Sunday 30th March 2014 ko 12.00
Scottish Women’s Premier League
RANGERS 2 (Sneddon 20p Mulvey 55)
CELTIC 1 (Jones 11)
Att 79 at Petershill Park, Glasgow (Petershill JFC)
To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how to approach this game. On one hand it was a women’s game, not known for being high profile in the UK, but it did involve Celtic and Rangers with all the sectarian idiocy that fixtures between the two clubs attracts. I pondered my attire, would that red Neilston scarf bought the previous day attract unwanted attention, would my SLR camera be allowed in, and would there be a sizeable police presence?
The answer was clear when we parked up at the ground, no security, and in truth very little to suggest anything high profile at all. Not even the turnstiles were open, just access through the main entrance to the complex with a table to count the monies. In fact the staff were far more concerned with making sure those of with cameras filled out an application to take pictures. Not a problem, but since there was no means on a Sunday of checking our credentials, one wonders how the request could have been declined?
Already there was Vince Taylor, the editor of the excellent Groundtastic magazine, and he pointed out the remains of Petershill’s old ground also called Petershill Park just beyond the left-hand goal. They moved into the new ground in 2007, and its 3G pitch is made ample use of, being home also to Junior outfit Rossvale and well as Glasgow City Ladies, and Rangers Ladies. Given that last tenant, I was pleased to see a poster up in the café for help for those who lost relatives in the Clutha Bar helicopter tragedy, a bar notable for its Celtic connections. In fact one of the Celtic players on show lost her father, so it was good to see tribalism put aside for the greater good.
The ground will not excite the groundhoppers, its 500 seat integral stand and hard standing elsewhere, no doubt written off as dull, but is serves an important purpose. As I hid from the wind, the previous booking, a children’s training session vacated the pitch, and after the game, there was a girls’ game ready to play straight afterwards. Yes, its no Neilston or Benburb but any facility that gives young people the opportunity to live healthy lifestyles should be applauded. I’d have killed for a place like Petershill Park when I was growing up.
Other than the surroundings there was the chance to see probably the best female player the UK has ever produced, Julie Fleeting. Its difficult to distil the Scot’s achievements in one paragraph, but perhaps the most striking is her strike rate in internationals, a quite astounding 116 goals in 120 appearances. She’s played for the likes of Ayr and San Diego but really made a name for herself at Arsenal winning the Premier League 7 times in succession from the 2003-4 season, winning the UEFA Cup in 2006. She’s spent since 2013 playing for Celtic, and remains a true icon of the women’s game.
Except on this cold, windy afternoon is didn’t happen for her, or her teammates. Despite taking an early lead through a Rhonda Jones’ header, Rangers coped far better with the wind, and kept the ball on the pitch. Megan Sneddon equalised from the penalty spot after Amanda Traynor had been tripped. The second half continued in much the same vein; Suzanne Mulvey saw her snap shot tipped on to the bar by Gemma Fay, but Mulvey was to get her name on the scoresheet, meeting a cross on the half-volley to give Fay no chance.
It was a decent game if less high-profile than expected, to finish our weekend. Soon enough we crossed over the border and on to the M6. As we passed the turn-off for the M62 we saw the signs, “For the Hillsborough enquiry follow signs for Manchester,” It was a salutary reminder that at one time the choice to attend a football match was not a straightforward, nor safe one.