This past Wednesday saw the launch of the Saints Sport’s new ‘Wednesday Night Lights’ initiative. Part of new AU President Ben Peddie’s manifesto, the nights are designed to replicate the American college set-up of Friday night games under the floodlights with pitchside drinks, food and music.
Despite a big advertising campaign by the Saints Sport team through their social media accounts, with almost 200 people registering interest on Facebook with the event, the attendance was definitely below expectations and to be quite frank, the event failed in its remit to create the desired atmosphere. No food was available and the music was only played for about five minutes before the live action began. Drinks were available and there was quite a good selection available but the potential was there for the external atmosphere to be better than it was.
Several more Wednesday Night Lights events are planned throughout the year with different sports being featured and therefore it will be interesting to note whether the clear lessons to be learned from this debut will be implemented going forward.
The action itself was from the BUCS Scottish 1A women’s football division, with the St Andrews women’s team hosting a rematch of their varsity encounter with the University of Edinburgh. St Andrews had begun their season the week before with a 3-2 victory away to Robert Gordon, whilst Edinburgh were unbeaten through their opening two fixtures, scoring eight goals and conceding none in victories over Glasgow and Edinburgh 2s.
The first half was low on chances but it was Edinburgh that went into the break with the lead, thanks to an outstanding long range strike on the half hour mark. Neither side had really been able to establish any rhythm during the opening 45, with the majority of the Saints’ attacks being limited to hopeful punts down the pitch that were met with no reward. Saints did have two claims for a penalty waived away towards the end of the first period. The first claim was a little weak but the second incident, just on the half-time whistle definitely seemed like a stonewall penalty. A long throw found Sarah Stachelscheid in the area, who turned her marker before being taken out. The Saints coaching staff seemed up in arms about the decision to not give anything, as did many of the fans in attendance, but the referee waived play on and soon after that the half was over.
The opening couple of minutes of the second half mirrored a trend shown towards the end of the first period – that the Saints players were becoming more and more comfortable with themselves and the opposition and their play had become more grounded and spells of possession were lasting for longer. However, that improvement in performance was for nothing though as Edinburgh scored their second goal after 49 minutes. Some good dribbling from the Edinburgh number 9 saw her get past the full-back, before squeezing her shot under the St Andrews keeper, Mikaela Asholm.
St Andrews had a great chance with about 20 minutes left on the clock, with the initial shot by Gibbs McKinley saved by the Edinburgh keeper, with the rebound somehow deflected behind for a corner. Sensing that there was the chance for them to get something from the game, the Saints switched their formation to 3-4-3 for the final 10 minutes. Its immediate impact, however, was to create more space for Edinburgh who would soon add a third. They found width on the St Andrews right, putting a cross into the area that Rebecca Mitchell inadvertently hacked into her own net for an own goal.
St Andrews really deserved something from the game, the competitiveness of which is not reflected in an incredibly harsh scoreline, and they almost grabbed a consolation with five minutes to go but Gibbs McKinley saw her strike cleared off the Edinburgh line when she looked certain to add a goal to an impressive performance. That was not to be and the game ended 3-0, a result that keeps Edinburgh second in the table behind Stirling, whilst it keeps St Andrews 4th.
Overall, I would deem the event a mixed success. The live sport on offer was captivating stuff, despite the noticeably chilly temperatures, but the external atmosphere that they aimed to create was lacking. Saints Sport have got some great ideas for this year, but the execution on this one was lacking and will need to improve in future if they want it to succeed.