at the top of the table - thanks to an Oli Shaw hat-trick, Falkirk climb over several sides into 3rd place, and Inverness reduce their deficit at the bottom of the league table – amongst other highlights.
The standout fixture of this weekend was undoubtedly at the Excelsior Stadium, as Partick Thistle welcomed Hibernian in a top-of-the-table clash, with Thistle breathing down the neck of the Edinburgh side in 2nd place. Despite the pressure on the Hibees going into this fixture, they produced a performance worthy of title challengers, scoring three without reply, with all of the goals coming courtesy of Oli Shaw, who has already impressed on numerous occasions in this campaign.
A convincing win for Grant Murray’s side, against a Partick outfit who look set to run them close throughout the season, and sit in 3rd place.
One of the most crucial fixtures of the week saw a rock-bottom Inverness side travel to play Dundee, who themselves weren’t far from bottom spot going in to the game. Caley knew that a win would at least bring them closer to escaping the foot of the league table, while Dundee could push themselves further up toward the top half of the table. What followed was a tight affair; eventually settled by a Jamie Wilson goal 30 minutes from time, to hand Inverness a narrow win, but a crucial one nonetheless.
A frantic last 20 minutes at Cappielow Park saw Celtic grasp a point against Hamilton Accies in injury time. It took 70 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and it came in favour of Accies, as Lewis Ferguson opened the scoring for the visitors. The celebrations proved to be short lived, as it only took a matter of two minutes for Celtic to grab an equaliser through Donnelly. A bit like London buses, you wait all day for a goal, and then two arrive in quick succession.
Hamilton looked to have snatched all three points with ten minutes remaining, when Marc Kelly grabbed the goal which appeared to be decisive. However, a late onslaught from the Hoops paid off in injury time, as Jack Aitchison brought the scores level with seconds to go, a dramatic ending to a game which had struggled to inspire up until the first goal. Celtic remain in 8th, whilst 4th place Accies rue a missed chance to climb up to 2nd.
The side who did finish the Tuesday fixtures in 2nd place was Alan Maybury’s Falkirk side, who recorded a professional 2-0 win against St Mirren at the Falkirk stadium. In a victory, which could have been of a greater margin, it was Scott Sheperd who provided the goods for the Bairns. His double secured all three points for the hosts, with the goals coming in each half. Four games unbeaten in a row for Falkirk now, who sit a mere two points behind Hibernian in the table, with a game in hand.
The final fixture of Tuesday's round of games saw a struggling Kilmarnock side take on Dunfermline at Kelty. The Pars opened the scoring through a Joe Cardle penalty, and it took until the 55th minute for Killie to grab their equaliser through Bojaj. A fair result in an even game, which leaves Dunfermline in 7th place and Kilmarnock just two points from bottom in 14th place.
Usually close of play Tuesday is the end of the week's SPFL Development League action, but this week five more ties took place in the latter stages of the week.
On Wednesday a young Hearts team were beaten 2-0 by the visiting Aberdeen side; Ross County returned to second place with a convincing win over Dundee United; and Motherwell were 2-1 victors over Rangers. The result wasn't enough to see Well climb from their sixth place position, but they are only four points off the top of a tight top end of the table.
The week was wrapped up with two further games on Friday. Celtic made up some ground on the leading pack with a solitary strike earning them a hard fought 1-0 victory in Inverness. Then, the small matter of the Dundee derby, which saw Dee and United share six goals and stay side by side in 12th and 13th place respectively.
For the first time since 1998, Scotland has been awarded the right to host an international football tournament; the 2019 UEFA Women’s Under 19s European Championship finals, after a UEFA meeting in Nyon. The tournament, set to be hosted by Northern Ireland next year, will be the first UEFA organised final in Scotland since the UEFA Cup final in 2007, which took place at Hampden Park.
The last time Scotland hosted a UEFA tournament was in 1998, when the UEFA Under 16 European Championship took place. The final took place at McDiarmid Park, with Fir Park and Forthbank Stadium amongst the other venues used.
The tournament, which was eventually won the Republic of Ireland, featured sides such as Italy and Spain, who finished as runners up and third place respectively. Scotland, however, finished bottom of their strong group that year; and will be hoping for different fortunes when they host another European tournament in 2019.
The current holders of the competition are four-time winners France, who defeated Spain this summer in Slovakia – the third year in a row that Spain have fallen at the final hurdle.
Scotland are no strangers to this tournament, as they reached the finals in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014; unfortunately, the group stage seemed to be a level too far, after failing to progress to the knockout stage on each occasion. Hopefully, within their home nation, Scotland can go one step further in 2019.
The current WU19 qualification campaign has been a successful one so far, with Scotland finishing second in their group, behind Serbia and progressing to the elite round, where they will play Ireland, Ukraine and Finland in a bid to reach the finals next year. Scotland go into the Elite Round in strong form, having comfortably seen off Albania and Cyprus 11-0 and 8-0 respectively in the group stage.
Having reached the Elite Round for the last two years in a row, it could be a case of third time lucky for Scotland, who will be hoping that Chelsea's latest recruit Erin Cuthbert, who is their top scorer so far with five, can produce the same form that she displayed in the earlier stage. The defence is also yet to be breached, with Rebecca Flaherty keeping clean sheets in both of her appearances so far.
Looking ahead at the 2019 event, a number of the current batch of WU17 players (pictured, above) could take centre stage. They impressed at the recent qualifying round held in Edinburgh, coming second behind France to quality for an Elite Round of their own.
Promising signs for Scotland so far, and they will be hoping to carry this all the way into 2019, when they host the UEFA Women’s Under 19s European Championship.
Lewis United Youth gave their supporters an early Christmas present by getting themselves into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup after a 3-2 victory over Gartcairn Football Academy.
Robert Ward gave Lewis the lead after 27 seconds with Murray Esson and Blair McKenzie also getting on the score sheet for the hosts.
Lewis coach Neil Esson shared his thoughts on the game by saying "It's a great achievement for us reaching the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup quarter-finals and it's the 2nd year in a row we have done it and the boys have done well and I thought they were fantastic today against a good Gartcairn side that played good football and I thought 3-2 was a fair result.
"There was a couple of the Gartcairn players who lost a bit of discipline, our boys kept their discipline and managed to win the game.
"We've had a couple of funny results and apart from one game the performances that the boys have put in have been fine, we've had a few injuries and a few illnesses and these last two weeks are the first time we've fielded the same starting XI, we aren't going to panic and when the boys play good football then we are a good side."