Match Report by Stuart Mitchell and photo via Spartans FC Women on Twitter.
Aberdeen fought back from a goal down to stun Spartans with a second half comeback in the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup 3rd round tie at Ainslie Park.
Spartans took a first half lead through Kaela McDonald-Nguah, but a quick-fire Dons double from Lauren Gordon and Chloe Gover stunned the SWPL 1 side and switched the lead into Aberdeen’s favour.
Spartans made two changes to the starting line-up that drew 0-0 away to Motherwell in the return of league action last weekend. Out went Stephanie Briggs, and Caley Gibb – moving to the bench with Dion McMahon and Rebecca Galbraith given starting spots.
Three changes to the Aberdeen starting line-up that returned with a 5-2 win against East Fife last week, as Carrie Doig, Natasha Bruce and Eilidh Shore came in to replace Kelly Forrest, Jessica Broadrick and Eva Thomson.
It was a soaking wet Ainslie Park due to the continuous heavy rain and thunderstorms over the country this weekend, and it was a slippy start from The Reds as they got away with a misplaced pass from goalkeeper Anna Blanchard within the opening minutes of the game, before Zoe Johnstone got an early shot away for the home side, to warm the goalkeepers hands.
Aberdeen responded playing some nice football in midfield with Bayley Hutchison and Lauren Gordon linking well with. Both having long range efforts on goal, but neither troubling Rachel Harrison in the Spartans net.
The visitors were starting to settle and play with a bit more confidence, but one little lapse in defence allowed the home side to take the lead. Tara McGonigle lifted the ball forward from the centre circle, Beth McKay tried a deft move to help the ball on, and Kaela McDonald-Nguah peeled away from the defence to stab the ball beyond Blanchard and give Spartans an early lead.
Aberdeen weren’t affected going a goal down, and continued to threaten down the right wing with Johan Fraser giving the home defence something to think about. Spartans, though, wanted another goal and Blanchard had to be alert when Rebecca Galbraith latched onto a through pass and brought a good save out from the Aberdeen keeper, but the flag was up for offside.
The Dons also threatened, as Chloe Gover charged down a clearance from the home defence. Lauren Gordon picked up the ball in the box with her back to goal and touched the ball back for Bayley Hutchison and she drilled a strike across the face of goal which went past the far post.
As the first half was nearing an end, Spartans looked to apply more pressure to the short distribution out to defence from goalkeeper Blanchard. Aberdeen gave the ball away at the back, but the resulting shot was harmlessly wide. Then, after a succession of corners for Debbi McCulloch’s side, her attack pounced again to put the visitors under pressure, but were unable to make it count.
As the game restarted after the break it looked as if Aberdeen had taken confidence from their first half performance. A cluster of corners were dealt with by the Spartans defence, before a deep free-kick from midfield caused trouble and Harrison had to rise at the front of her box to punch the ball out of danger.
With the game approaching the hour mark, Spartans introduced Michaela McAlonie into the game alongside Caley Gibb, who signed in the break from neighbours Hibs. Beth McKay and Tegan Reynolds made way, as Debbi McCulloch looked for an insurance goal.
The rain came battering down and minutes later, Spartans slipped up. Dion McMahon turned and casually played a loose ball back in her own half. Aberdeen’s Lauren Gordon stormed forward, chasing the ball all the way, in a race with Harrison charging out of her box. The ball bounced under the keeper, and Gordon composed herself to strike the ball into an empty net to deservedly level the tie.
The home side were hurt and went forward to find another goal, but the visitors were smelling blood. A long ball out right found Bayley Hutchison as Aberdeen broke forward and Spartans scattered back. The 15-year old cut inside and lifted a cross to the edge of the box. The ball bounced and the referee adjudged Michaela McAlonie to have handled the ball, and Aberdeen had the chance to turn the match on it’s head.
Up stepped Aberdeen captain Chloe Gover to glide the free kick into the bottom right corner, as Harrison could only watch the ball nestle in the net. The 20-year old continuing her impressive goalscoring form for The Reds, and the side top of SWFL Division 1 North were in the lead.
With Spartans now in need of a goal, spaces were opening up for Aberdeen to add to their lead. Eilidh Shore sent a delightful diagonal ball into the path of Johan Fraser and her angled shot was saved well by the right foot of Harrison, to keep her side in with the chance of getting back level.
As the game approached it’s end, the SWPL1 side were in need of an equaliser. Sarah Clelland sent in a cross from the right, the Aberdeen defence got a head to the ball, but it fell to Zoe Johnstone. She spun and struck a sweet left footed volley on the edge of the box, but Blanchard was able to push it over the bar. The resulting corner broke down and Hutchison picked up the ball in her own half for the visitors. She drove from the edge of her own box, with only Robyn McCafferty to defend. The Spartan did superbly to get a last minute tackle in to prevent a one-on-one.
Shannon Todd came on to help the hunt for an equalising goal, with Ronaigh Douglas going off, and she almost had an instant impact. McAlonie lifted a ball to Gibb on the right. She passed to Todd in the box, who cut the ball back brilliantly across goal to Zoe Johnstone on the edge of the six yard box. She drilled the ball back towards the bottom right corner, but Aberdeen’s Loren Campbell was in the right place at the right time to stop a certain goal.
Spartans sent everyone forward in the final moments of the game, but couldn’t create another clear opportunity thanks to the determined defending from The Dons. Aberdeen celebrated a wonderful win on the full-time whistle, putting their name into the last 16 of the SSE Scottish Women’s Cup, at the expense of this seasons SWPL Cup semi-finalists, and last season Scottish Cup semi-finalists.
The last 16 draw will be on Wednesday 14th of August LIVE on the Scottish Women’s Football social media channels.
Spartans: Harrison (c); McKay (McAlonie 55), Clelland, McMahon, Johnstone, Douglas (Todd 84), McDonald-Nguah, Reynolds (Gibb 55), Gailbraith (Anderson 69), McCafferty, McGonigle
Aberdeen: Blanchard; O’Riordan, Campbell, Ogilvie, Doig, Bruce, Shore, Gover (c), Gordon (Phillips 69), Hutchison, Fraser