Aberdeen twice battled back from a goal down as they all-but clinched the SWFL1 North league title with a 2-2 draw against Cove Rangers at Balgownie.
Report: Mark Gordon / Image: Aberdeen FC
The point gives Emma Hunter and Harley Hamdani’s side an unbeatable points total at the top of the table and only a freak set of results would prevent promotion to SWPL2 at the first time of asking.
With a vastly superior goal difference they can start planning for life in the second tier of Scottish Women’s Football next year.
The Dons made three changes from the team that beat Raith Rovers 12-0 on Thursday night with Jessica Broadrick, Bayley Hutchison and Johan Fraser replacing Sophie Brown, Eva Thomson and Sophie Jamieson in the starting line-up.
Aberdeen knew before kick-off that a win would make them champions and they started the game in positive fashion as Fraser forced a corner in the first minute of the match which eventually came to nothing.
Fraser was again involved a few minutes later as she was fouled out on the right wing, Kelly Forrest was just unable to get on the end of Francesca Ogilvie’s resulting free-kick. Cove’s first attempt of the game came in the 7th minute as Melissa Stirling fired a speculative effort well wide of the target.
The home side had the bulk of the possession in a keenly contested first half where scoring chances were at a premium. Stirling fired a free-kick just over the bar for the visitors before the Dons had a seemingly strong penalty shout waved away as Hutchison went down the area as the sides exchanged attacks.
The Dons finally tested the keeper after a great ball in the 24th-minute from midfield by Eilidh Shore released Fraser on the right who cut the ball back to the edge of the box. Lauren Gordon gathered and fired a shot on goal which was well fielded by Cove keeper Samantha White.
Aberdeen came close to the breakthrough in the 31st-minute and Shore was again at the heart of the move. The midfielder once again found Fraser on the right-wing who cut inside a fired a shot just wide of the far post.
The hosts were then given a great chance to take the lead courtesy of a 35th-minute penalty. Gordon turned well on the edge of the area and as she made her way into the box and tried to shoot, she was impeded. Shore stepped up to take the penalty but saw her spot-kick crash back off the crossbar.
It was Cove who did get the games opening goal a minute from half-time.
There seemed little danger as the visitors were awarded a free-kick just outside the centre circle in the Aberdeen half. STIRLING had other ideas though as her long-range effort beat Anna Blanchard to give Cove the edge at the interval.
HT: ABERDEEN 0 COVE RANGERS 1
Aberdeen started the second half in positive fashion as they went in search of an equaliser. Loren Campbell linked up well with Ogilvie to force a corner in the opening seconds of the half.
An equaliser arrived in the 48th-minute and it was a spectacular strike which brought the Dons level. GORDON took a poor goal-kick on her chest 35 yards out before sending a dipping shot high over the helpless White and into the net.
The league leaders were buoyed by the goal and White had to be quick off her line to deny Fraser as they looked to go ahead in the game. Forrest then forced White into a save as she got on the end of a Gordon corner-kick.
Aberdeen were beginning to dominate the game as Ogilvie had a shot blocked and substitute Eva Thomson fired into the side netting just moments after coming on. Cove then took the lead against the run of play in controversial circumstances in the
Dons substitute Deirdre O’Riordan was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul as the ball came into the Aberdeen box and the referee awarded a penalty. The decision seemed to surprise even the Cove players but STIRLING stepped and buried her penalty into the bottom corner for 2-1.
The home side tried to rally immediately as Ogilvie had another shot blocked after being set up by Fraser. The game then entered a scrappy spell as both teams had two players booked in a five-minute period.
Cove’s Lynne Robertson was lucky to stay on the pitch after a wild tackle on Thomson after the Dons youngster was too quick for the visiting full-back on the touchline. Dawn Law of Cove and Aberdeen’s Forrest and Ogilvie all picked up cautions as the game heated up.
Shore passed up a great chance for an equaliser in the 81st-minute as she headed an Ogilvie corner wide of the target. The Reds finally got a deserved equaliser just three minutes later though as Shore made up for her earlier penalty miss.
The newly crowned Aberdeen Player of the Year picked the ball up in a central area around 25-yards from goal. SHORE moved to her right before unleashing a powerful curling shot into the net via the underside of the Cove crossbar.
The goal was no less than the hosts deserved and they tried to win the game late on as Thomson and Shore both had efforts on goal. Left back Judy Humber also made a goal saving block late on with an excllent piece of defending before a corner in the final seconds was headed just wide.
Despite that, Cove could’ve nicked it on the counter but for Campbell getting back to deny London Pollard.
The winner never arrived for either team as they shared the spoils for the second time this season following a 4-4 draw in Cove earlier in the campaign.
Carrie DOIG (Deirdre O’RIORDAN 65mins)
Natasha BRUCE (Eva THOMSON 58mins)
Johan FRASER (Sophie JAMIESON 82mins)
Subs not used: Sophie BROWN, Amy PHILLIPS
BOOKED: FORRST, OGILVIE
Nicola CAIRA (Judith HUMBER 46mins)
Lauren MASSON (Naomi LIND 67mins)
Subs not used: Samantha MCDONALD, Chloe LISTER, Kaitlyn MILNE
BOOKED: CAIRA, ROBERTSON
Emma HUNTER: “We always knew it was going to be really tough, we always knew that Cove would give it everything and that they would battle right to the end. We know they’re a threat and we thought it would be a scrappy game. We didn’t really get a hold of it and get control as much as we wanted to and I think we fell into the trap of making it scrappy and I just wish we had been better on the ball. We’re still unbeaten so we’ve got to look at that as a massive positive”.
Harley HAMDANI: “We know we’ve got that character in the team, we’ve been down a couple of times this season in big games and we’ve shown that character to get back and get what we needed from the games so I’m really pleased with that aspect. We know there is more in us and we want to go and finish the season strongly and remain unbeaten and win the remaining three games”.
TIMELINE LINE UPS
HOME TEAM SCORERS
AWAY TEAM SCORERS
Stirling 2 (1 pen)