Match report by Chris Marshall
An early Eilidh McHattie goal ensured that Aberdeen FCL would continue their fine start to the season en route to a 1-0 U19’s SHAAP National Performance League Cup Final victory over Heart of Midlothian at the Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility.
It was a second meeting in the space of seven days for the two sides following a 4-1 victory for the Dons in the league which saw them go top of the table whilst that first league defeat shouldn’t mask what has also been a strong start to the season for the Edinburgh side who currently find themselves just two points behind in third.
It would be the league leaders, who had to get past both halves of the Old Firm to book their spot in the final, that would start the quickest. Just a couple of minutes in good work from tricky winger Nadia Sopel saw her cross land at the feet of Bailley Collins whose 20 yard effort was well saved by a diving India Marwaha in the Hearts goal, with the the keeper managing to get both hands on the ball to parry it wide.
Four minutes later though Jockie Lawrence’s side were one up. After being awarded a corner midfielder Hannah Innes whipped a deep cross towards the back post where the ball would fall at the feet of McHattie, whose close range effort had enough behind it to get past the touch of Marwaha.
On the 13th minute though Aberdeen nearly gifted their opponents an equaliser as a short back pass saw goalkeeper Kirstin Pratt only able to drive her clearance against the chest of an onrushing Emma McFadyen but the striker was unable to get on the end of the rebound as the ball bounced wide of the post. McFadyen was proving to be the main outlet for the Jambos and it was another counter led by the attacker that created their next opportunity. After she and Dons keeper Pratt contested a 50/50 ball it rebounded out to Hearts winger Maisy Hathaway in the centre of the park but her effort towards an open goal from just outside the area would go inches over the bar.
That early goal was looking increasingly key as the game started to get scrappy with both sides struggling to maintain meaningful control of possession with a Lucy Horn header from a Hathaway corner the closest Hearts would come to getting an equaliser before half time.
The second half started in much the same way but it was the lack of urgency from the side co-managed by Greg Playfair and Ross McLaren that was perhaps the underlying narrative of what was in general a lacklustre second period. In fact it would be Aberdeen who would have the best of the chances as they looked to extend their lead. In the 56th minute Hearts’ stopper Marwaha did well to push a long range free kick from Innes skywards before smothering the ball on the line and she was again on the mark to deny both Collins and Sopel from the edge of the area, although in both instances the Aberdeen players would have wanted to test the keeper more.
It wasn’t until the fourth official indicated that there would be three minutes of injury time that the Edinburgh side would threaten the Dons goal as a run of corners ended in a goalmouth scramble featuring the majority of the players on the pitch but it would be the Grampian side who would manage to get the ball away and with that secure the first U19’s National Performance League silverware this season.
Aberdeen Head Coach, Jockie Lawrence: “It’s great considering where we have come from, the girls had no coach at the start of the season and I came in and we started from scratch. We weren’t expected to win any games and compete with some of these teams and so to be unbeaten in the league and to win a trophy by the end of June is a miracle but the girls have worked very, very hard. I can’t thank them enough for that, they’ve been brilliant.”
“Some of the girls were up at half past five this morning to come down today, and that might have showed a little towards the end, but that just shows how hard they work and again they’ve been brilliant.”
Hearts: Marwaha, Clark, Begg, Bain, Stevens, McFadyen, Denholm, Mooney, Horn, Hathaway, Gorman. Subs: Marriott, Mauriello, Yorkston, Hood, Gallagher.
Aberdeen: Pratt, Rogers, Collins, Broadrick, Whittingham, Sopel, McHattie, Innes, Cooper, Shand, Jones. Subs: Reid, Hewitt, Park, Dalgetty.