Spartans boss 'always believed and not surprised' as she hails impact sub in revenge win over Hibs

Spartans earned their first win in 2023 with a brilliant 2-1 victory over Hibs at Meadowbank, with manager Debbi McCulloch insisting she “always believed” a result would come and hailed her 17-year-old impact sub.

In a lively game, goals from Alana Marshall and Hannah Jordan were enough to squeeze out a result for Spartans despite a late Nor Mustafa strike. The result ended a three-game losing streak for McCulloch’s side and helped reignite their top-six ambitions. The manager was full of praise for her side after the game and hailed substitute Mya Bates for providing the assist for Jordan’s goal.

“I'm delighted,” McCulloch told the Evening News. “I'm not surprised [by the result], these group of girls never disappoint me. We were gutted last week after that Partick Thistle result because we knew that we didn't play well. This week we stripped everything right back and were really open and honest with each other and changed a couple of things. Our performance deserved the three points.

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“It’s brilliant, we need that impact. I always say that about the players, I don't call them subs, I call them replacements and people who can bring energy. I thought Bates did that, our wide players were tired. For her to get her first assist is really positive and now we just need her to get the ball into the back of the net because she is a very talented player.”

The first half was quiet with both teams struggling to create chances. Kirsty Morrison had the best chance of the opening exchanges firing a loose ball straight at Alicia Yates after Leah Eddie’s free-kick. Becky Galbraith almost gave Spartans the lead midway through the half but she headed wide from Marshall’s cross. Brooke Nunn then came closing to breaking the deadlock right on half-time as she shot wide of the post.

Spartans got off to the perfect start in the second half going 1-0 up just two minutes after the break. The ball came to Marshall outside the box and she smashed it into the top corner giving Benni Haaland no chance.

Katie Lockwood, on her first start for Hibs, came closest to an equaliser for the hosts. Crossed in from the left, the striker took the ball down well but ended up sending her shot over the bar. Spartans got a second as Bates broke away to lead a devastating counter attack. The 17-year-old looked up and put the ball on a plate for Jordan to tap home.

Mustafa pulled one back for Hibs late on with a brilliant half volley that flew over the keeper's head, however it too little too late and Spartans came away with all three points.

Mya Bates, a 17-year-old summer signing, came off the bench to set up the second and decisive goal for Spartans. Picture: Mark Brown

“It's not a relief because we always believed,” McCulloch added. “A Sunday is always better when you win. Last weekend was really disappointing for us. This weekend we knew we could come here and get something. We are a bit disappointed we couldn't get a clean sheet but Hibs were piling on the pressure and we had to change our shape a couple of times. It is a great result for us.

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“After last week, if we would have lost this week the top six would have been out of our hands but it's still in our hands after the three points.”

Alana Marshall scored the opening goal for Spartans