Hibernian scored three second half goals to secure victory in Sunday’s SWPL opener at Ainslie Park against Edinburgh rivals, Spartans.
After a goalless first 45 minutes, Katey Turner scored two goals in 10 minutes and Lia Tweedie added another shortly after to guarantee Hibernian got their league campaign off to a winning start.
Whilst the home side dominated possession in the opening exchanges, they struggled to create any clear goal scoring opportunities. This could have been different had Harrison’s first touch not evaded her only a few yards from the Spartans goal in the eighth minute.
Spartans were eager to impress under new Head Coach, Paul Greig, as they pressurised the Hibs midfield to win possession and also play some intricate short passing in the middle of the park. After robbing Ellis Notley on the half-way line, Spartans broke up the pitch but their resulting shot from 18-yards was straight at Jenna Fife in the Hibs goal.
Lisa Robertson, Hibernian captain in the absence of Joelle Murray, almost gave the Hibees at Ainslie Park a wonder goal within 20 minutes of the new season but unfortunately her long-range curling effort flew just by the wrong side of the post.
Harrison had another chance from close range and looked certain to score if not for a fantastic piece of goalkeeping from the Spartans captain in goal as she blocked the striker’s shot.
Efforts from Kirsty Smith and Lucy Graham were all Hibs had to offer in the final 15 minutes of the half, with neither putting the Spartans ‘keeper under much pressure as the referee took both teams into the break on level terms.
When the teams emerged for the second half, Kevin Milne was forced into a change after Harrison picked up a slight knock in the first half. Turner was Harrison’s replacement.
Siobhan Hunter took Hibernian close to an opener after flicking an Emma Brownlie corner over the Spartans’ defence. It looked to be dropping over the line but quick reactions from Spartans meant it was cleared away.
A constant Hibs threat throughout the game was from the two wide players, Smith and Rachel McLauchlan, with the two hugging the touch line at every opportunity.
It was this threat from McLauchlan which led to Hibernian’s opener on 60 minutes. The Scotland internationalist picking up possession on the half-way line and driving at the defenders. With an almost effortless look, the winger swung a deep cross to the back-post for Turner to volley into the back of the net. Hibernian’s No. 18 adjusted her body well to make contact with the ball and open the team’s 2018 goal scoring account.
Another chance was presented to Hibs, again from wide. Smith drove to the byline and cut the ball back for Graham who looked certain to score from 10-yards out but the midfielder’s shot was tame.
Despite taking the lead in a tight encounter, Hibs continued to look for goals and their perseverance was rewarded on 69 minutes.
After a smart piece of play down the right, McLauchlan was able to find space to drive into the Spartans’ box and lay the ball off for Tweedie. Her initial shot was blocked and after a mini-goalmouth scramble Turner managed to set herself up for a shot and fired the ball into the back of the net.
A two-goal cushion still wasn’t enough for the team in green and white as shortly after they went 3-0 up to secure the three points. Another neat phase of play saw Hibs take the ball from left to right before Cailin Michie delivered a cross right to the feet of Tweedie, brilliant throughout, who then managed to lob the ball over the ‘keeper from close range on 73 minutes.
It seemed as if Hibernian were now satisfied with the score line as the home side were content with keeping possession and seeing the game out to guarantee they had a winning start to the new campaign.
Hibernian: Fife, Hunter, Robertson (Gallacher 67’), Michie, Smith, McLauchlan, Graham, Notley, Harrison (Turner 45’), Brownlie, Tweedie. Substitutes not used: Reid, Laing, McGregor, Leishman.
Report: Hibernian FC
Picture: Craig Doyle