Sunday 7th of October
KSC Sports Ground, Kilwinning
I had been offered three matches this weekend but because I had let the girls of Hibs Reserves down not so long ago, by losing their request for attending a match, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to amend that error and also watch a side that are chasing the league title.
It was near perfect conditions for football, albeit the sun caused problems for players and camera alike and the pitch was rather heavy in places, particularly along the touch lines but that aside, I was looking forward to a stern test of Kilwinning’s resolve.
Upon arrival I discovered that manager Craig Hamilton could only name 12 players out of the 23 signed from his squad and two of them were under 15s.
I feared the worst for KSC and predicted they would be thrashed by the Edinburgh girls. However, it was not how it turned out.
Firstly let me apologise to the Hibs girls if I have mixed your names up. This was due to mismatch of jerseys with players from different Hibs sides wearing identical numbers with tape added to the numbers to alter them. I wasn’t aware of this until midway through the second half. So to the two number 12s and two number 10s or 42 and 70, I may well have mixed you up.
The game was end to end right from the off with KSC’s Naomi Clark attempting to lob Sam Eyeington from all of 30 yards. The keeper desperately back tracking, maintaining her concentration as the ball neared the goal line and finally saving comfortably.
Immediately Hibs had a great chance at the other end when Christie Kerr was put through into the box; her shot palmed away by keeper Lauren McGregor.
Hibs in the first half, to be fair, were disappointing to say the least. Every now and then, they would display glimmers of skill and neat moves that ensured you knew they could play football but it was far from fluent. Kilwinning were battling hard and fighting for every ball, which I guess was not fitting with the way the visitors wanted this game to be played.
Hibs hinted there was real talent in their line up when Sarah Laverty released Kerr once more after a neat one – two but the finish didn’t quite match the build up play.
However Kilwinning failed to heed the warning. Hibs were fast on the break whether it was through the middle or down the wings, they had pace in abundance. Kerr’s third attempt on goal came from a ball through the channel, which she picked up and swiftly dispatched into the keeper’s bottom right corner to open the scoring after 23 minutes.
Again I thought “here we go, the floodgates will open and this pacey Hibs side would destroy the threadbare Kilwinning team.”
It didn’t quite work out like that! In fact the blue and white hoops responded positively with a delightful move from the back starting with Michelle Collins, who split the defence with a sublime pass allowing Mhairi Gilmour to use her pace, leaving the defence for dead. Her shot though was a few feet over the bar but they had possibly discovered a chink in the visitors armour.
The Ayrshire side drew level after Kirsty McNicol bravely won the ball on the right wing, delivering it high into the edge of the box, where it was claimed by the Hibs defence. However, Gilmour pounced using her strength to take the ball beyond the defender and as Eyeington came out to meet her, she shot low and hard. The keeper saved but couldn’t hold it leaving Gilmour to take ownership of the situation and send the ball home from a tight angle. So with 31 minutes on the clock, the match was returned to parity and it was game on.
Zoe Johnstone and Laverty linked up to put the latter through on the keeper but McGregor dived at her feet to save.
Kilwinning stunned Hibs as Louise Redmond’s pass from deep inside her own half eluded the Hibee’s defence allowing Gilmour the opportunity to race on to the ball and slip it beyond Eyeington to give the host side the lead for the first time.
With half-time approaching Hibs had no time to respond and the disappointment was evident on the girls faces as they left the pitch for the interval.
Half-Time: Kilwinning 2 Hibs 1
If Hibs were disappointing in the first half, they were equally impressive in the second. They started brightly with a long shot and a free-kick failing to hit the target, although the intent was there for all to see.
Claire Williamson watched her shot from distance travel a few feet over the bar. This was followed by a brilliant run by Johnstone, darting down the left causing havoc in the hoops defence which took three players to deal with the danger.
Johnstone was replaced seconds later as the Kilwinning bench displayed signs of relief and bewilderment. I was shocked too as Hibs moved to a 3 – 5 – 2 formation. Johnstone was one of a handful of players in line for my Stewart First Aid Training Player of the Match.
Another of those on the short list was Sarah Laverty. The lively player was put through on keeper McGregor under the close scrutiny of Helen McLeod. The Hibs lass fired low only to see McGregor produce an excellent save at her near post at the expense of a corner. The corner was swung in as Ashley Fish headed towards goal and the keeper made another fine save. The second corner, which came in from the opposite side was cleared only as far as Tiffany Kawana-Waugh, who hit a screamer of a shot from 22 yards into the top right corner.
With the scores now level again, you had to fancy Hibernian to kill this match off; after all they were the side fighting for the league title against arch rivals Celtic Reserves.
Gilmour had Hibs at sixes and sevens with a quick break, followed by a 25 yard drive, which was only just over the bar.
Hibs then replaced Laverty reducing my options for Player of the Match even further although I still had many to choose from who were already in the frame.
Mhairi Gilmour hit her hat-trick with a low drive from the edge of the box. The move commencing on the left wing by Fiona Woods, who sent in a low cross which brought out a good save from Eyeington. The keeper however could not hold the ball and it fell for Gilmour to shoot for glory, forcing Jenny Scollay to leap over the ball in the process to give Kilwinning the lead for the second time.
What a match this was turning out to be.
Hibs now had a bee in the bonnet and were throwing everything into this match, knowing that a defeat or even a draw would permit Celtic Reserves to go top if they could beat Airdrie later in the day.
They were rewarded with a spot kick when McLeod was adjudge to have brought down Lizzie Arnot, which looked a bit soft to me from where I was standing. Arnot stepped up to hit what would surely be the equaliser, driving the ball to her right. McGregor read the ball perfectly, diving low and left to push it away. She then had the audacity to block the rebound before the Kawana-Waugh fired high over the crossbar allowing the home side to breathe a sigh of relief.
Hibs began to really apply the pressure now as the Kilwinning legs tired.
Kilwinning broke down the left again setting up Clark with a close range header, which travelled inches beyond the stanchion. The disappoint clearly evident on her face.
Hibs were awarded a free-kick on the left touch line just inside the Kilwinning half. The ball was floated in to the edge of the area where it was met by Kawana-Waugh, whose bullet header bulged the roof of the net to make it three goals apiece and ensured those in attendance would have an exciting finish to this splendid match.
For the green machine it was all systems go as they went in search of a winner. The blue and white hoops had little to offer but bravery and commitment to the cause as they gave their all to defend the point. It was going to be a nervous last ten minutes or so for Craig Hamilton.
Kilwinning though almost shocked their adversaries from a 35 yard free-kick, taken by Michelle Collins. The ball rattled the crossbar but didn’t fall kindly for the girls in blue and the danger was averted.
Arnot tried a pile driver from 30 yards but her effort was off target.
Kerr however came a lot closer to providing the winning goal for Hibs. Her 25 yard shot forcing McGregor to dive low to her left, pushing the ball away – her defence doing the cleaning up. Great goalkeeping once more.
Hibs pushed forward at every opportunity as the game picked up pace. Danielle Diey hit a peach of a free-kick from 23 yards, up and over the wall but it was caught below the bar by McGregor.
Lizzie Arnot brought the save of the match out of Lauren McGregor. Her left footed shot from 20 yards, took a slight deflection as McGregor dived across her line to get her finger tips to just touch it around the post. Super save and one that had everyone applauding.
The former Troon and Glasgow City keeper saved at the second attempt as the corner was delivered close to the goal mouth from the resultant corner.
Kilwinning received some respite from the incessant pressure as McNicol took the ball a run before crossing to substitute Melissa Fox, who swung at it from three yards. The ball blocked by a defender, and the same result for her second shot as Gilmour and Clark arrived to assist. There was panic in the Hibs back line but eventually the ball was cleared off the line and Hibs lived to fight on.
Arnot again pushed the Kilwinning defence to its limits with a brisk run down the left before turning into the box. Only a perfectly timed tackle by McLeod prevented her pulling the trigger.
Claire Williamson thought she had scored from a long range effort, hit high towards the goal. McGregor spilled it but as the ball crept towards the line, McGregor reclaimed it.
Arnot again displayed excellent footwork to take the ball beyond her marker but couldn’t guide her shot on target.
The final effort on the Kilwinning goal came from a shot from Kelsey Campbell but once more McGregor was equal to it.
The final whistle blew, much to the relief of the Kilwinning players and management. Many of those who had donned the blue and white hoops appeared battered after being run ragged by a young, lively Hibs side but let’s not be kidded – this was a point they should take great pride in – for they earned it – the hard way.
Hibs coach Lisa Macfarlane would be the unhappier of the two coaches but she could have little to complain about with regard to the second half performance.
This was a match that I truly expected to be one way traffic from start to finish but it was far from it. This was a game that had the lot. End to end football, terrific tackles, missed opportunities, fantastic saves and a never say die attitude from 12 lassies who were under the cosh for the majority of the second period.
Well done to everyone who played their part for both sides. You should both be awarded three points for the entertainment value alone and it never cost a penny to watch!
Kilwinning: McGregor, McNicol, Hawksworth, Redmond, McLeod, Collins, Swan, Gilmour, Scollay, Clark, Woods Subs: Fox
Hibs: Eyeington, Fish, Campbell, Ross, Diey, Kawana-Waugh, Arnot, Laverty, Johnstone, Kerr, Williamson Subs: Downs, MacFarlane, Donaldson, Cassidy, Cowan
Stewart First Aid Training Player of the Match: If I could give every player one of these awards I would. Even those who were not involved in the goals who are often overlooked played a vital part in this game. Mhair Hawksworth and Leia Swan for instance, unsung heroes for KSC.
For Hibs there was a multitude of flair players for Kilwinning to deal with. Kerr, Arnot, Johnstone, Laverty all pushed hard for the Player of the Match but all things considered and after seeking advice from the sidelines, I opted for Mhairi Gilmour for her three goals that gave her side a share of the spoils.
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