Clint Lancaster hailed Aberdeen Women’s game management after they were narrowly beaten 2-1 by SWPL leaders Rangers.
Aberdeen kept the league leaders at bay for 33 minutes until Rachel Rowe scored a brace to give Rangers a 2-0 lead at half-time at the Balmoral Stadium.
Bayley Hutchison halved the deficit minutes after the interval, but despite a battling Dons performance, Rangers held on to secure the win and take all three points back to Glasgow.
Despite the result, boss Lancaster was left impressed with his side’s display as Aberdeen pushed their full-time opponents all the way.
He said: “I thought we managed the game really well. The fact Rangers were keeping the ball in the corner at 2-1 is a compliment to us and the way we defended throughout the match.
“We deserved a goal, at least the one, for how we played. Bayley took the goal well.
“We’ve got two 17-year-olds in the back three, Chloe (Gover) who is not naturally a defender, and Jeni (Currie) who has not long joined the group – they did really well.
“I’m really proud of the players after that.
“We didn’t train last week because of the weather and we’ve come into this off the back of three-and-a-half hours of training on the pitch and I think we worked so hard for the whole 90 minutes.
“The aim was to press high. It’s how we have wanted to play all season and I think that is one of the best times we’ve done it today.
“Bringing in the new players has helped because they have all done really well since coming in.
“We really showed today that we can have a good go against the top teams in the league.”
Dons make Rangers work for lead in SWPL contest
Lancaster made one change from the defeat to Partick Thistle a fortnight ago, with Francesca Ogilvie dropping to the bench for defender Aimee Black.
New Norwegian signing Adele Lindbaek was named among the substitutes having signed for the Reds on Friday.
Rangers started on the front foot with Lizzie Arnot taking the ball down to the byline, but was unable to create anything dangerous before Dons skipper Hannah Stewart was called offside at the other end.
The home side had to do a bit of defending from a Kirsty Maclean corner, with several chances falling to Rangers and Eva Thomson finally cleared Aberdeen’s lines.
Rangers’ Arnot looked to capitalise on a slack pass from the Dons backline but the Scotland international saw her shot from 20 yards come back off the crossbar.
There was another good chance for the visitors when Rowe took the ball into the box before unleashing a driving shot which trailed just wide of Aberdeen’s post.
Arnot and Rowe linked up well with the former sending a pass across the face of goal, but joint SWPL top goalscorer Rio Hardy could not connect with the ball from only a few yards out.
The deadlock was finally broken after 33 minutes when Rowe, who had had numerous chances already, unleashed a powerful strike from 20 yards out.
Two superb saves from Dons goalkeeper Jeni Currie denied Rowe a quick-fire brace.
But Rowe eventually netted her second of the afternoon as she found the back of the net again in the 41st minute with a shot from inside the Reds’ box.
Game on as Hutchison scores for Aberdeen
Aberdeen made two changes at half-time with Hannah Innes and Thomson coming off for Ogilvie and Lindbaek, who was making her Dons debut.
With the Reds’ first real chance of the game, Hutchison made it 2-1 with her 14th league goal of the season when she latched onto a poor pass from Rangers goalkeeper Jenna Fife and buried the ball into the bottom corner in the 47th minute.
After being shown a yellow card for a late foul on Rangers skipper Nicola Docherty, midfielder Keeley Banfield was substituted and replaced by teenager Phoebe Murray.
A brave stop from Currie prevented Rangers from restoring their two-goal advantage as the Dons goalkeeper thwarted the danger from Jane Ross with her feet.
An Aberdeen free-kick from 30 yards out, taken by Chloe Gover, was well hit, but was easily collected by goalkeeper Fife.
The Dons boss believes the performance against Rangers has to be a marker of what his side can go on to achieve for the second half of the SWPL season.
Aberdeen sit seventh in the table, three points clear of eighth-placed Motherwell, and return to league action – following a Scottish Cup fixture next weekend – on February 7 against Montrose.
Lancaster said: “I think it has to be (a marker for the rest of the season). The way we pressed today is really something to be proud of.
“It is something that we need to make sure we continue to do. The work rate and the collective team performance was outstanding, so we just need to keep that up now.”
Rossvale prevail in Inverness
Caley Thistle were hit by late heartbreak as Rossvale grabbed a 3-1 stoppage-time win in the Highland capital.
Karen Mason’s side had been on the hunt for a late winner themselves before they were sunk by Jemma McQuillan’s brace in added time in the Scottish Women’s Championship fixture.
The visitors had gone ahead on 19 minutes after Megan Whiteford netted from the spot, however the Caley Jags levelled in spectacular fashion through a long-range free-kick from Kayleigh Mackenzie.
Rossvale remain top, while Inverness are in third ahead of their next league fixture away to Dryburgh on February 11.
Fellow Championship side Westdyke also lost on home turf, as they were comprehensively beaten 6-1 by Ayr United at Lawsondale.
Lyndsey Brown netted the hosts’ only goal, with a Clare Docherty hat-trick, plus strikes from Rachel Scott, Kimberley Dick and Emma Dawson accounting for Ayr’s goals.
Westdyke’s next league encounter sees them travel to Rossvale in just under a fortnight.
In the SWF League Cup second round, Inverurie Locos thrashed Harmony Row 6-1 but Dyce were beaten heavily on the road by Armadale Thistle 7-1.
Huntly’s game against Stewarton United was postponed due to an unplayable pitch.