Balmoral Stadium: There’s Nowhere Colder

We sent our Campbell Finlayson way up north to take in a SWPL Quarter Final tie with plenty of intrigue as Aberdeen hosted Hibernian in the pouring rain just one week after the Edinburgh side had defeated the Dons 1-0 in the league.

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Ticking off ground number 36 of the 42 in the SPFL was always on the agenda for me, so making the trip north from Dundee to Cove seemed like a good idea, with the SWPL Cup quarter final between Aberdeen and Hibs the perfect way to tick off another ground on the list.

Unfortunately, Mark Gordon’s warning that Balmoral Stadium is absolutely freezing proved to be true, with the howling wind and rain making this probably the coldest I’ve ever been at a football game, even before kick-off.

A loose ball went flying into the stand early on but moving to get it wasn’t something that anyone fancied, understandably given the weather, but it did mean Siobhan Hunter nearly went head over heels over the pitchside fence in retrieving the ball.

The Hibees were the side on top and had two strikes fly over from Shannon McGregor and Amy Gallacher, the second of which brought a sarcastic jeer from a guy behind the goal. Who said women’s football fans aren’t vocal?

He was silent again soon after though when Rachael Boyle’s low strike put Hibs in front.

That lead was made even more comfortable just beyond the half hour mark when Boyle scored again, finding the opposite corner this time after a good Gilmour save had denied her to begin with. There were slight claims of offside, with the sarcastic tones of the home faithful coming out when the linesman did award an offside minutes later.

Debates in the stand on whether the ball was heading for a throw in or a corner were soon quashed when we realised the ball was barely making it out of the box as Jess Broadrick played a one-two with the wind. Everyone was just thankful that we could judge that clearance from the stand and not out there in the rain.

The hope of a half-time Balmoral Pie that everyone told me to buy did keep me going through the first half, but the short walk in the rain was ruined when I found out there weren’t any. Still, the steak pie was nice.

Half time drenching.

Meanwhile, the Hibs substitutes looked miserable as they warmed up in the rain. The Aberdeen subs had the right idea though, as they stayed indoors, apart from Natasha Bruce who replaced the visibly frustrated Bailey Hutchison.

Hunter is usually worth a listen on the pitch and that was no different today, the Hibs centre back having a go at the linesman and anyone else that would listen after she wasn’t given a free kick by the officials.

Hibs wanted that decisive third goal and it looked as though they might get it when Eilidh Adams looked set to work some space on the attack, instead she lost her footing and fell over. Lying on wet astroturf isn’t fun though and she was soon back to her feet.

After claims for a penalty following what looked like a foul on Hunter were turned down, she was soon given a stern talking to by the referee after yet more vocal protests. On first viewing though, she looked to have a point.

A Carrie Doig header wide in front of the vocal fan was about as close as he would get to celebrating a Dons goal, but he deserves a lot of credit for spending the 90 minutes with absolutely no cover whatsoever. Brave or stupid? Probably a bit of both.

Footballers don’t usually like being taken off but in this case the substitutes were the lucky ones as they headed for an early shower and a heat while their teammates continued to run around in the hurricane-like conditions 

Having to head upstairs to be interviewed by the likes of myself at full-time won’t exactly be the first thing they’d choose to do after 90 minutes in the rain, so credit Lauren Gordon, Joelle Murray, Gavin Beith and Dean Gibson for taking the time to speak to me when we all just wanted home.

Hibs were back on the bus to the capital, safely into the SWPL Cup semi-finals following a 2-0 victory, while we were heading straight to Starbucks to get some sort of a heat before the journey back down the road, because Balmoral might just be the coldest place in the whole of Scotland.

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