The St Andrews men’s 1st football team entered their game against Aberdeen’s 1st team on a high. Leading the BUCS Scottish 2A league by three points and unbeaten in all competitions since the end of September, the home side would surely have been confident of beating the Aberdonians despite their opponents similarly strong record in the league. Aberdeen sat third in the league going into the clash, themselves having not tasted defeat in nearly a month.
St Andrews started with the conditions against them. Playing into a typically icy Scottish gale and with the setting sun blazing in their eyes, the Saints began proceedings. The first few minutes showed much of what was to come, with Aberdeen, in their characteristic red kit, moving the ball well and St Andrews, in blue, hitting hard on the counter-attack. Both defences held strong until a Saints counterattack down their left resulted in some schoolboy defending from the Aberdeen right back, who thought the ball had left the field of play and stopped. The St Andrews man, however, played to the whistle, and sent a scintillating cross into the area, where it took some fine keeping to prevent either of the home side’s two shots from finding the back of the net.
The next few minutes were dominated by some fine long ball play from both sides, with Aberdeen making good use of the strong breeze at their backs for the first half to send their forwards behind the St Andrew’s back four. However, from one of the resulting corners, a poor cross allowed the Saints to break out and would have put one of their strikers one-on-one with the keeper if only the pass through to him had been just a tiny bit lighter.
This proved to be the best chance of the half for the home side, as the visitors began to move the ball on the floor once again. Some intricate passing play down the Aberdeen left flank resulted in a dangerous free kick only 30 yards from the St Andrews goal. The attempt on goal, however, sailed harmlessly over the bar and the deadlock was maintained. It was not to last, however, as another fine passing move from the Aberdonians breached the Saints defence, resulting in a simple chance which was duly converted. Aberdeen took the lead in the 32nd minute of the game.
Having scored, Aberdeen sat back for the rest of the half, resulting in rather a lull in proceedings. Ten minutes before the break, St Andrews were the beneficiaries of the referee awarding a rather soft free kick near the edge of the Aberdeen D. Unfortunately for the home side, the goal kickers in the rugby game on the pitch over looked on in envy as the ball flew high over the crossbar. The half time whistle blew at 1-0 to the visitors.
The team talks at the break seemed to have the greatest effect on St Andrews, who were powerful in attack after the break. Two minutes into the new half, they gained a corner, which was dealt with well by a steadfast Aberdeen defence. Now it was the visitors who were on the attack, and it took a stunning save from the Saints keeper to prevent the advantage from being doubled. They couldn’t keep him out of the action for long either, as he sent a regulation free kick from his own half dangerously close to the head of a charging St Andrews striker in the Aberdonian area. But for a gust of wind, which was now assisting the home side following the change of ends, the match might have been levelled there.
It was not to be, but it was not long before an even better chance presented itself. Just two minutes later, a St Andrews forward was brought down inside the Aberdeen penalty area and the referee duly obliged the home side their spot kick, despite the protestations of the Aberdeen players and supporters. Luck was on the side of the visitors, however, with the Aberdonian keeper making yet another fine save low to his right.
The home side had the Aberdeen area under siege following the spot kick as a strong shot from distance was denied by another stellar save from the man between the posts. The siege was to be broken, however, as from the corner that resulted the Saints men rose higher than their opposition and headed home to level the scores at 1-1. The equaliser came in the 61st minute of the game.
It was now the turn of the Saints keeper Alec Cadzow to show his class, as, following the restart, the visitors launched a swift counter attack, resulting in a seemingly easy chance from mere feet away from the St Andrews net which was miraculously saved. It would not be the last piece of action he would see either, as it was Aberdeen’s turn to threaten scoring. A 35-yard free kick was wasted yet again by the visitors, and it took a poor clearance by the Aberdonian defence to allow a chance for the home side, with a chipped shot just drifting over the crossbar of the Aberdonian goal. It would be Aberdeen though who would have the best chance to re-take the lead, with a direct free kick finally being well utilised from 4 yards from their left by-line. A deadly cross was sent in, and only the fingertips of Cadzow prevented the resulting header from bulging the net rather than shaking the bar.
Despite this, the home side rallied and it was them who were on the front foot as the minutes ticked away. The St Andrews attack failed to convert an easy chance in the 83rd minute, with a poor shot letting off the keeper in a one-on-one situation. The final chance for the home side was a wild shot from well outside the area which drifted well wide of its target, and the final whistle blew with honours even at 1-1.
Both sides should be happy with their performances, since the game was hard fought and the quality of the football played was, for the large part, pretty high, and it took some excellent goalkeeping to deny both sets of attackers on numerous occasions. St Andrews face an away fixture at Heriot-Watt for their next game, the final one before Christmas, and they will hope to remain unbeaten.