Hibernian 3-0 Spartans: What did we learn from Hibs' opening day win

Hibernian begin the 2021-22 SWPL 1 season in style with a dominant win over Spartans at the Toni Macaroni Arena.

Hibernian began the 2021-22 SWPL 1 season in style with a comfortable 3-0 win over Spartans at the Toni Macaroni Arena.

Alexa Coyle scored a fourth minute penalty with Colette Cavanagh volleying in a second before half-time.

And the dominance continued into the second half with Michaela McAlonie scoring against her old club.

And they could have won by more with Eilidh Adams having a shot deflected off a post.

After three SWPL Cup group game wins for Hibs, Dean Gibson’s side had now hit 27 goals already this season with just two conceded, and they rarely looked in trouble against their Edinburgh rivals.

For Spartans, their concerns were heightened with Ronaigh Douglas and Robyn McCafferty both going off injured in the first half.

Can Hibs trouble the top three?

These two had been neck-and-neck in the fight for fourth place last season, with Hibs finishing highest only on goal difference. However, Hibs are determined that their battle this season will be with Glasgow's big three.

After steady improvement towards the end of last season, and a range of impressive signings in summer, Hibs have set their stall out.

Goalkeeper Gabby English, midfielders Toni Malone, Erin Rennie and McAlonie, and forward Coyle have all arrived. Lucy Ronald too has been signed up, though the 19-year-old has returned to Glasgow Women on loan.

Crucially, unlike previous seasons, Hibs have not had their squad decimated by bigger clubs swooping for their players which has allowed head coach Dean Gibson to shape his team for the new season.

How Hibs dominated

Hibs’ width caused Spartans problems, the second goal in particular was a neat cross from Shannon Leishman right on the money to Cavanagh.

McAlonie, who was playing against her old club for the first time, at times would play almost as a defensive midfielder from an attacking position, dropping deep and helping Hibs win the ball back in Spartans’ half. At other times she would occupy pockets of space as Spartans struggled to get a grip of Hibs midfield.

The visitors struggled to impose themselves on the hosts, even on the counter attack. Their attempts to get at Hibs in the first half tended to be through the overlap, but their wide players were too deep and were being comfortably matched for pace.

The injuries, too, to Douglas and McCaffety unsettled the visitors.

Squad depth

Hibs showed off their improved armoury against Spartans, with the home side arguably not even at full strength as they showed the competition for places now at the club. Amy Muir was absent, while Leah Eddie, Amy Gallacher and American summer signing Malone were on the bench.

Attacking midfielder Shannon McGregor too is edging closer to a comeback from injury which will add to Gibson’s options.

Eilidh Adams’ introduction for the last 20 minutes offered Spartans no respite either, and she went close on numerous occasions.

More goals

So often last season the frustration for Hibs was the lack of goals. Their total of 42 league goals was only just over half of what the top three each managed. However, in their three SWPL Cup group games last month, they hit an impressive 24 goals.

Coyle hit five of them, with Gallacher and Cavanagh both hitting four-each. Coyle and Cavanagh both added to those tallies against Spartans, with McAlonie also scoring her third in Hibs colours.

Anyone’s Game player of the match

Michaela McAlonie linked the play well, won the ball back when she needed to, and also was in the right place at the right time to score. Any notion that she might not celebrate against her old club were firmly put to bed with McAlonie making no attempt to hide her delight at her impressive start to her Hibs career.

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