Hibernian was made to work hard for all three points by a hard-working Stirling University side, before running out 5-0 winners at Easter Road. Playing at Easter Road in preparation for their Champions League tie, it was Stirling who seemed more at home on the pitch, not giving the home side any space or time on the ball.
But just after the half-hour mark, Hibernian took the lead when Lucy Graham headed in at the near post from a free-kick. The key point in the game came in first-half stoppage time. Stirling University hit the woodwork and had the ball cleared off the line before Hibs went up the other end and Kirsty Smith scored with a composed finish.
Hibs got their third when Lizzie Arnot’s cross picked out Rachel McLauchlan from close range, before Lisa Robertson made it 4-0. And they got their fifth deep into second-half stoppage time through Sarah Ewens’ volley, despite Stirling’s keeper Chloe Logan getting a hand to it.
Although Stirling started strongly, Hibernian nearly took the lead in the fifth minute. Arnot stole possession, played the ball through to Harrison behind the Stirling defence. She unselfishly cut the ball back to Arnot who shot over from 12 yards.
Stirling was making things uncomfortable for Hibernian and came close to a stunning opener, but Demi Falconer’s effort went just wide from 40 yards. And then Nicole Pullar saw her effort go wide, albeit from a more conventional shooting position.
Everytime Hibs were getting into the final third, there was a Stirling player making the crucial block or tackle -so it was no surprise that the Edinburgh’s side next best chance came from an early hit-ball. Clare Williamson picked out Abi Harrison, but the recent Scotland call-up headed over.
Stirling came close to opening the scoreline from a Hibs free-kick, breaking on the counter and Rachel Galbraith’s cross picked out Rachel Donaldson who ended mishitting her volley wide.
The pace of Harrison and Arnot continued to cause Stirling a threat, and they linked up as the home side came close with Harrison playing Arnot into the box, only for her to be denied by Chloe Logan, saving with her legs.
And then Hibs did take the lead, from a free-kick near the corner flag. Emma Brownlie’s delivery found Stirling’s Lisa Sutherland at the near post, she misjudged her clearance and headed the ball high in the air, and Graham leapt highest to head the ball home at the near post.
Graham had a couple of chances in scoring her second, heading wide from a corner and shooting straight at Logan, but the next goal would come the turning point in the game. Stirling had won a free-kick, 40-yards out. Lauren Gallon’s ball into the box picked out Ashley McDonald whose header hit the top-corner and Hibs had to clear the ball off the line.
And then Hibs broke down the other end, Rachel McLauchlan played Kirsty Smith through on goal and she calmly placed the ball into the bottom-right corner.
Hibernian had a good chance early on in the second half when Harrison broke into the box, but her shot was saved at the near post by Logan.
And then, Hibs did get their third. Lizzie Arnot drilled the ball across the six-yard box, providing McLauchlan with a simple tap-in to score.
Stirling came close to pulling a goal back after winning the ball just otuside the Hibernian box but Katy Morris’ shot was straight at Jenna Fife.
But their chances of a comeback was made harder as Hibernian scored their fourth. McLauchlan’s defence-splitting pass picked out Lisa Robertson in the box and although her first touch was poor, her second found the bottom right corner.
The visitors had a couple of good chances after with McDonald’s cross picking out Jade Gallon who shot over, and then Morris heading wide from a corner.
However, the home side still looked likeliest to score. McLauchlan broke in from the wing but her powerful shot was well saved by Logan who reacted quickly to claim the rebound. And then Graham had another chance to score, but ended shooting over.
Hibs thought they had scored their fifth when Arnot’s corner found Robertson whose header caused a scramble and then Caroline Heron found the bottom corner with her shot, but the ref had blown up for a foul on Logan.
And in second half stoppage time, Hibs did make it 5-0. Harrison’s cross found Ewens whose volley found the back of the net, despite Logan getting a hand to it.
“Firstly, it was a great occasion to be on the pitch at Easter Road, it’s an incredible arena. We set up differently today, we’re trying to work on a few things in preparation for the Bayern Munich game, but in no way were we disrespecting Stirling. We were setting up a very defensive system, sitting off a lot more than we usually do. But we still got a bit of work on it but it was definetly good practice, kept a clean sheet, scored five goals so overall, really pleased.” Chris Roberts – Hibernian Head Coach.
“We’re disappointed as we felt we could have taken something from the match. I felt that was the killer to hit the cross bar and within 20 seconds be 2-0 down. The only positive is that a few years ago that score wouldn’t have been seen as a negative but there wasn’t a single player that thinks they can’t do better and that will stand us in good stead for the last four games. We know what we need to work on and we’ll do that in the build up to the next few matches.”
Tommy Craig – Stirling University Head Coach