Rangers booked their passage to the Scottish Youth Cup Final on Friday, as they came from behind to advance with a 3-1 win over Aberdeen in Cove.
Both teams had produced strong runs in the competition to reach this stage, and the match promised to be tightly contested, with a place at Hampden on the line.
It was the young Dons, who saw off Kilmarnock in the last round, grabbing the early initiative here. A goal kick by Rangers stopper Nicky Hogarth was returned by the hosts’ midfield with emphasis, the looping ball evading the jump of centre back Daniel Finlayson. Aberdeen’s Kevin Hanratty raced through on the net, and his low cut back found Connor Barron for 1-0. The young man showing great desire to arrive in the area and slide the ball home neatly through a crowd of bodies.
Winger Lewis Duncan was next to test the Rangers rear-guard with eight played. One on one with Nathan Patterson, he fizzed a dangerous cross in from the right. Hogarth this time displaying smart reactions to get down and push the first danger away across goal. With the ball now on the left of the box, possession was recycled and Jack Chesser had space on the edge, but pulled his effort wide of the post.
In reply to the concession, Rangers were trying to build play up to their own forward players. Striker Adedapo Mebude went hunting several times to get involved, and had done a good job, tasking himself with dropping slightly shorter from the frontline and holding the ball up for his teammates. This work would pave the way for the equaliser on nine. Mebude tracked to steal the ball back from Lloyd Robertson. After a quick exchange with Joshua McPake, the latter weighted a ball for Ciaran Dickson, piercing the defence. Dickson’s first shot was blocked nicely by Archie Mair, but the rebound fell for him to tuck in. The game now level at 1-1.
Beginning to settle into a flow, the chances kept coming for both teams. Hanratty had another left footed effort saved, whilst Rangers forced a pair of quick corners.
What was clear at this stage was an attacking approach adopted by either side on the ball. Nobody was giving an inch, with the intense pressing of the fullbacks pivotal in forcing the ball forward; an escape from the tightness of midfield. Harris O’Connor provided this for Rangers on several occasions throughout. Probing on 19 minutes, his interchange with McPake nearly created the next opening, but was thwarted.
Then it was defensive duty two minutes later. Hanratty this time skipping past O’Connor, but he couldn’t pick out Kieran Shanks as he stabbed the ball to the centre. Chance gone.
Ben Williamson was instrumental in two following opportunities for Rangers. First his clever pass put McPake in the clear. Mair again matched him with the save, and Mebude lashed the bobbling rebound over. Williamson then presented O’Connor with the time to carve out a cross. Plucked out by Mair ahead of McPake.
Aberdeen’s best chances came on the break, with Rangers now beginning to take control of relatively safe possession. On 35, Kieran Shanks, back to goal, had the opportunity to release Lewis Duncan, instead opting to lay the ball off for Ethan Ross. Ross then did well to burst forward, but the space to shoot was closed off by Kyle McLelland.
Adedapo Mebude called Mair into action again after a reversed pass from McPake. The keeper denying him. Moments later though, we would close the half with a Rangers goal.
Four minutes from the break, strength from Joshua McPake saw him hold off Aberdeen’s Luke Turner on the edge of the area. Spinning, the forward found a yard to notch the visitor’s second into the bottom corner. 2-1 at the whistle.