Despite the snowy weather last Wednesday night, against all odds, the women’s third team’s match went ahead.
The setting was sunny albeit cold and strong wind definitely played its part in this fixture. This cup match was between the Women’s 3s, who were second bottom of the BUCS Scottish second division, and Edinburgh Napier 1s, who are flying high in the Scottish first division. Napier had also convincingly beaten St Andrew’s 2ndteam 4-1 the week before and had only lost one game all season. It goes without saying that for this match the odds were greatly stacked against the St Andrews side. Even the third team’s captain, Lauren Archer, confessed that before the start of the game she thought the likelihood of victory was low.
But before the start of the season, Archer stated a key goal was to go on a cup run and to try to win as many games as possible. So the side was not going to give up without a fight. Further there was clear prior match preparation with the third team having been present at the previous encounter between the Women’s 2s and Edinburgh Napier in order to scout out the opposition. The third team had even altered their formation to try and subdue Napier’s attack-oriented style of play.
For those who have seen Rocky IV, I have been told the third team’s training sessions the week of the Napier match were not too dissimilar to Rocky in the Arctic Russian conditions in the film. The snowy, rainy and, quite frankly miserable conditions did not stop the team doing their weekly fitness on the St Andrews astro pitches. There is clearly a passion held by all the players for the third team. This is certainly the feeling you are left with when you hear about the commitment with which the players showed during their match against Napier.
All this conditioning meant that almost immediately after kick-off, the third team took the lead against Napier. Striker Veronika Bakulova blasted the ball past the Napier goalkeeper to take the lead within 10 minutes of kick off. Bakulova clearly gained great confidence from this goal and by the end of the first half she had gotten her brace. The home side were not playing like the underdogs. At the same time, Napier was able to halve the deficit with a goal before the half-time whistle. At that time, the score was 2-1.
The conditions were no better in the second half and the low winter sun was making visibility even worse. It would be fair to say in the second half the women’s 3s were stretched by Edinburgh Napier. Clearly the away side began to use their know how from playing in a division above. By the time the final whistle was blown, the scores were level. But the women’s third team were still in the game and they were able to fight for victory in a penalty shoot-out.
As any fan will know, shoot-outs are a part of football which can involve more luck and grit than actual skill. On this day, the St Andrews 3s were a team who certainly had shown the latter of these qualities by being able to go toe to toe with a team from the league above for the full ninety minutes.
The penalties were a tight affair. Both sides squandered opportunities. It went to the fifth and final round of penalties for there to be a victor. Centre back, Erin Kirkpatrick stepped up and shot the ball beyond the Napier goalkeeper, and sent the home side through to the semi-finals of the Conference Cup.
Woman of the match must go to Katy Poulter in goal who produced some phenomenal saves during the game and shone in the shoot-out. Speaking to Lauren Archer (who was physically crying… but happy crying) it was clear this was a significant day for the Women’s third team.
It was their first win of the season. Lauren then said she had never seen her team gel so perfectly for a match and be able to play to such a high level. Furthermore, based on the opposition, nobody gave her team a chance and yet she is immensely proud of the fact that her teammates showed such character and refused to roll over to Napier.
I have reported on the women’s 3s before, and I can certainly agree that this result was a long time coming and certainly deserved. Passion and excellence are two core pillars of the St Andrews Football Club, and the women’s third team certainly more than lived up to these pillars. It is not often that you see a third team making it to the Semi Finals of a Scottish cup, but this is more than deserved.