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Emma Hunter: Aberdeen Women must start year as they mean to go on – with three points and fans the priority

Aberdeen Women co-manager, Emma Hunter
Aberdeen Women co-manager, Emma Hunter

Aberdeen Women host Spartans at Balmoral Stadium in their first SWPL 1 game of the year and co-boss Emma Hunter hopes to pick up three points in front of plenty of fans.

The game will be the Dons’ first of the year after Covid halted last weekend’s Scottish Cup clash with Glasgow Women.

However, Aberdeen are raring to go again with almost a full squad at their disposal, with Jenna Penman the only expected absentee due to an ankle injury.

And while the squad is lacking game time, Hunter insists they have made up for lost time on the training pitch and her side are more than prepared for the clash with Spartans.

She said: “We’ve come through the worst of it now and everyone has recovered and been ready to train.

“It means we’ve got an extra session in and we’ve worked hard, so we’re excited to kick off the season and no better way to do it than at home at Balmoral.”

It will be the first time the Dons have played at Balmoral since October 31, with the last fixture being the SWPL cup quarter final defeat to Hibs.

Aberdeen Women’s biggest crowd so far this season came on the opening day against Celtic,  as 480 fans turned out for the match.

And with up to 500 fans able to attend on Sunday and full-capacity from Monday, co-boss Hunter hopes that people will feel more assured that it’s safe to go out and enjoy some football.

“We want to try and get as many fans there, it’s been difficult to try it and push that as much as we would’ve liked because of restrictions, but we’re going to try and build on getting more people coming to Balmoral and get as many fans there as we can,” Hunter added.

“It makes a massive difference and it inspires us as well, and that’s what it’s all about, is that people can come and enjoy the club.

“If you support the men’s team, come and support the women’s team because we’re one club in one city.”

‘An entertaining game’

Co-boss Hunter has teed the match up to be an entertaining one, as both teams seek to pick up a vital three points.

Spartans will come into match with some winning momentum after an 11-0 cup win last weekend, but Aberdeen will be confident there are elements of Spartans’ game that they can exploit.

Despite scoring 11 goals last weekend, attacking prowess is something that the Edinburgh-side have struggled with in the league, and have failed to score in six out of their 11 SWPL 1 games.

However, they shouldn’t be written off, as while they might lack fire power further up the pitch – Spartans have drawn the most games in SWPL 1 and have proved difficult to break down.

Hunter thinks that the teams’ differing styles in play should make the game more thrilling affair than their last meeting which ended 0-0.

She added: “It’ll be a really entertaining game and that’s why we want to encourage the fans. Both teams will think they can get the three points so it should be a good battle and a close game.

“What we need to do is try and get them out of their shape and we’ve been working really hard on those transitional moments to try and make sure that when we win the ball we can we be really assertive in attacks and making sure that when we get those opportunities, we’re taking them.

“If we can be disciplined at the back, we know we’ve got real quality up top and that’s our style of play – to be creative.”

Paterson calls for points and performances

After varying level of success in the top flight thus far, Dons defender Donna Paterson hopes that her side can “knuckle down” in 2022 and pick up more vital points in the second half of the season.

Dons defender Donna Paterson.

She believes that now that they’ve played each side at least once, there can be no ‘finding their feet’ excuses.

Paterson said: “We know what everyone is about now and know the way we want to play.

“It’s time to knuckle down now and start producing results on the pitch.

“We’ve had the test run, so now it’s time to get going.”

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