Hibs season review: Cup final, derby defeat and loads of injuries
The SWPL ending could not have come sooner for Hibs with players seemingly dropping off left and right. The Edinburgh club’s last game of the season ended with just two players on the bench as Dean Gibson bowed out as manager of the club. Despite the tough end to the season positives were aplenty for the campaign with many highs and lows throughout.
Going into the final 10 minutes of the first Edinburgh derby of the season Hibs find themselves 1-0. Emma Brownlie’s second-half goal had the hosts on the back foot in front of a then-record crowd at Easter Road sitting at 8,066. However, in the dying minutes up steps Crystal Thomas to make it 1-1 in front of a roaring crowd. This was made even sweeter moments later as Hibs won the preceding penalty shootout to lift the Capital Cup.
While the defeat to Hibs or SWPL Cup final loss could easily go into this category, Rachael Boyle’s late injury is easily the most gut-wrenching moment of the season. After being out of the squad for a over year due to pregnancy, the Scottish international made her return to the team in style as she scored a brace off the bench v Glasgow Women. However, disaster struck in her first start back for the club against East Fife as she pulled up with an injury and was forced off. It was later revealed the 31-year-old had an ACL injury and will be out for the foreseeable future.
Hibs travelled to Glasgow City in the SWPL Cup semi-finals with many expecting the Glaswegians to fly into the next round. However, the Edinburgh side more than matched their counterparts as they progressed into the final in dramatic fashion. Krystyna Freda broke the deadlock in the first half before doubling her tally 15 minutes before the end. Despite Glasgow City managing to pull a goal back late on, Hibs managed to hold on to get a famous victory and progress to the final, much to the jubilation of the players and fans.
After leading the club for three years, it came as a surprise to everyone when Hibs announced that Dean Gibson would be leaving the Edinburgh side at the end of the season. The two issued a statement on their parting by mutual consent just before the final game of the season which allowed the manager to have one final farewell against Partick Thistle. After seeing out a 2-1 victory on the final day, Gibson and the players were able to thank their fans at the final whistle as a successful era at Hibs ended.
While injury may have postponed her end-of-season development, Rosie Livingstone has still shown this season that she has all the makings of a star. The 17-year-old started the campaign off brilliantly earnt her a spot in the starting 11 in the SWPL Cup final. After picking up a quad injury in February, the midfielder was ruled out for the rest of the season. Despite this setback, Hibs youngest member of the squad will be hoping to come back stronger.
Goal of the season
There are many goals this could go to, from Leah Eddie’s brilliant goal straight from the corner spot to Nor Mustafa’s rocket against Spartans. However, Kirsty Morrison’s lasered effort against Partick Thistle has got to be the goal of the season. Receiving the ball on the far right, the striker managed to lob the opposing keeper from well over 30 yards out to bury it into the bottom left corner of the net.
Coming in midway through a season can be tough for any player but this did not seem to affect Katie Lockwood. The striker was an instant success at Hibs scoring on only her second appearance for the club after signing from Swedish side KIF Örebro before netting another six times before the season ended. This feat is even more impressive when you consider that the Swedish league had already come to an end meaning Lockwood had not played any football for two and a half months before her first appearance. Match sharp or not, the 25-year-old quickly became one of the most prolific strikers in the league and will be looking to get double figures next season.
Player of the season
No one has had a better season in a Hibs shirt than Michaela McAlonie. The midfielder was a level above everyone else this campaign, controlling the play with ease at times. Games such as Hibs 4-0 win against Hamilton and their 2-1 over Partick Thistle showed how dominant the 21-year-old has become in the middle of the park. Even when her side lost, McAlonie was still one of the best players on the pitch. Her goal against Hearts in the Edinburgh derby in February was the highlight of her campaign as she beautifully stuck the ball into the bottom corner to give Hibs the lead at Tynecastle. Thankfully for Hibs fans, the midfielder put pen to paper in February, committing herself to the club until 2025.
While the club initially started the season off, an injury crisis midway through the season put a halt to any hope the club had of catching Hearts. The tool the injuries had should not be underestimated. Gibson managed to reach a cup final as well as becoming the only team to be able to beat Glasgow City outside of the top three. This was all done when the majority of the team was available which helps to show how much potential the side has. When the new management team comes in, there will be plenty of positives for them to build on as they look to retake fourth spot and challenge the top three’s monopoly.