Motherwell booked their place in the semi-final of the SSE Scottish Cup with a hard fought 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
The SWPL 2 champions are the only second tier side left in the competition, another fine achievement in what has been an incredible season for the Lanarkshire side.
‘Well boss Donald Jennow had to do without the services of Northern Ireland International Kerry Montgomery and the free-scoring Sammy Hare.
Both teams came out the traps attacking, hoping to set tone for the rest of the game.
Saints’ Rebecca McGowan had the first real chance of the match, with her early-hit shot heading for the bottom corner until Claire Johnstone got down well to make a strong save.
It didn’t take long for the Fir Parkers to break the deadlock, with the opener coming after just ten minutes.
Kirsty McLaughlin‘s deep free-kick found the head of Suzanne Mulvey inside the box, she knocked it on allowing former Scotland star Megan Burns to nip in between the defender and the keeper to bravely head home from close range.
Although ahead, ‘Well were forced to make an early change when Caitlin Russell went down with a suspected hamstring injury and was unable to continue. She was replaced by Lauryn Reside.
Ashley Nicolson came agonisingly close in the 30th minute when she got on the end of Hayley Cunningham’s corner, her glancing effort spun just wide of target.
At the other end, Saints squandered a great chance to level when Rachel Todd intercepted a slack pass, the striker dribbled all the way to the by-line but was unable to wrap her foot round the shot and it went out for a goal kick.
Just before the end of the half, another chance came and went for the Fir Parkers.
Kaitlyn Canavan broke free down the flank before putting in a great cross into the box. The home defence managed to scramble the ball away from goal, but only as far as the supporting McLaughlin, whose driven shot drifted past the post.
It was the hosts who started the brighter in he second half. Johnstone’s heroics in the ‘Well goal prevented Saints from squaring it up with just under a minute played.
McGowan caught the Motherwell defence napping, intercepting a loose pass before bursting through on goal unchallenged. She looked likely to net, but the ‘Well stopper stood up to the challenge and got down well to keep the lead intact.
With 55 minutes played, an unmarked Lesley Condie was just inches away from reaching Cunningham’s pinpoint cross as ‘Well looked to extend their advantage. However, Saints immediately broke on the counter attack, Ellie-May Cowie’s through ball fell perfectly for McGowan, but her weak shot was comfortable for Johnstone to collect.
As tensions rose and the game became scrappier, substitue Reside had a golden opportunity to put the game to bed. Finding space in behind the defence once more, she raced towards goal and, with only the keeper to beat, opted to try and take it round Rebecca Cameron in the Saints goal. However, much like her counterpart at the other end earlier in the half, the Saints stopper was up to the challenge and got a foot to the shot before the follow up was cleared for a corner.
With ten minutes to play, St Johnstone found another gear and upped the tempo as they chased the elusive equaliser. McDonald came close on two occasions when she found herself unmarked in the box, but was unable to convert as the women of steel held tight.
Despite the late Saints push, Motherwell dug deep to win the game and book their place into the last four of the SSE Cup, with Burns’ eighth goal of the campaign proving to be the difference.
Motherwell will face either Glasgow City, Hibernian or Spartans in the semi-final at Forthbank Stadium on Sunday 14 October.
Photograph: Stuart Cowper