Fixture: Hibernian Girls v Linlithgow Rose Girls
Competition: 15's Frankie Brown League
Venue: Hibernian Training Centre
Blowing a hooley, Beth - previously ever-present - laid low with tonsillitis meaning a change between the sticks, a Hibs team buoyant after their derby win last weekend and a long trip out to Ormiston might have left the Rose girls facing this game with a bit of trepidation.
Was this the case? Not a bit of it. With the biggest concern raised before the game being Grace’s opinion of the Hibernian FC Training Centre – “It’s all a bit, well, Hibsy” (there’s a good reason for that Grace), the girls took the form from their recent performances against Bonnyrigg and Musselburgh onto the big East Mains astro park.
Cozza filled in for Beth – her first meaningful 11-a-side game as a ‘keeper – and from the off filled her team with confidence with assured handling and distribution. With a very strong wind at their back, the Rose knew they would have to capitalise on the conditions as the game would inevitably be the archetypal “game of two-halves”.
It only took three minutes for the Rose to nudge themselves in front. Zoe cut in from the right to the corner of the box and launched a shot goalwards which deceived the Hibs ‘keeper in the wind, floating nicely inside the back post to send the Rose 1-0 up.
The wind was making it hard for both teams – passes forward running long on the quick surface, defensive clearances holding up in the wind, but both sides continued to try to play football.
Kirsty and Laura caused alarm with corners whipped in ferociously, and some lovely link play by the Rose carving out opportunity through the middle with Megan, Grace, Tara and Lucy linking well. Tara had a great chance to score as she rifled a shot from 8 yards but it was too straight and the Hibs ‘keeper gathered it gratefully.
The Rose were well on top with possession and territory due to the wind, but Hibs were never less than dangerous – they’re a quality team – and former Lithgae player Jaqueline McLure reminded the Rose they needed to be on their toes with a sweet strike rebounding from the crossbar.
The Rose were funnelling all the Hibs possession away from the goals, and while the Hibs play was good (especially considering the conditions), the Linlithgow defence were immense when called upon The Rose continued to press, and looked especially dangerous when play was stretched to involve Rheanna and Ellie to take advantage of the big pitch. A move which saw Lucy chase back 40 yards to win the ball, release Rheanna down the wing, and then sprint to get back to receive the return in the middle epitomised the effort every player was putting in.
Try as they might though, the Rose couldn’t add to their slim advantage until the 32nd minute. Grace’s shot from inside the box saw a Hibs defender block it on the line with her arm. Despite Grace finishing it off, the ref decided to award a penalty and book the Hibs player. Unperturbed, Grace stepped up to slam the spot kick away. 2-0 Linlithgow and no further score to half time.
Half Time : Hibernian Girls 0-2 Linlithgow Rose Girls
A change in formation to accept that the second half would be a different game sacrificed some attacking intent, but worked. Megan slipped into the protection role of spoiler in a 4-1-4-1 with a brief to deny space and opportunity to Hibs to shoot from a distance, a role she performed magnificently. What a season Megan is having.
The wind picked up even more in the second half to almost ridiculous proportions, and the Rose struggled to physically exit their own half for great chunks of the second period. Arguably the best chances though fell to Linlithgow, with Grace losing out in a 1v1, and the overlapping Ellie and Hannah not being seen when a pass through would have yielded a great opportunity shortly after.
Later in the half, the ref for some reason decided to block a very promising through ball from Laura with his most sensitive bits. Not a wise move, with the game halted to allow his voice to drop an octave or two.
Hibs though were undeniably the dominant force with the wind meaning even goal kicks taken by Anna were barely clearing the edge of the box, and Ellie’s throws only going 45 yards into the wind.
Despite the huge possession advantage Hibs were having, Cozza was being superbly protected by Anna and Tara in the middle, and Zoe, Kirsty and Hannah K at full back. With Megan just kind of appearing everywhere in front of them, Hibs were for the most part restricted to speculative balls from far out on the wings.
When they did break through, one goal mouth stramash was cleared by Tara, and Cozza used a combination of legs and arms to make a good low save to her right in what, in truth, was her only real save in the game apart from a few comfortable takes.
With twenty minutes gone, a strike that looped high in the air eventually breached the Rose, with the wind carrying it over the Cozza’s hands in a cruel manner – nothing she could have done, and the second directly wind-affected goal of the day gave Hibs hope.
Laura came on for a shift up front after the battling Hannah C escaped her red card, and Hannah K replaced Kirsty for the final 15.
The game was a strong battle, Laura was flattened without sanction and every 50/50 was hotly contested, with Ellie being an ever active nuisancance to every Hibs player she came up against. Rheanna was a good out-ball when the opportunity arose, always looking to keep possession and create wide on the right.
Hibs probed and prodded but couldn’t get a break, and with time slowing as 35minutes clicked over, the three minutes of stoppage time added were undoubtedly amongst the longest 180 seconds in history. But the whistle went, and the Rose came out as deserved victors against one of the league favourites.
Last season the Rose would have drawn this game at best. This year, with the squad intact and a year older, the benefits that this brings were evident. Great togetherness, and the knowledge to use their physical attributes well and fairly against an undoubtedly talented but younger Hibs team.
Of the thirteen girls available for the game. Twelve are from Linlithgow, with the thirteenth an honorary Lithgae-er having played for the club for nine years. Every single one of the Rose players should take great pride in the way they represent the club, the town and themselves, and results like this are the returns from the effort and dedication they put in.
Full Time : Hibernian Girls 1-2 Linlithgow Rose Girls