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SWPL 2: Aberdeen FC Women boss Emma Hunter calls for calm ahead of pivotal Partick Thistle clash

Aberdeen FC Women co-manager Emma Hunter
Aberdeen FC Women co-manager Emma Hunter

Aberdeen FC Women manager Emma Hunter has urged her players to remember composure is key in their pursuit of the SWPL 2 title.

The Dons suffered their first home defeat of the season against Hamilton Accies at Cormack Park on Sunday.

Accies’ victory ended Aberdeen’s run of three straight wins since the campaign resumed following its Covid-induced hiatus.

With Partick Thistle next to visit the ground on Thursday (7.30pm kick-off) Hunter says her message is to keep calm and carry on as the Dons look to bounce back to winning ways immediately.

Calm heads will prevail

“I think the players themselves will want to bounce back, that’ll be their first thought,” said Hunter.

“But I think as a manager my role is to make sure they still have that composure, not to panic and think that it is a do-or-die game because that just adds a pressure that gets to the players.

“So we need to look at it two ways. The players themselves, no matter what I say, will be dying to make sure they get that good result but it’s also about reminding them to stay calm as we’ve still got a bit to go.

Aberdeen’s Eilidh Shore heads against the post from a second half corner during Sunday’s defeat to Accies

“We’re still ahead, we’re still top of the table. The other teams are going to take points off one another.

“Dundee United play Hamilton (on Wednesday night) before our game so it’s about bouncing back but also not panicking.

“We’ve got the quality – we weren’t played off the park on Sunday by any means. It was just one of those games were they got the goals that they needed and we were chasing the game. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”

‘Chance to sting Jags back’

Brian Graham’s fourth-placed Jags are coming off the back of a thumping 6-0 victory over Stirling University but remain five points behind the Dons having played one match more.

Before Hamilton’s win, Thistle were the only side to have taken points from the Dons this season with a 5-1 triumph at Glasgow Green in November.

Hunter reckons the opportunity to right that wrong is one her players must seize with both hands on Thursday.

She said: “There are a hundred different situations that contribute to you losing a game and there were a lot that contributed to that loss.

“We were probably caught off guard by Partick and how they played and their tight pitch played into their hands.

“But this is a different game. It’ll be different to the first game, a closer contest now we know more about Partick Thistle and we’re on home ground so I think we’ll have more of the ball.

“I think they’ll come with that fighting spirit that they need to win the game so there’s so many factors.

“But if there’s anything we’re going to be saying as a group is that we have to remember that feeling.

“It’s an opportunity to almost rewrite that story because so far that’s what the reference is: a 5-1 defeat. We can make it a different story going forward and change that script.”

‘Play with confidence’

To do that, Hunter says, the Dons have to remember what has made them near-unbeatable in the first place.

She added: “We probably didn’t do the things we normally would do (against Accies) on Sunday – that was just down to the little bit of pressure. We became quite frantic at times.

“I guess the key thing against teams like Partick or Hamilton – when it’s a must-win game for them – is that they’ll play a style of football to try to win the game and we just have to stick to what we know is best like moving the ball quickly and keep composed.

“At the end against Hamilton we were trying shots we wouldn’t usually try and lacked that bit of composure.

The Hamilton players celebrate after going 2-0 ahead at Cormack Park on Sunday

“I’d like to see us move that ball a bit quicker and get behind teams. We played in front of Hamilton a lot of the time and they were comfortable as a back four just letting us do that.

“But they are also two totally different teams so there are things to think about that are different from the Hamilton game – Partick will be physical and more direct when attacking us so we need to be mindful of that and adapt slightly.

“When you’re almost at the finish line sometimes I think it’s easier to be the teams that are fighting and trying to get something out of nothing than the team at the top trying to maintain it so I think that’s my main message: to stay calm.”

Rotation game

Despite having a full complement available to her, Hunter is alert to the fact her side have games arriving at a blistering pace.

After the Partick game, the Dons travel to Dundee to take on Dundee United on Sunday before facing Glasgow Girls at Cormack Park on Thursday July 1. They round off the season at home to Boroughmuir Thistle on Sunday July 4.

Hunter said: “We’re quite fortunate we’ve got a lot of players fit and ready.

“The only thing to be mindful of is that the games are coming thick and fast. It’s Thursday-Sunday, Sunday again then another midweek so we’ll need to rotate a little bit.

“We’ll need to freshen things up, whether it’s the starting line-up or making some changes.

“Also living in a Covid situation you never know what’s round the corner in terms of isolations and things like that so we just have to keep on our toes.

“But we have a full squad at the moment and we’re continuing to meet all the guidance so hopefully everything falls in our favour.”

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