Rangers Ladies progressed through to the third round of the SSE Scottish Cup after a 2-1 win over Aberdeen in extra time.
The result came in spite of Rangers having to play with 10 players for almost 40 minutes as goalkeeper Joanna Viollaz was sent off. Clare Gemmell was the hero with two goals to send the Bluebelles into the draw for the next round.
It was a slow start for the Rangers and the passing was uncharacteristically slack for a team who usually move the ball about so well. However, it was to be the home side who opened the scoring.
Rachel O’Neil sent a long free kick over the Aberdeen defence and set up the oncoming Gemmell. With Emily Mutch running out from the Aberdeen goal to collect the ball, Gemmell composed herself to loft the ball over Mutch’s head and into the goal. A superb finish.
Rangers would have hoped that the goal would settle the team down and lead to more, after the previous meeting ended in a 4-1 win for Rangers. However, Aberdeen were clearly out for revenge and almost equalised immediately as looping header hit off the bar.
With time ticking down in the half Rangers were unable to take their lead into the break. It was a fantastic strike from Chloe Fitzpatrick as she struck a volley from 25 yards into the roof of the net. Viollaz was helpless in the Rangers goal as the ball flew over her head and just under the bar.
Rangers improved in the second half as they came out looking to restore their lead. The best chance of the half fell to Hayley Sinclair. Lisa Swanson picked out Sinclair with a well timed through ball, Sinclair cut inside but her shot rattled the bar before going out.
As the game remained level and extra time looked likely, disaster struck for Rangers. Viollaz was forced to come rushing out her goal to stop Shannon McGregor. Viollaz mistimed her tackle and took out McGregor leaving the referee no choice but to brand a red card. A cruel end to the Viollaz’s debut.
With no substitute ‘keeper available to Rangers, Jenna Clark picked up the gloves. Clark is well known for her versatility in defence and midfield, she can now add goalkeeper to her CV as she was immediately called into action by saving a free kick.
The game went to extra time and the home side would have been expecting Aberdeen to come out strong. It turned out that way as the visitors hit the post after a fast break. That was as close as the Dons would get to beating Clark.
Amy Muir came agonisingly close to restoring Rangers lead with a superb free kick. Mutch got the slightest finger tip to Muir’s shot to push it past the post.
The breakthrough goal came from the resulting corner. Muir put in a delightful ball for captain Gemmell to head home her second goal of the game. With the goal coming early in the first period of extra time, Rangers still had to put a shift in to defend their lead.
O’Neil, Terri Donnelly and substitute, Chelsie Watson put in a tireless shift in the heart of the defence. Hannah Cunningham at left back, had a great game both in defence and as support to the Rangers attack.
Lauren Davidson worked hard as the solo striker to run down the clock and put pressure on the Aberdeen defence. Stand in ‘keeper Clark was reliable when called upon coming out to collect crosses with confidence and diving at the attackers’ feet.
Rangers stood firm and held out to progress through to the next round. Their was much relief and jubilation at full time as this side’s character shined through once again.
Next up, Rangers face Spartans next Sunday as they return to league action. The match will take place at New Tinto Park with kick off at 2pm. Admission will be £5 for Adults, £2 for Concessions and kids go free.
Report: David Marshall
Picture: Rangers FC