The fourth round of the SSE Scottish Women's Cup has produced much more competitive ties than those of a fortnight ago, when one game ended 24-0 and two others 16-0.

Game of the day is unquestionably the Edinburgh derby between promotion seeking Hearts and the winners of the last three Scottish Cups, Hibernian. The sides met in the first round of this year's SWPL Cup, with the latter winning 1-0. It is now approaching four years since Hibs lost a domestic cup tie.

Absolutely no shortage of incentive for Hearts then, but there is also an intriguing tie at Balmoral Stadium, the home of Cove Rangers. Aberdeen have moved their home game against Kilmarnock to the ground.

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Both sides have been in the news this month. Third tier Aberdeen provided the only major upset of the previous round by coming from behind to beat SWPL1 Spartans 2-1, while Kilmarnock's league game against Partick Thistle last Sunday was abandoned following a bad injury to American goalkeeper Ailey Tebbett.

“It was extremely frightening when two players went over towards her and the referee saw their reaction,” head coach Stewart Hall confirmed. “She was unconscious after the horrendous challenge on her.

“Ailey has now got three or four weeks with no contact sport at all which is a big shame for her.”

Tebbett arrived in Scotland in January to continue her studies and within three weeks ruptured and dislocated a shoulder. She spent about six months in rehab following surgery, and was making her comeback when the latest misfortune occurred.

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Lauren McGregor, who was unavailable last week, returns but Kilmarnock have four outfield players out for the trip to Aberdeen – two are suspended and two are unable to travel as they work for the police and can't get time off.

Ironically, Aberdeen co-manager Emma Hunter admits she got information from today's opposite number Hall when she was doing her research on Spartans in the previous round. The pair did their A licences at the same time.

Hunter's side have won twelve and drawn one of their 13 games in SWFL Division 1 North, and so are on course to achieve their aim of returning to SWPL1 by 2021. They suffered successive relegations in 2017 and 2018, but, reinvigorated by overdue support from the parent club, are on the up again.

“I don't think Spartans underestimated us, but maybe got a shock at our fitness levels and how good we were,” Hunter said of the third round win. “To be honest it was such a close game it could have gone either way. When we got our chances we took them.”

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Aberdeen have a young side and have their own problems today. The scorers at Ainslie Park, former under-19 internationalists Chloe Gover and Lauren Gordon, are both injured. However, 15-year-old prodigy Bayley Hutchison is returning to form and caused Spartans big problems when running at them from deep positions.

Hunter, who spent part of last week in Largs with the Scotland under-16 squad, is enjoying the new backing from Pittodrie, and said: “We haven't had this support before so we enjoy it and appreciate it.

“Everything we get we're grateful for. But we don't want anything handed to us at this club because we're a women's team. We want to earn it.”

Scotland squad return

THE Scotland squad meets up tomorrow for the opening Euro 2021 qualifier against Cyprus at Easter Road on Friday. The Scottish FA, the coaching staff and the players are all keeping their counsels about the fall-out from the disastrous defeat to Argentina in Paris and the events which followed in the next 24 hours.

It is therefore impossible to know exactly what happened at the hotel on June 20, and just how badly relationships within the group have been affected – but a picture can be built up from talking to informed sources.

That being the case, and as stated last week, it is now absolutely essential that the air is cleared tomorrow – and that the coaching staff and senior players send out clear and credible messages that there will be no further problems.

If they don't reconcile, the only winners are likely to be Scotland's main qualifying group rivals – Finland, managed by former Scotland head coach Anna Signeul, and Portugal.