There rules of engagement for an Edinburgh derby apply acrossthe board, regardless of the individuals wearing the jerseys.
Win the battle. Dominate your direct opponent. Earn the rightto play. Above all, and whatever it takes, deliver those precious braggingrights to your supporters.
On a day when the SWPL took up residency at one of the mostfamous 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 didjust about enough to earn a 2-1 home win in a game that took a long, long timeto burst into life.
Anyone who has watched the capital clubs, regardless of ageor gender, engaged in their eternal scrap for supremacy over the years willhave recognised the themes in this one.
A first half of almost relentlessly awful bare-knucklebrutality. A breakthrough for the home side via an excellent double for apowerful striker, in this instance Player of the Match Jorian Baucom. Thumpingchallenges and bad blood, even if none of the actual red stuff was spilled.
The inevitable pantomime booing when a player guilty ofcrossing 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 byHibs goalie Katie Fraine – very nearly producing the most dramatic ofequalisers in the dying seconds of injury time.
And, when the final whistle sounded? A rather sweet chorus –for the home support, anyway – of Sunshine on Leith, as Hibees fans serenaded thevictors. A fitting end to an occasion that, aided by the distribution of freetickets, can be called a qualified success.
The women’s game in Scotland promotes itself as somethingdifferent, separate and unique. Rather than trying to compete directly with amen’s game given a century of a head start, the clubs and governing bodies aretrying to carve out their own place in the footballing culture of a country notalways receptive to change.
So, yes, there’s more emphasis on making a connection withfans. Of everyone being part of something bigger than even team loyalty, rivalryor the pursuit of glory.
A home-made banner held aloft in the East Stand beforekick-off seemed to hammer home this message in three-foot high letters, paintedgreen on a white background, the ALL-CAPS cri de couer declaring: “FOOTBALL HASNO GENDER.”
That admirable enthusiasm and social awareness, the desire tomake a point, is a big part of the game. And, of course, it was preaching the convertedhere.
Unfortunately, the Easter Road congregation – home and awayelements – were given very little reason to get enthused once the actualcontest got underway; the fact that it took until the 36th minutefor someone register an effort on target clearly contributed to a subdued atmosphere.
More of a background hum than the frenzied soundtrack desiredby players, coaches and administrators alike, the low-level support was morereactive 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 generatingdecibels either, of course. As much of a privilege as it might be for the teamsto play at a stadium which would once have been considered completely off limits towomen’s football, it can be a mixed blessing for even the biggest fixture on thecalendar.
Thank the footballing gods, then, for the presence of Baucom,whose opener – a real striker’s finish – early in the second half breathed lifeinto both the contest and the occasion.
The centre forward getting a second just on the hour mark actuallyseemed 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 theirway back into the game.
On an afternoon of delayed drama, however, they could notproduce a final late twist. And so suffered a defeat that, in the besttraditions of the fixture, will hurt more than most. Them’s the rules.