Kilmarnock Academy went undefeated last year en route to a successful campaign. However, I think a change in coach as well as many talented girls leaving school had seen Kilmarnock feeling a bit shaky, and the finishing was not great. Carrick were not playing badly, and had defended well, but in order to win the game without the intervention of a penalty shoot out, they had to venture further forward in terms of attack.
And that is precisely what they did, switching to a 4-4-2, they brought on Alayna Dalglish at centre midfield moved Chenelle Hiddlestone up top.
They won a corner straight away, and Lauren Smith's pinpoint cross found Hiddlestone, but her header went narrowly wide.
Kilmarnock then went up the field, Kyra Smith outmuscled the defence and let rip from twenty five yards, but Davies was equal to it.
Consequently, Davies' long ball found its way to Miller, who stepped inside beautifully and executed a magnificent curling lob over the onrushing McLean into the net, leaving the former Scotland keeper no chance and sending her own side into raptures. 0-1.
Just moments later, everyone pitchside was left dumbfounded that Kilmarnock had not levelled immediately, with Davies producing three top drawer saves. Firstly, Hamilton's corner was deflected goal wards and the keeper parried before pouncing fearlessly at the onrushing forward's feet and clearing for another corner.
Hamilton's next corner was volley'd brilliantly by by Kyra Smith but Davies saved again from very close range. You could say she knew very little about the saves though!
Just like the goal moments before, Carrick counter-attacked swiftly. Goalscorer Amy Miller raced down on goal, twisted and turned away from Tagan Lawson and crossed for the onrushing Hiddlestone to side foot home from five yards out! 0-2.
That looked like it could have been the end for Kilmarnock Academy there and then. Hamilton soon limped off injured, and their shape had become non existent in the second half. Carrick, to their credit, had really stepped up a gear in the second half. They had so much more pride about themselves, and it was pretty clear there could only be one winner now.
The game didn't fizzle out their though. Firstly, Chloe Smith - identical twin with her strike partner Kyra - superbly controlled Lawson's high ball, and better still she layed off Johnstone into space for her to strike, but Davies again held.
Their was frustration coming out of everyone cheering on for Kilmarnock Academy, even their players lost it a little, perhaps bemused as to how they were two down. One overzealous Kilmarnock Academy fan even shouted that the Carrick Goalkeeper was better than Joe Hart, the under fire England goalkeeper - although that (coming from a Manchester City fan) stands for very little these days!
The twins linked up again moment later; Chloe layed Kyra off and just when you thought she could cap off an impressive performance with a goal she fired just wide. From here though, the last ten minutes were completely controlled by Carrick.
Smith won the ball high up and raced through on goal, and deliciously chipped McLean but sadly she also put the ball wide of the far post.
The striker was in again moments later but this time McLean slid the ball at Smith's feet. However, it appeared that striker left her boot in on the goalkeeper, and McLean she went down injured. I am sure this was unintentional, but the striker was still lucky that she escaped at least a yellow card by the lenient match official. Fortunately, McLean was soon fine and she was back on her feet in no time.
This did spark a response though, as the last eight minutes were played in a real aggressive - but fair - manner, with a few crunching tackles coming flying in from both sides. Oh, how I wish it could have been me back playing in those superb atmospheres and vibes!
Hiddlestone then had a couple of good chances to further Carrick's lead. The All Blue striker beat the offside trap well from a free kick, and just lobbed the ball wide of the goal. Then she was sent one on one with McLean who again stood her ground firmly and Hiddlestone fired wide.
The impressive Lauren Smith then had a golden opportunity to seal victory. She was played one on one again with McLean, and throughout the match the striker was coolness personified, but in the last moment she could not make it 0-3 and she poked wide in a flurry, rather than composing herself. She had been her team's only consistent performer throughout the match , chasing down balls as well as showing glimpses of great touches, and to be fair she really deserved a goal. That brought about the conclusion to an interesting match.
Both teams played well enough to win. Based on the match as a whole Kilmarnock will be both surprised as well as gutted not to have won handsomely, as McLean did not really make a save. In saying that though, Carrick were tremendous in the second half, they really pushed themselves and created chances, particularly in the last quarter of the game - they could have won by three, four or even more goals.
So what's next for both teams?
I hope Carrick take a confidence boost from this. They would have been underdogs going into this game, playing against a team that won so many games last year and still contains players playing with clubs, and yet they are the team that comes away with the result. That proves they can do it, and I wish them the best of luck for the future!
As for Kilmarnock, I hope they will see me again soon; at their next game I'd like to see them just slightly more composed in front of goal, and they could go on and win the cup or league this year. They will be feeling a bit luckless at the moment, with a key player in Kristiana Hamilton getting injured as well Hannah Davies saving everything that came her way - and when she couldn't, the crossbar did! However, I am sure they will return full of confidence for the next match, where hopefully I can bring you another report from! Again, I wish Kilmarnock Academy the best of luck for the future, and I hope to hear from them soon.
Finally, I really do hope that some of the girls today decide to join a competitive team. It is my understanding that not a single player today is attached to a club. I cannot believe that! Hopefully a few of the girls decide to pick football back up, or perhaps start playing competitively. The enjoyment, skill and enthusiasm from all twenty seven girls who played today was clear to see; and I am sure they could adapt to playing football week in week out no problem.