Harrison heroics and a Ewens double sees Spartans dump the Dons

Sarah01A double from Sarah Ewens and a series of top class saves from Rachel Harrison saw Spartans defeat Aberdeen in Sunday’s SWPL tie.

Spartans Manager Debbi McCulloch included Kirsty McLaughlin and Claire Crosbie on the bench, both returning to the squad for the first time since September 2013 due to injury.

Spartans kicked-off the game at the ironically named Sunnyside Juniors ground, with a breeze blowing towards Harrison and a Northern chill in the air.

The visitors were out the blocks fast and Kerry Montgomery worked hard to win possession in midfield before pushing the ball to Mason who couldn’t convert. At the other end, Stewart’s cross was deflected wide by Suzi Shepherd and Harrison had to look sharp under her own crossbar as she punched clear.

Flaherty in the Aberdeen goal was the busier of the two keepers, pulling off a brace of saves from Trish McLaughlin, including a top drawer save to deny the visitors the lead. That elusive goal however wasn’t long in coming. Sarah Ewens saw her first attempt blocked by her marker but the prolific goalscorer battled hard to carve out a second opportunity which she drilled low and hard into the back of the net.

Trish McLaughlin’s cross deep into the Aberdeen box almost saw Spartans double their lead however Steph Briggs couldn’t get enough of her head to the ball to direct it home. Fitzpatrick had a golden chance to pull things level with the half-time break approaching as she latched on to a defensive lapse but her shot went over high and wide.

HT: Aberdeen 0-1 Spartans

Alana Marshall’s cross-come-shot had Flaherty flapping early in the second half and the keeper had to look sharp to deny the same player minutes later when she tipped over a fierce strike from the edge of the box.

The game was turning into a fast flowing advert for end to end football and once again it was the heroics of Harrison to thwart the Aberdeen front line from getting back into the game when she saved from Stewart.

Two Spartans substitutes in quick succession drew warm applause from the travelling faithful on the side line. Claire Crosbie replaced Louise Mason followed by Kirsty McLaughlin taking over from Bobby Beveridge.

The game entered its final 10 minutes and Ashley Nicolson came on for Steph Briggs as Spartans looked to ensure Aberdeen found no way through.

That theory was tested once again when Stewart broke free into the box and yet once again, Harrison threw herself at the hosts No.8 who must have been wondering what she had to do in order to find a way past the in-form keeper. The icing on the cake came with 60 seconds of the match remaining.

Katie Reilly’s header through the heart of the Dons defence was seized upon by Ewens who composed herself before lobbing the advancing Flaherty to ensure that the 3 points returned to Edinburgh.

Final Score: Aberdeen 0-2 Spartans.

Goalkeeper Rachel Harrison was proud of the performance, “To come up to Aberdeen and secure a win whilst keeping a clean sheet is a fantastic result for us as they are a decent footballing side. “For me, yes, it’s great to keep a clean sheet but it’s also important to score at the other end as goal difference may well count when deciding our final league position at the end of the season.”

That importance at the other end of the park saw Harrison pour praise on Ewens, particularly for her calmness in securing the deciding second goal. “You always know when you put Sarah in that position that she is going to do something. I think every player was just about ready to go leap on her at the end. Sarah has been absolutely fantastic for us, not only this season, but ever since she joined us and we hope she can continue to score and reach her 100 figure soon.

“It was also great to see Bing (Claire Crosbie) and Cubes (Kirsty McLaughlin) back in action today. I know it’s been a long time in coming however everyone is really delighted to have two influential players pull on a Spartans shirt again.”