Spartans 1 Celtic FC Women 3 – Our POTY Charlie Wellings takes her season total to 36 goals scored

Spartans 1 Celtic FC Women 3 (Wellings (2), Larisey)

Away day travelling for Fran Alonso and his Celtic FC Women side concluded for this SWPL1 season with a visit to Ainslie Park this afternoon, where the Celts comfortably saw off mid-table Spartans, in an encounter, which after a fairly easy first half for Alonso’s troops, saw the game spring to life in a second half when Spartans momentarily became a real threat.

The Hoops still have two further league fixtures to conclude, against Hearts in midweek and a Glasgow Derby at home to theRangers next weekend, but in truth all roads now lead to Tynecastle for the Scottish Cup Final on Sunday 29 May, where the Hoops will be looking to repeat their win over Glasgow City in December’s League Cup Final to win a first ever Scottish Cup and complete a historic domestic double.

As such games like this afternoon, which may have otherwise suffered from an end of season malaise, instead act as three important dress rehearsals for the big one, and offer the chance for those established in Alonso’s side to maintain their form ahead of the Cup Final, meanwhile those on the fringes have three ties to ensure they put themselves in the frame for a starting spot for the showpiece event.

This one opened with Spartans having the first chance of the game, however, a free-kick attempt bothered the seagulls above Ainslie Park more than it did Rachael Johnstone in the Celtic goal, before Celtic created their first chance a minute later when Mengyu Shen sent Charlie Wellings through on goal only for the Celtic striker to uncharacteristically pull the shot wide of Harrison in the Spartans goal.

Charlie Wellings – Celtic Football Club. Photo Colin Poultney

Wellings then had a chance to make amends for the earlier miss after 15 minutes, when Bartle was found in space out wide and delivered a cross for Wellings in the box, however, the striker could only glance her header on the stretch wide of the target, before Harrison saved from a Jacynta drive that lacked the power or pace to genuinely trouble the ‘keeper.

Wellings was already getting too many opportunities for any side hoping to keep Celtic at bay, and so it proved when with 18 minutes on the clock Celtic’s top scorer finished coolly from a tight angle, with the ball trickling over the goal line after good build up play from Celtic, originating from Clarissa Larisey’s tenaciousness centrally in the build-up to the goal. A lot has been said this season of Jacynta and Charlie Wellings understanding, but it should also be noted Larisey and Wellings in a Celtic starting XI also leads to an impactful effect on proceedings.

Celtic then came close to extending their lead six minutes later, as a Liv Chance set piece found Caitlin Hayes, but the defender couldn’t direct the header downwards and the chance went abegging. But Celtic, with the benefit a goal gives to relax both bodies and minds, were now comfortably in control of this game without creating much in the way of meaningful chances on goal. Indeed, the only goalkeeper called into action following the goal came when Spartans sent a ball over the top which Rachael Johnstone covered well before needing treatment after a challenge from Spartans Katherine Smart.

The Celtic ‘keeper however recovered well enough to start off the Hoops best passage of play in the opening 45 minutes, as Johnstone picked out Tegan Bowie, who in turn found Clarissa Larisey on the front foot and the Canadian’s drive took her into the area where a clever cut-back then picked out Jacynta, who then produced a shot that deserved a goal but was equally matched by the save from Harrison in the Spartans goal.

That was the last chance of the first half as Celtic went in at the break a goal to the good, thanks again to Charlie Wellings as the striker hit the 35-goal mark for the season, and dominating the game to such an extent that more goals seemed almost guaranteed in the second half.

And Celtic – and Charlie Wellings – started the second half like they were seeking to end this as a contest in short order.

Firstly, after 49 minutes, Wellings drew out Harrison in the Spartans goal before picking out Jacynta, only for the resultant shot to clear the bar. And just four minutes later Wellings wasn’t up for passing the buck again, as from a Tegan Bowie cross, the striker controlled the ball, shifted onto her left foot and simply stroked the ball into the corner of the net – composure personified from Celtic’s ice in the veins forward and Celtic were 2-0 up and cruising – or so we thought.

Fran Alonso then took the opportunity a two-goal cushion gives to make a triple substitution, with Tegan Bowie, Chloe Warrington and Mengyu Shen making way for the introduction of Sarah Harkes, Izzy Atkinson and Cheyenne Shorts, just prior to Larissey being booked for a late challenge on Spartan’s Frew. And with 20 minutes left Spartans got back into things as substitute Sarah Clelland smashed home a superb finish into the bottom corner to get Spartans back into the game and half the deficit.

It wasn’t long however until Celtic restored their two-goal advantage, as within a minute of Spartan’s celebrations Clarissa Larisey made it 3-1.

Charlie Wellings (#21) of Celtic Women FC & Clarissa Larisey (#10) of Celtic Women FC during the Scottish Womens Premier League Cup Final match between Glasgow City FC & Celtic FC at Firhill Stadium, Maryhill, Scotland on 5 December 2021.

Sarah Harkes, very much trying to force her way into the starting line-up with a cup-final on the horizon, did her chances of doing so no harm at all, as after superb control in the middle of the park the American playmaker picked out Larisey’s run superbly and the forward ran in on Harrison in the Spartans goal before placing the ball beyond the ‘keeper to put the Hoops back in control and extinguish any brief hopes Spartans had of getting something out the game.

Larisey’s immediate reward for grabbing the goal was to find herself substituted, as both she and Jodie Bartle were hooked with 18 minutes left and replaced by Maria Olafsdottir-Gros and Annie Timoney. As Spartans, perhaps lifted by their goal, looked to make their mark it certainly made sense for Celtic to add the impetus of further fresh legs to proceedings, but Larisey can count herself unlucky to have been the one to make way.

With seven minutes left Charlie Wellings had the chance to score her hat-trick and put Celtic out of sight, but could only head into the arms of Harrison after a cracking delivery from Chloe Craig. Then, with two minutes left, Wellings looked to set up Olaffsdottir-Gros, but the Icelander found Harrison once again on hand to thwart Celtic’s efforts, as the ‘keeper denied the winger with and excellent instinctive stop and with it Celtic’s last real opportunity of the match.

Charlie Wellings thanks Clarissa Larisey following her goal vs Motherwell. Image Credit: Colin Poultney/Collarge Images

This was a slow burner of a game but one that developed into an exciting affair. Celtic had control of the first half without adding to Charlie Wellings opener, and that was always going to give an opponent, who had offered little threat in the opening period, hope in the second half.

Wellings second goal should have been enough to finish things but Spartans showed great spirit to get back into the game and Larisey’s well-timed third was a goal very much required to see Celtic over the line. However, both the win and the two-goal margin was very much earned by a Celtic side who remain in good form ahead of a midweek visit from Hearts, a Glasgow Derby next weekend and a Scottish Cup Final now visible on the horizon.

If Celtic can continue in this vein of form, they’ll be going into the Scottish Cup Final brimming with confidence, and this win over Spartans today was evidence the Hoops are very much in the winning groove at just the right time, as the Celts finished their away day travelling for this season with an excellent win in the capital.

And as for Charlie Wellings, how she was overlooked in the POTY voting is a complete mystery to us all at The Celtic Star, make no mistake she is our Celtic FC Women Player of the Year.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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