Glasgow City made a winning return to the Scottish Womens Premier League with a 2-1 win against Hibs Ladies in a top of the table clash at Petershill.
With five points separating the sides through the summer, top-side City showed no signs of slipping up and opened the scoring after only eight minutes when Hayley Lauder lifted a lovely ball over The Hibees defence, where Kirsty Howat was on hand to place the ball beyond the on-rushing Jenna Fife and gave the hosts an early 1-0 lead.
Lauder, who was in France on World Cup duty with the Scottish Womens National Team, looked full of confidence and was linking well with Howat. The goalscorer sent a long range strike wide, before she snapped a volley that also just whistled past the post.
Hibs responded with a hopeful cross sent into the box, which was cleared by the home defence, but only as far as the away attackers and Rachel Boyle struck a volley that dipped just over the bar.
City, looking confident became more comfortable on the half hour mark when Nicola Docherty took control of the ball on the left wing, sending a beautiful ball to the back post. Lauder sent it back across goal, where Siobhan Hunter sliced a clearance for Hibs. The ball dropped to Howat, who took a touch, then drilled in her second of the afternoon and made it 2-0 to Scott Booth's side.
The home side went looking for more before half-time. Docherty stabbed a shot at Fife in the Hibs net, and captain Leanne Ross also came close with a curling free-kick, only kept out by the late fingertips from the Hibs keeper. Howat was almost handed her hat-trick, when a mistake in the box gave her a chance to shoot, but Fife saved again.
After the break, Hibs looked more threatening. Kirsten Reilly sent a shot wide before Lauder also attempted to put the Petershill side further ahead with her volley being saved.
With only 13 minutes remaining, Hunter stopped a City attack by fouling Hayley Sinclair. The away defender was clearly unhappy at the decision and while in conversation with the referee, she was shown two yellow cards at the same time, which resulted in a red card and gave the women from Edinburgh an uphill battle to get something from the game.
Lauder had another effort for the hosts, but City couldn't quite finish the game off, and when a great long ball was sent forward from the Hibs back line, Jamie-Lee Napier raced through to stab the ball beyond the on-rushing Lee Alexander and Hibs with ten players, had hope.
It was Howat hunting the hat-trick that came closest before the end when she cut into the box on the 90th minute, and blasted a strike against the crossbar, which Fife looked to have got a slight touch on.
Takeaways from the match
Glasgow City still on top
A win for Hibs would have cut the gap at the top of SWPL1 down to two points, and after a League Cup final shoot-out defeat back in May, the question was being asked if this could be Hibs year in the league.
City proved they are still the cream of the crop in Scottish Womens Football and now create an eight point gap between themselves and Hibs as the second half of the season restarts.
No World Cup hangover
No less than seven players on show in this game travelled to France in Scotland's World Cup squad. City. There was a very healthy crowd at Petershill where fans got to see the returning stars in action and the experience of each of those players will be huge as both sides continue in league business, while fighting on cup fronts in the Scottish Cup and Women's Champions League in the coming months.
Hayley Lauder pulled the strings in midfield in the first half, linking up well and providing Kirsty Howat with her two goals. Howat was unfortunate not to get her hat-trick with a couple of later efforts and came agonisingly close when she struck the bar in the final minutes and was the stand-out player of the match.
Elsewhere in SWPL1, Celtic leap-frogged Hibernian into 2nd place, after a 3-1 win in the Old Firm Derby against Rangers. Goals from Sarah Ewens, Kathleen McGovern and Kelly Clark gave The Hoops the bragging rights. Motherwell drew 0-0 at home to Spartans, while Forfar Farmington v Stirling University was also goalless.
In SWPL2, Hamilton Academical went top after a 2-0 win away to Dundee United. Leaders at the beginning of the day, Hearts were held at home by Kilmarnock, which now leaves Hamilton and Hearts joint at the top on 24 points. Partick Thistle were 1-0 winners over St. Johnstone and Glasgow Girls were 12-0 victors against Hutchison Vale.