Kirsty key as she returns to face Hibs’ Women

SPARTANS Manager Debbi McCulloch believes former Hibernian midfielder Kirsty McLaughlin could be the key to success in the first Edinburgh derby of the season.

McCulloch’s side face their city rivals at Albyn Park, Broxburn tomorrow (kick-off 2pm) just weeks after losing 3-1 to the same opponents in a pre-season encounter, but she insists her side have made a lot of progress since then.

She said: “They will be extremely confident going into the game after that performance. However, I believe we’re a tougher, more resolute team now compared to then and have since shown our determination and willingness to battle for every ball and point.

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“Hibs have an abundance of talent all over the field and tomorrow’s match will be extremely close with both teams looking for the three points.

“We have strengthened in certain areas of the park and all eyes will be on Kirsty returning to Hibs after playing for them last year. She was instrumental in their midfield last year and I’m really glad she will be lining up in a Spartans jersey rather than a Hibs one.

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“Last weekend we were unbelievably unlucky not to come away with anything from our match with Glasgow City because the (number of) chances we had in the first half was incredible, but we can take confidence from that performance and know that the gap between ourselves and City is closing.”

Meanwhile, unlikely league leaders Hutchison Vale look to maintain their 100 per cent winning start when Celtic visit Saughton Enclosure (ko 2pm).

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Confidence is high amongst the Hutchie girls, but boss Ian McDonald cautioned his players against starting poorly.

He said: “It’s been nice to look at the league table and see us sitting on top. However, we are not getting carried away and defeating Celtic will be difficult.

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“We started poorly last weekend but managed to turn it around and take full points. But if we start in the same manner tomorrow it will be game over as Celtic are a step up in class.

“They have lost a number of key players over the close season; players that any club would struggle to replace, but we will not be taking them lightly as they will still be a formidable side.”

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• THREE Hibs players – Shannon Lynn, Frankie Brown and Joelle Murray – are included in the Scotland Women’s squad to face Wales in a challenge match at East End Park, Dunfermline on April 7.