Merlins Gordonians secure first National League 1 spot for north-east in 17 years

Merlins Gordonians celebrate their promotion.
Merlins Gordonians celebrate their promotion.

An Aberdeen hockey side are celebrating a “historic” promotion to National League 1.

Merlins Gordonians became the first side north of Dundee in 17 years to reach the top flight.

They secured promotion after a nail-biting clash with Inverleith in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The Granite City team needed to draw to win the National League 2 crown, however, with the scores at 1-1 and a Gordonians winner disallowed, a second Inverleith goal would’ve spelled disaster.

Second-placed Erskine Stewart’s Melville triumphed in their game and could have stolen the title had Gordonians lost.

Captain and forward Holly Steiger, who scored the goal that ultimately secured promotion, described the emotions of the achievement, saying: “Bon Accord MBC are the last team on the girls’ side to get to National League 1.

“Our boys have been up and down between division 1 and division 2 over the last couple of years, but for the girls it’s been 17 years anywhere north of Dundee.

“It was elation. It’s an achievement for the club and its history, and something to be proud of.

“The last game was against Inverleith – they were third in the league.

“It was between us and Erskine Stewart’s Melville (to go up), and we needed just a point from the Inverleith game to secure the win.

“We were a goal down after the first half and we equalised about 10 minutes into the second half.

“We actually had a goal disallowed towards the end as well, much to everyone’s dismay.

“But it was a point and the draw we needed.”

The 23-year-old Robert Gordon’s physiotherapy student said the “big” celebrations had to wait until the team had driven – in separate cars – back to Aberdeen. There was no Champagne on the pitch for the non-drivers, as none of the players had wanted to jinx the afternoon.

Gordonians recovered from a mid-season slump to return to the summit in time to lift the title and Holly reckons they’ll need to improve again for the upcoming top-flight campaign.

She said: “It’s a pretty high standard. There’s only one member of the current squad who’s played division 1 at all.

“There’s going to be hard work and dedication needed next season because it’s definitely a step up. Pre-season starts in August and it’s normally around the middle of September that the season actually starts.”

With an awards night for the whole Gordonians family to celebrate the women’s achievement still to come, ladies’ president Siobhan Cowie explained what the promotion means. She said: “The club has been fighting hard for this since they were promoted into National League 2 for the third time in 2013.

“The girls have always finished in the top half of the table in division 2, so we knew they had the potential to go that bit further, but we marginally missed out when we went to play-offs in 2014 and we lost out on the opportunity for promotion. However, the team worked hard, doing pitch sessions and fitness sessions each week to ensure they didn’t miss out again.

“This doesn’t only mean a lot for our club but also for hockey in the North District; we have now proven that we have talent in Aberdeen that can compete with the best players in the country.”