Despite an improved second-half performance, St Andrews Women’s first team fell short to an Aberdeen side that took their chances well and frustrated the Saints throughout the game.
The Saints came into this game in great form: with three successive league victories in BUCS Scottish 1A, they sat second in the table. Unfortunately, Edinburgh University’s firsts had completed all their fixtures and secured the league title before Saints’ game at the Sports Centre took place. Edinburgh sit six points clear, boast a vastly superior goal difference, and have a better head-to-head record. A good season and the fight with Glasgow for the runners-up spot did provide Saints with the motivation to push for another victory, however.
Saints’ penultimate home game of the season took place on an unusually sunny and warm February afternoon. The favourable conditions didn’t help Saints at the start of the game as Aberdeen took a shock early lead. An impressive and wavy run from Aberdeen’s number 10 gave them enough space to smash in a left-footed strike from the edge of the box. This sensational run and finish meant St Andrews found themselves down a goal after only five minutes.
Aberdeen looked in good shape at the start of this game and moved the ball well in search of a second. However, Saints rallied and began working the wings with the right-hand side in particular, looking like the best way to get in behind the Aberdeen defence. After some increasing pressure, this would bring reward. Another pacey run on the right wing led to a ball across the box, finished well from close range and levelling the match. This would prove the high-point of Saints’ first half as Aberdeen began to control proceedings.
Resolute in defence and winning the midfield battle, Aberdeen pushed to restore their lead. Eventually, they would, with a long ball over the top being met by a surging run from the Aberdeen striker who slotted past an onrushing Saints’ goalkeeper. Things nearly got worse towards the end of the half. A defensive mix-up meant the ball spilled through and Aberdeen looked through on goal, only for Saints’ centre back to get back and clear away the danger. With Aberdeen 2-1 to the good, the whistle blew for half-time.
When these teams last met with St Andrews away from home, the Saints ran out 6-2 winners. This game was proving a far harder challenge and Saints needed to start the second half strongly. Fortunately, they took the initiative of the game early on and pushed Aberdeen back. Again working the wings, St Andrews were able to carve out some half-chances.
Saints would keep the pressure up and may have had a shout for a penalty, after one of Aberdeen’s defenders looked like they handballed in the area. The referee insisted the ball hit her chest, much to the dismay of the St Andrews’ coaches and players on the sidelines.
Saints were undeterred however as they pushed in search of an equaliser. Eventually, their superiority since the restart brought reward when Kate Little finished off well from a cut back. Saints had deservedly levelled the game with just over 10 minutes left in the match. The Aberdeen players looked visibly frustrated at losing their lead for the second time in the match. Saints pushed to take the lead but Aberdeen defended firmly and prevented such a breakthrough.
Much of the last 10 minutes was tight. A hard and dipping free-kick by Aberdeen was only denied by a fingertip save to put it over the bar. Saints also had a couple of efforts comfortably saved by Aberdeen’s keeper. It would be Aberdeen who struck though, this being the decisive effort. A great run from Aberdeen’s winger saw them cut inside and ride several tackles from the Saints defence before slotting in the winning goal. A good goal but one that put St Andrews behind once more. This time Saints were unable to come back, with only five minutes of normal time remaining.
A disappointing loss for Saints, particularly after a much improved second-half performance. Aberdeen ran out victorious after a strong first half and some clinical finishing. Saints do have one last game in the BUCS season, a big tie with Glasgow at the university sports centre. After this week, Glasgow leapfrogged St Andrews in the league so this crucial game will determine who will finish second to Edinburgh this season.