Cove Thistle 5 – 4 Old Aberdonians (AET)
Association Trophy Third Round on Saturday 21st January at Catto Park
Old Aberdonians travelled to Cove’s Catto Park knowing they would face a tough test against the Premier League side. The Abos lined up facing a strong wind and sleet showers but looked to have a well-balanced line up as they kicked off.
After some scrappy passing in the first few minutes the Abos were suddenly one goal down. A harmless Cove through ball seemed to be on its way into the hands of MacLeod but as he bent to collect the ball an unfortunate bobble saw it slip through his grasp. The alert Cove striker was left with a simple task to roll the ball into an empty net from five yards.
The Abos continued to try to stick to their usual style of football but perhaps should have adapted more quickly to the conditions. After some decent football they quickly lost possession leaving the back four exposed as Cove attacked down the slope. Rory Fraser appeared to have got himself into a position to clear the danger but the conditions and uncertainty again conspired to allow Cove to take a two goal lead.
The away side had almost exited the cup before they had even troubled the Cove keeper but despite the early setbacks the Abos began to force their way into the match. The midfield four secured more possession and Henderson and Wilson were beginning to trouble the Cove full-backs.
Despite this improved play another break away resulted in a third goal for Cove. After working the ball on to the left wing a quick shot skidded off the surface into the net via the near post taking keeper MacLeod by surprise.
The Abos had taken encouragement from some of the possession football they had played before the loss of the third goal and deservedly pulled a goal back just before half-time. More strong running down the right by Henderson saw space open up in the final third and he played the ball across the penalty area towards Murt. The ball fell slightly behind the striker but Wilson had joined the attack and drove the ball back across goal into the bottom right corner of the net to make it 3-1.
Despite the difficult first half the Abos sensed they were still in it and now had the advantage of the slope and the strong wind behind them. The game began to become scrappy as the referee’s youthful enthusiasm and inventiveness saw Cove’s number 18 booked for a dive in the Abos penalty area when most onlookers expected him to point to the penalty spot after a tug by Abo’s Bruce.
As the Abos began to control possession it was again Henderson who was involved in the build up to their second goal. After good work by Cameron and Ashton in midfield Henderson closed in on goal and as he went round the keeper he was tripped resulting in a penalty for Old Aberdonians. Ashton stepped up and calmly fired the ball into the net to give the away side hope as the game entered the closing stages.
Some more pressure for the Abos saw the ball fired across goal by Craig but there were no takers. An excellent drive by Ashton was then tipped around the post by the Cove keeper when the ball seemed destined for the net.
As the game entered the closing stages Clark replaced Craig and the Abos committed more men to the attack. This was rewarded with a few minutes remaining when the ball broke to MacArthur who struck a magnificent drive from fully thirty yards into the corner of the net to equalise the match at 3-3.
As extra-time kicked off Old Aberdonians’ commitment and work rate had taken its toll and having used all of their substitutes it was left to the same eleven players who finished the match to battle for a result.
Things looked up for the away side when more dissent from Cove’s number 5 saw him heading to the changing rooms early after he was shown his second yellow card. This seemed to fire up the remaining Cove players and a quick break away saw a clever through ball cutting open the Abos defence and a calm finish made it 4-3 to Thistle.
The Abos continued to battle for a result and this time it was Stewart Fraser who was rewarded for his excellent work rate throughout the match. As the ball broke to the striker at the edge of the box he calmly looked up, picked his spot and guided the ball into the top corner of the net with his left foot. An excellent goal to tie the match at 4-4.
There was little incident of note in the second half of extra-time and the game appeared to be heading for a penalty shoot-out as the Abos defence stood firm. Some pressure from Cove resulted in a number of corners which posed little threat but a lack of communication at the near post saw confusion at the front post. To the surprise and disappointment of the away side the ball bounced into the net giving Cove the vital goal for a 5-4 victory.
Old Aberdonians should be proud of the effort, commitment and teamwork that went into this competitive match against a team challenging for the Premier League but will be disappointed that several of the Cove goals came about after mistakes. The goals from MacArthur and Fraser should be kept in mind by the goal of the season judging panel at the end of the season.
Old Aberdonians – MacLeod, R Fraser, Craig, Good, MacArthur, Ashton, Henderson, Cameron, S Fraser, Murt, Wilson. Subs – Bruce (R Fraser), D Clark (Craig)