Hibernian Ladies 3 - 1 Celtic Ladies: Women's team show male counterparts how it's done

HIBERNIAN supporters have long been tormented by their senior team's inability to win the Scottish Cup, the famous old trophy not having returned to Leith since 1902.

Yet the hoodoo does not extend throughout the club, as Hibernian Ladies lifted the Women's Unite Scottish Cup at McDiarmid Park after a hard-fought victory over Celtic on Saturday.

That it was the fourth time in sixth years they have won this competition further condemns the absurdly poor record of their male counterparts, who seem to take fright whenever the opportunity of Hampden glory presents itself. However, the power lines lie differently in male and female football in Scotland.

In contrast to the Old Firm's long-standing dominance in the men's game, the inception of Celtic 'ghirls' came less than a year ago, while Hibs have provided a successful ladies team for some time. That Celtic have quickly become a force in women's football suggests this may be about to change, particularly as they beat Hibs 2-0 at the end of last year, halting a two-year unbeaten run for their Edinburgh counterparts, but Saturday's result in Perth restored the old order for the time being at least.

Hibs created the first chance of the final when Joelle Murray's corner kick on six minutes was spilled by Claire Johnston, the Celtic goalkeeper, who quickly made up for her mistake with nobody on hand to capitalise. She was also alert shortly after when a long ball from the Hibs defence by Stacey Cook found Suzanne Grant, whose 25-yard effort was well covered by Johnston. Celtic responded quickly, but after Christie Murray had put Suzanne Malone through on goal, the former Hibs striker hesitated long enough for goalkeeper Gemma Fay to block bravely.

Johnston was called into action when Suzanne Robertson was short with a headed back pass allowing Grant to steal in, and again when an excellent cross from the right found Hibs' Laura Kennedy in space.

Celtic's only serious threat in the next half-hour came when Jacqui Seagrave ghosted in behind the Hibs defence but Faye raced quickly from her goal to slide in at the midfielder's feet. The deadlock remained through the first period despite Grant, Hibs' top scorer, latching onto Kirsty McBride's through pass and bringing a save from Johnston, while Faye denied Malone at her near post.

The second half was only moments old when Hibs were appealing for a penalty as Robertson appeared to handle in the box, but referee Norma Watt was unimpressed. Grant was wasteful on 50 minutes after Julie Ferguson's free kick found her unmarked eight yards from goal.

Still Hibs were dominating and McBride came close when her shot from the left was well saved by Johnston. Then Grant and Kennedy had attempts in quick succession, but they could not recapture the free-scoring performance of three days earlier, when Hibs had defeated Celtic 4-0 on league duty.

Cook was next to be frustrated as she met Ferguson's deep free kick with a close-range header that Johnston pushed away at full stretch.

Hibs' profligacy almost came back to haunt them when Murray broke clear on goal but the Celtic striker should have done better than fire well wide.

The last chance of the 90 minutes came for Celtic. A cross-field pass by Clare Gemmell for Murray caused panic in the Hibs defence as the latter's low cross was sliced towards her own goal by Cook who was relieved to see goalkeeper Faye in the right place to spare her blushes and send the game to extra time.

Celtic were beginning to sense an upset could be in the offing and Murray again threatened early in the first additional period as she beat Faye to the ball only to see her lofted effort fall on the wrong side of the post. As always seems to be the case, that was to prove the turning point for the underdogs, who soon found themselves three goals down.

Hibs opened the scoring in the 97th minute following good play on the right by Natalie Ross, beating two players before finding McBride. Her cross to the back post located Murray who chested the ball down and drilled a half-volley across Johnston and into the far corner.

Moments later, Grant burst through on goal but her tame shot was saved by Johnston. Celtic were to be spared for just two minutes, though, as Mandy Burns, Hibs' most influential player in the middle of the park, charged into the box and slotted into the far corner.

Celtic brought on Leanne Crichton for Malone as the second period of extra time got under way only to fall 3-0 behind when Ross played in Grant who cut inside and chipped Johnston. Celtic hit back immediately when Jennifer Beattie, daughter of former Scotland rugby international John and sister of current international back-row Johnnie, fired in a low cross that Crichton diverted in from close range.

Hibs' Stacey Cook was named player of the match and almost added a fourth goal for her side when she out-jumped Johnston but could not direct an effort on target. By then, though, she and her team-mates had done more than enough to allow captain Shelley Kerr to collect the trophy once again.

Hibernian Ladies: Faye, Ferguson, Kerr, Cook, Murray, McBride, Kennedy, Grant, Ross, Brown, Burns. Subs: Donnelly, McDonald.

Celtic Ladies: Johnston, Quigg, Robertson, Curley, Seagrave, Beattie, Love, Gemmell, Stokes, Murray, Malone. Subs: O'Donnell, Crichton, McInally, Palmer, Findlay.