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Hibs on the edge of success after top two draw

Hibernian U23s 2

Johnston 25, McCafferty 81

Celtic Academy 2

Nagle 18, Bell 45 + 3
  • Tuesday, 16 October 2018
  • Hibernian Training Centre
  • SWFL Division 1

Hibs Under 23s moved to within a fingerbreadth of the Division 1 South title after a 2-2 draw with nearest rival Celtic. Two equalisers and a strong second half garnered the point that means the final game of the season will require a 3-point and 24-goal swing to deny the Edinburgh club glory.

However, this was not an easy game in Ormiston. Celtic had inflicted Hibs’ only defeats this season - once in the league, and again in the cup - and were nearly ahead in the third minute when Shannon Nagle headed Darcy Molley’s right wing corner. Keeper Alicia Yates dived to her right to parry.  

Hibs duly responded as Holly Aitchison floated a corner against the top of the Celtic bar and the left wing Ellie Jai Reid curled a shot just beyond the right post. Yet the visitors were soon ahead, in the 18th minute, via a familiar move. After Jodie Bell’s shot had been deflected wide, Molley lofted in the corner and Nagle headed. This time Yates was unsighted and the ball was in the bottom left corner.

That lead was short-lived. In the 25th minute Reid played Kirsty Morrison to the left byline. The congregation of keeper, defender and striker at the near post could only slow the driven cross, with the ball politely rolling on. Cari Johnston followed in to thump the ball into the empty net.

An even game and an even scoreline, with the title on the line, matters were getting tenser. Celtic exerted pressure on the Hibs left back area, with Emily Shearer having one cross desperately blocked and Rebecca McAllister striking straight at Yates. Yates also pipped Megan Wands to a dangerous pass, the ball rebounding off the striker for a goal kick.

Hibs were not to survive. Bell was tugged away from a through-ball, giving Celtic a free-kick on the edge of the box. Molley’s clipped strike was almost slow-motion, hitting the underside of the bar, and as the world waited Bell put the ball over the line from a yard with the last kick of the half.

  • Half Time:
  • Hibernian U23s
  • 1-2
  • Celtic Academy

A tweak of structure put Hibs on the path to their result. Shannon Leishman, previously right back, pushed further forward, allowing Johnston to move infield. It meant more running for Leishman, who was effectively operating two positions, but paid off with Johnston goalside of Celtic’s midfield, driving at the defence.

And thus it was Johnston with the first shot of the half, and then a beautiful turn on halfway to play in Morrison, who cut back on her right and smacked the ball against the bar. To negate the problem Celtic retreated, hoping for breaks but allowing Hibs’ Aitchison and Ria McCafferty to win and recycle possession.

So it became attack-against-defence, with the clock a looming spectre. Marshalled by Nagle and Paige McAllister, Celtic held strong, but by the half’s mid-point clear opportunities were beginning to arise. First up was captain Nicole Rutherford, alone and seven yards out to receive a cross from substitute Aisha Maughan, but volleying wide when there was more time.

Rutherford then played in Morrison, who beat keeper Lisa Kerr but not the sliding stop by Nagle on the line. Next was Maughan, who hit over from 6 yards after Morrison had fought to keep a ball in on the right goal line. Nagle interrupted a Leishman cross before Morrison could connect. A goal was a matter of time, and whether there was enough.

There was. With nine minutes to go an Aitchison corner resulted in a little head tennis. Eventually the ball made its way out of the box to McCafferty, who took a touch. From 20 yards, her low hard drive whistled sweetly into the bottom left corner and was the catalyst for a pile of celebrating Hibs players. All that was left was to safely navigate to the end, a feat they should repeat this weekend to confirm their title.

  • Full Time:
  • Hibernian U23s
  • 2-2
  • Celtic Academy

Lineups

Hibernian U23s
Celtic Academy
1. Alicia Yates
2. Shannon Leishman
3. Caley Gibb
4. Nicola Jamieson
5. Kirsten Laing
6. Holly Aitchison
7. Cari Johnston
8. Ria McCafferty
9. Nicole Rutherford (c)
10. Kirsty Morrison
11. Ellie Jai Reid
12. Niamh Fellenger
14. Jamie-Lee Smith
15. Anna Dickov
16. Aisha Maughan
17. Zoe Carmichael
18. Caitlin Lynch
1. Lisa Kerr
2. Kenzi Brown
4. Kaysha Watson (c)
5. Shannon Nagle
6. Paige McAllister
7. Darcy Molley
8. Alise Stewart
9. Jodie Bell
11. Rebecca McAllister
14. Megan Wands
15. Emily Shearer
16. Nimrata Ahira
17. Claire McFarlane
19. Chloe Clemison
Star Player
Hibernian U23s
Celtic Academy
Shannon Leishman: Although others got more of the ball, huge credit has to be given to Leishman for her work on the right. Pushing up in the second half allowed Cari Johnston to influence the game while forcing Celtic’s Molley to play further back. That Leishman then tracked back to fulfil her own defensive duties was highly admirable.
Shannon Nagle: A goal, nearly another, a goal line clearance; these were the highlight plays. But around this was an excellent performance that mixed organised defending with vital interventions when required.
Magic Moment
Hibernian U23s
Celtic Academy
The turn by Johnston prior to Morrison striking the bar. The Hibs attacker rolled her midfield marker and then immediately pushed on with the ball into the space behind. The strike itself was also class, and the Edinburgh team were unfortunate not to score.
Molley’s freekick that led to Celtic’s second goal was almost perfectly judged, especially considering the lack of distance with which she had to play. The Celtic wide player opted for finesse rather than power, and her technique brought dividends for the team.
  • Match report and photos copyright Youth Football Scotland.
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