Battling, scrapping and late drama - just your average Hibs v Hearts derby

Hibs and Hearts in action at Easter RoadHibs and Hearts in action at Easter Road
Hibs and Hearts in action at Easter Road | Malcolm Mackenzie
Hibs women uphold best traditions in SWPL capital clash

There rules of engagement for an Edinburgh derby apply across the board, regardless of the individuals wearing the jerseys.

Win the battle. Dominate your direct opponent. Earn the right to play. Above all, and whatever it takes, deliver those precious bragging rights to your supporters.

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On a day when the SWPL took up residency at one of the most famous SPFL grounds on the map, drawing in almost five-and-a-half thousand fans, Grant Scott’s Hibernian followed this established set of guidelines – and did just about enough to earn a 2-1 home win in a game that took a long, long time to burst into life.

Anyone who has watched the capital clubs, regardless of age or gender, engaged in their eternal scrap for supremacy over the years will have recognised the themes in this one.

A first half of almost relentlessly awful bare-knuckle brutality. A breakthrough for the home side via an excellent double for a powerful striker, in this instance Player of the Match Jorian Baucom. Thumping challenges and bad blood, even if none of the actual red stuff was spilled.

The inevitable pantomime booing when a player guilty of crossing the great divide, Katie Lockwood, got a goal back for the visitors. Chances at both ends as the game became stretched in a thrilling closing quarter, with Lockwood’s point-blank header – saved and held at the second attempt by Hibs goalie Katie Fraine – very nearly producing the most dramatic of equalisers in the dying seconds of injury time.

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And, when the final whistle sounded? A rather sweet chorus – for the home support, anyway – of Sunshine on Leith, as Hibees fans serenaded the victors. A fitting end to an occasion that, aided by the distribution of free tickets, can be called a qualified success.

The women’s game in Scotland promotes itself as something different, separate and unique. Rather than trying to compete directly with a men’s game given a century of a head start, the clubs and governing bodies are trying to carve out their own place in the footballing culture of a country not always receptive to change.

So, yes, there’s more emphasis on making a connection with fans. Of everyone being part of something bigger than even team loyalty, rivalry or the pursuit of glory.

A home-made banner held aloft in the East Stand before kick-off seemed to hammer home this message in three-foot high letters, painted green on a white background, the ALL-CAPS cri de couer declaring: “FOOTBALL HAS NO GENDER.”

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That admirable enthusiasm and social awareness, the desire to make a point, is a big part of the game. And, of course, it was preaching the converted here.

Unfortunately, the Easter Road congregation – home and away elements – were given very little reason to get enthused once the actual contest got underway; the fact that it took until the 36th minute for someone register an effort on target clearly contributed to a subdued atmosphere.

More of a background hum than the frenzied soundtrack desired by players, coaches and administrators alike, the low-level support was more reactive than proactive. And few were given many excuses to get excited in a bleak first half.

The sheer size of this place didn’t help in generating decibels either, of course. As much of a privilege as it might be for the teams to play at a stadium which would once have been considered completely off limits to women’s football, it can be a mixed blessing for even the biggest fixture on the calendar.

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Thank the footballing gods, then, for the presence of Baucom, whose opener – a real striker’s finish – early in the second half breathed life into both the contest and the occasion.

The centre forward getting a second just on the hour mark actually seemed to kick Hearts into life, the visitors finally finding some sort of rhythm – about 180 bpm, as is so often the norm in this game – as they fought their way back into the game.

On an afternoon of delayed drama, however, they could not produce a final late twist. And so suffered a defeat that, in the best traditions of the fixture, will hurt more than most. Them’s the rules.

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