A double from Jamie Lee Napier and goals from Amy Gallacher and Kirsty Morrison ensured that Hibernian made a winning return to Scottish Building Society SWPL 1 action as they ran out 4-0 winners over bottom of the table Stirling University.
The home squad had been boosted by the signing of Claire Petersen from Jacksonville State University as they look to lift themselves off the bottom whilst Hibernian arrived at Ochilview fresh off the news they would be facing Czech side Slavia Praha in the Last 32 of the UEFA Women’s Champions League following their successful qualification trip to Slovenia.
The Edinburgh side were quickly creating chances as the ball feel to Shannon McGregor inside a minute at the near post with both her close range efforts echoing off the post before the Uni defence cleared their lines but Craig Beveridge’s side were sticking to their task in the early stages and a long range effort from Bethany Kerr showed some promise.
As the game progressed though the Hibees started to take control. Good work from Colette Cavanagh played in Jamie Lee Napier however nobody was there to capitalise on her dangerous cross ball. Napier then saw a long range effort loop wide before her curling effort after a Cailin Michie through-ball was well saved by a diving Rebecca Sjogerud in the Uni goal.
Stirling were still creating the odd chance and nearly took a shock lead as the ball pinballed around the Hibernian area but Jenna Fife and her defence were able to scramble clear before the referee waved away appeals from the home side for a penalty when it appeared a shot may have been blocked by a Hibs hand on it’s way to goal. These were however fleeting moments as play primarily continued towards Sjogerud’s goal.
On the 33rd minute great work from Amy Gallacher in midfield saw her lay the ball out to Amy Muir on the right hand side. Muir’s ball back to the midfielder inside the area was inch perfect but Gallacher was only able to drag her shot over the bar. With the pressure building though the breakthrough was inevitable and on the 36th minute it came.
Scotland call-up, and Hibs captain, Joelle Murray brought the ball out from the back driving into the midfield and skipping past two tackles before putting Lauren Davidson through on the right hand side. The forward’s cross headed towards the near post where it was met by Jamie Lee Napier who steered the ball into the net. Kirsten Reilly nearly add a second just before half time however she couldn’t get the right connection on Cavanagh’s deep cross.
It only took Grant Scott’s side six minutes to double their advantage after the break. Midfielder Gallacher again found space on the edge of the box before her well placed shot between the diving Sjogerud and the post put the Edinburgh side in control but a third was soon to come.
Indecision in the home side’s six yard box saw the ball fall to Napier on the 60th minute who rifled home her second of the game through a melee of legs from close range. It was her sixth in all competitions since returning from the summer break and her transformation into a fully fledged striker will certainly continue to draw attention. It was 4-0 five minutes later when substitute Kirsty Morrison was first to react after Sjogerud saved well from Kirsten Reilly.
Hibernian continued to dominate the play and saw another Gallacher effort ruled out for offside by the stand side offical before another long range effort was comfortably saved, as was a Higgins effort a few minutes later, but it would be Morrison who would end the scoring.
Although the league title may now be out of reach for Grant Scott’s side this victory will have been important in maintaining momentum as they continue their European adventures and begin their quest for another Scottish Cup success in midweek against a Stirling University side who will be hoping to cause an upset.
Stirling University: Sjogerud, Connor, Bonner, Murphy, Mason, Lyons, Simpson, Guthrie, Falconer, Rule, Kerr. Subs: Whitaker, Fukton, Welch, Menzies, Petersen
Hibernian: Fife, Muir, Napier, Michie, McGregor, Cavanagh, Davidson, Gallacher, Notley, Murray, Reilly Subs: Williamson, Currie, Leishman, Cornet, Higgins, Morrison.
Stirling University Head coach Craig Beveridge: “It’s always a tough game playing against Hibs and I thought we did well keeping the scoreline at 1-0 going into the break and then they upped it in the second half.
“I spoke to the referee at half time when we had a penalty shout with the scores at 0-0, it definitely hit her hand but the referee was happy her hands were beside her body. It’s a rule we’re all still getting used to”.
On new signings: “We’ve got another face lined up for this week and hopefully another five or so which will really help boost numbers and add quality.”
On Wednesday’s Scottish Cup tie against Hibernian: “It’s quite good having them straight again afterwards and we can learn from it and we’ll have an analysis session on Monday night. Obviously it’s at Penicuik, which means it will be nice to play on grass for a change but we’ll look at what we’ve learned and come up with a plan.”
Hibernian Head Coach Grant Scott: “We’ve relied on a few individual players over the last couple of years but there’s a lot better collective unit feel about us now with threats from all over the park, we could have taken a few more today but it’s good to see.”
On Wednesday’s Scottish Cup tie against Stirling University: “Wednesday will be our sixth game in a short period of time and the girls are aware that we will be trying to freshen things up and rotate the squad.”
“Our normal training facility wasn’t available and we had to find a ground with floodlights, which was quite difficult but Penicuik Park meets the criteria and we had to do what was needed to get the game on.”
On being drawn against Slavia Praha in the UWCL: “We could have had a far worse draw and we could have had a better draw. No bones about it though, it will be a hell of a challenge for us and the quality for them to be quarter finalists the last two years means we are under no illusions it will take an extra special effort from the players.”
“We should be able to get more information on them than our group opponents and it’s close enough that somebody could maybe make a trip for us to have a look.”
Hibs midfielder Amy Gallacher: “I though we started well and it was good to get four goals. For my goal it just came up to me the edge of the box and fortunately it went in but I think I was unlucky not to get a second with the offside decision.”
On her UWCL experience so far and the draw for the next round: “It was amazing being out in Slovenia and if you told us before we were going to get three wins we would have been buzzing. Slavia Praha are obviously one of the top ten teams in Europe, it’ll be a hard game but it could’ve been a lot worse.”
“It goes two ways, it would have been good to get a crowd to Easter Road for an Atletico or Barcelona but I suppose it’s better for us and we can maybe get a result and I’m sure the crowd will still turn up in numbers.”