Hibs Ladies eye title challenge after League Cup success

ibs Ladies manager Chris Roberts and his assistant Claire Ditchburn show off the League Cup

ibs Ladies manager Chris Roberts and his assistant Claire Ditchburn show off the League Cup

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It has barely been four weeks since the Easter Road trophy cabinet had to be opened to make way for the most-sought-after prize of them all.

And, although the Scottish Cup is safely tucked away for another year at the very least, the club now has an additional piece of silverware to savour after the Hibs Ladies team upset the odds to secure their first trophy in five years with a 2-1 victory over Glasgow City in Wednesday night’s League Cup final at Ainslie Park.

Having gone behind to former Scotland internationalist Julie Fleeting’s first-half opener, Chris Roberts’ side responded brilliantly with Lucy Graham levelling the match before Lizzie Arnot struck in, yes you guessed it, the 92nd minute.

But, despite drawing on the similarities from those historic scenes at Hampden last month where David Gray’s injury-time winner ended the club’s 114-year wait to lift the Scottish Cup, Roberts instead preferred to focus on his own players’ achievements and a feat that will not have gone unnoticed by their opponents and current league leaders City.

“We’ve definitely closed the gap on Glasgow City. They were the dominant side but Celtic and ourselves have been the teams that have really pushed them recently,” Roberts explained. “We ran them close last year in the League Cup and we took points off them in the league as well so it’s definitely been coming. I think we’ve put down that marker. But we can’t forget they’re a fantastic team and we certainly don’t expect them to roll over and give up the mantle of being the best team in the country that easily.

“We played really well on Wednesday night and pressed them right until the end and got our rewards for that. There were some celebrations in the changing room afterwards! There were a lot of Hibs fans commenting on social media and comparing the two finals. The phrase ‘another 92nd minute winner and you’ve gone and Hibsed it’ was used and stuff like that. We’ve got a lot of Hibs fans in the team – our captain Joelle Murray is a huge supporter so for players like her to win a cup final in a similar scenario is great. The majority of our team were at the game at Hampden last month and, to be fair, the club and a lot of the first-team players have been great towards us.”

The squad will now look to build on Wednesday’s success and emulate the men’s team by winning this season’s Scottish Cup. Yesterday’s third-round draw saw the club handed a home tie with Renfrew scheduled to be played in August. Hibs fell at the final hurdle in last season’s competition, losing 3-0 to Glasgow City in November.

“We have to build on Wednesday’s win and make sure it counts with the games that lie ahead,” Roberts said. “I took over just under two years ago and last year – in my first full season – we got to the League and Scottish Cup finals and missed out on both. I think all the players and staff were determined to get that monkey off our backs this time round out so we’re delighted to have done that.

“We’ve still got a bit of work to do in the league being eight points behind, albeit we’ve got a game in hand. But we’ve got to play Glasgow City twice before the season is out so we feel we can definitely put a challenge in. We’ve just got to keep our momentum going from now on.”

Hibs also have the added bonus of European football to explore this season and will be eager to learn their fate when the draw for the Champions League Round of 32 is made on September 1.

And, although they will enter the competition alongside some of women’s football’s European powerhouses, Roberts insists his players have little to fear.

“The excitement regarding the Champions League is overwhelming,” he said. “We are under no illusions as to the quality that awaits us with us not being one of the seeded teams but what an opportunity it is for the girls. They deserve all the exposure. The girls have been outstanding since I’ve been here and I can’t express enough how happy we are with their efforts.”