Despite a committed, hard-working performance, Celtic lost 3-0 to second-placed Hibernian.
The Hoops lined up without last week’s goalkeeping hero Kiera Gibson who was on duty with Scotland’s U17s. With regular goalkeeper Megan Cunningham not fully fit, former Celtic player Claire Johnstone stood in between the posts.
There was a distinct end-of-the-season feel to the match in the opening exchanges, but as the game settled into a pattern, the contrast between the teams’ approach became apparent.
The Celtic midfield were energetic in their play, with Kerry Montgomery leading by example, and she was partnered by Heather Richards and Georgie Rafferty who were alert and eager to gain possession.
Hibs, for their part, employed their pace and crisp passing to advance and test the Hoops’ defence. This they did twice in the opening 10 minutes, but were foiled firstly by a clever intervention by Courtney Whyte and then Hibs winger Harrison fired wide. Celtic responded with a speculative effort from Richards which was wide of target.
Hibs opened their account after 20 minutes when Arnot found space on the left and, advancing towards goal, fired a shot well beyond Johnstone.
Celtic looked the more promising in the early stages of the second half as Hibs appeared to be tiring after their midweek Champions League exertions, although the Hoops couldn’t capitalise, with a free-kick in a dangerous position coming to nothing.
And in the final 20 minutes Hibs regained their composure and extended their lead.
In 70 minutes Harrison collected a pass beyond the Celtic defence and drove the ball into the net at the near post.
The Hoops responded by making two substitutions, introducing Cara McBrearty and Anne Rudmose, with the Danish player making her first-team debut.
Hibs, however, were playing confidently and went on to add a third goal in 89 minutes when, after a fine Johnstone save, they lobbed the ball to the back post where the unmarked McLauchlan headed in from point-blank range.
As the match moved into time added on, Celtic introduced 17-year-old Joanne Rae to give the promising young player a few minutes in the first-team.
Celtic’s Player of the Match was Kerry Montgomery who seemed to be everywhere, encouraging her team and trying to be positive throughout.
Manager David Haley: “This was a disappointing result again against Hibs.
“However, the team battled hard and had lots of territorial advantage but didn’t work the goalkeeper enough.
“Hibernian were clinical in front of goal in a game that didn’t have a lot of chances.
“We are determined to finish the season on a high with victories in the two remaining games.”
CELTIC: Johnstone (trialist), Middleton, Clark, Whyte, Dalgliesh, Rafferty, Howat, Grant, Montgomery, Richards, Mulvey. Subs: Cunningham, Rudmose, McBrearty, Rae.
Reported by Celtic FC
Pictures: Celtic FC