I arrived at Garscube Sport Complex on 7 November with the cold wind cutting through my body, but my excitement about reporting on another sporting match warmed me up. I was there to watch the Glasgow University Men’s Rugby Football Club take on Robert Gordon University Rugby Club. Glasgow’s third team were set to face the Aberdonians’ first XV, but when I showed up they were all standing at the halfway line, taking turns of kicking the ball in between the goal posts from distance, and having a few cans at the same time. I thought that perhaps this was a way of deciding who started with the ball (I have only seen one rugby match live before, and I showed up late).
After fifteen minutes of this I was confused as to why the game hadn’t started, so my girlfriend took it upon herself to ask one of the players. It turned out the referee hadn’t showed up, so the game was cancelled. I felt bad for the Robert Gordon players who had trekked the whole way down, only to see the game called off. Although I was disappointed, I decided to be proactive and made my way up the hockey pitch.
Glasgow University women’s 3rd XI were up against Aberdeen’s 1st XI in a cup tie. GU knew that this would be a challenge for them as their opponents play in the division above them. The hosts had been doing well by the time I arrived (just before half time) and a potential upset looked possible. The manager, Greg Bond, seemed dedicated and tactical. He had a white board to explain his game plan to the team and was positive in his half time team talk. As the second half started Glasgow looked to continue their good form of the first half and try to nick a winner. Unfortunately, Aberdeen didn’t give me the names of their players, so they will simply be referred to by their numbers.
There wasn’t much action soon after the restart, as both sides cancelled each other out. Aberdeen had more of the possession, but the home team defended valiantly, often intercepting the ball at vital moments. On 44 minutes Glasgow’s Victoria Hamilton found herself one-on-one and managed to round the keeper, but a Dons defender managed to put in a last-ditch challenge to keep the game at nil-nil. This was the only real event of the first twenty minutes of the half, until Aberdeen won a penalty corner. Penalty corners are taken 10m from the side of the goal, with five opposition players trying to block the goal. The ball is put into play by the attacking team to a teammate who is outside of the shooting circle. On this occasion, the ball was cut back to Aberdeen’s No35, but her shot was blocked bravely.
The visitors really started piling on the pressure now. No35 set up No8 for a shot from wide left that was saved well by Glasgow keeper Ciara Athawes. No101 fired a shot into the corner which Athawes parried, No60 picked up the rebound and cut back to No101 who had a precise shot into the top right corner saved acrobatically by Athawes. A few minutes later the Aberdeen No106 was free in the box but shot wide and No9 had a shot blocked in front of the goal by Jenna Morrison. The travelling side still couldn’t break the deadlock, and with two minutes to play the home team broke up the park through Victoria Hamilton, who had been their biggest attacking threat of the match. She dribbled strongly through the middle and set up Lucy Pratt whose shot was saved by the advancing Aberdeen keeper. It had been an eventful, yet sometimes scrappy, game, which would have to be decided by penalty strokes.
Kirsten Fraser scored the first penalty for the Glaswegians, while No9 for Aberdeen struck off-target to the left of the goal. Despite a touch from the goalkeeper, Sophie Highet converted Glasgow’s second and No101 did the same for the visitors. Victoria Hamilton missed, hitting the post and No106 evened the scoring. Sarah Hanley finished coolly for Glasgow, while No35’s miss for the Dons gave the hosts an opportunity to progress. Jenna Morrison’s shot was tame, though, and No3 for Aberdeen equalised. Now at sudden-death, the penalty takers had to go again, with Fraser’s attempt being saved. Despite missing her earlier penalty, No9 showed no signs of nervousness as she calmly struck the ball home to give Aberdeen the victory.
Despite the loss, Glasgow captain Kirsty Jack was optimistic: “Going into this fixture as the underdogs against Aberdeen University 1st XI, who play in the league above us, we knew it was going to be a challenging game.
“The team played fantastically well together and held Aberdeen to a 0-0 draw at full time. Unfortunately, penalty strokes would decide the winner and Aberdeen won 4-3. I am immensely proud of the team; each player gave it their all and we played some of the best hockey we ever have.”
I got quite animated from the side-lines towards the end of the game, as I willed for Glasgow to score a goal. During the penalty strokes I felt every shot and every save, as if I were in the game myself. I was proud to be supporting my university, and proud to be reporting on the match at the same time.