Gary Locke today praised Jamie Hamill’s steely nerves and professionalism after the midfielder scored the penalty which keeps Hearts in the Scottish Premiership until at least the weekend.
Hamill’s equaliser three minutes from full-time secured a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen last night, a result which postpones Hearts’ relegation again after Sunday’s victory over Hibs.
Locke said he had full confidence in the player scoring, even though his last penalty was saved in the League Cup semi-final shoot-out against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The Hearts manager praised Hamill for his confident persona and sense of responsibility as he took his penalty inside a tension-filled Tynecastle with Aberdeen leading 1-0 through Willo Flood. Had Hamill missed and Hearts suffered defeat, their relegation to the Championship would have been confirmed.
“He’s a confident lad. He missed his penalty last time out, but Hamill is one of these boys who always steps up to the plate,” Locke told the Evening News. “I thought he was fantastic last night. He put in a man-of-the-match performance and coolly slotted the penalty away.
“He’s the penalty taker and I don’t think he was overly worried about missing the last one. As soon as he stepped up, I was always confident he would tuck it away. There was so much riding on it but he’s one player this season who has taken everything on his shoulders.
“I think he’s been magnificent. He does a lot of unselfish stuff, a lot of stuff people don’t see. He’s always talking to younger players on the pitch, organising others and working his socks off. I was delighted to see him get the goal.”
Locke also thanked the Hearts fans for their vociferous support as their team battled against the odds. “The fans have been unbelievable all season but the backing they gave the players last night was incredible.”
On-loan West Ham United striker Paul McCallum was replaced at half-time which gave Hearts a better foothold in the game.
“He wasn’t injured. We just felt in the first half that we were getting outnumbered in the middle of the field so we decided to change it,” explained Locke. “We put Scott Robinson on and I felt we got a grip of the ball better.”