Hearts goalkeeper Lee Hollis hopes to produce a more polished performance against Stenhousemuir tonight after admitting his debut last week was marred by rustiness.
The former Airdrie and Motherwell shot-stopper was drafted in on a short-term deal earlier this month to provide cover for injured duo Neil Alexander and Scott Gallacher.
With little in the way of training or match practice under his belt since he left Fir Park at the end of last season, the 28-year-old was thrust into the firing line against Livingston in the Petrofac Training Cup as third-choice keeper Jack Hamilton was cup-tied.
Despite shipping four goals at Almondvale last Tuesday, Hollis is likely to be back between the sticks for tonight’s League Cup clash with League 1 side Stenhousemuir at Ochilview.
“The first game wasn’t very good for me, to be honest. I could definitely have done better at the first goal but I was very rusty,” he told the Evening News. “My decision-making wasn’t great but I hadn’t kicked a ball for three months. I didn’t have ideal preparation but sometimes these situations happen and you’ve just got to get on with it. I’m still trying to bed myself in, so hopefully, things will go a bit better against Stenhousemuir.”
With a shortage of appealing offers coming his way over the summer, the frustrated keeper jumped at the chance to join Hearts on a contract until January. He is unsure what the future holds and whether or not he will remain in full-time football beyond his time at Hearts, but is focused on making the most of his opportunity and getting himself back in shape.
“This is the first time I’ve not had a pre-season under my belt. It’s been a frustrating summer for me, but that’s football,” said Hollis. “I got the phonecall out of the blue from Hearts. It was a bit of a shock but I was happy to come. I’ll just help out here until the goalkeepers are fit and then I’ll be off again, so I’ll see what happens after that. I’ll probably not be here that long.
“It’s been good to get back in the swing of things but it’s been tough as well. I’ve only been in for nine days, so I just need to keep working hard and try and get up to speed. It’s given me a wee lift getting a move to Hearts but I’ve just got to keep plugging away trying to get to a level that I’m happy with. I’d obviously like to establish myself as a No.1 somewhere but I’m not getting any younger so we’ll just have to see how things go. I’m not sure yet what I’ll be doing after Hearts and whether I’ll be staying in the game full-time.”
After spending most of his time at Motherwell as an understudy, Hollis finally got his chance to stake a claim for the gloves last season when Darren Randolph left for Birmingham City, but fitness issues ruined his big chance.
“I was riddled with injuries last season, there was nothing I could have done about it,” he explained. “The few years before that, I was playing second fiddle to Darren Randolph, who is top notch. That’s the hard thing about being a goalkeeper – only one of you can play, so you can’t have any complaints if the guy ahead of you is playing well.”
Hollis is now having to deal with a similar situation at Hearts, where Hamilton has seized control of the gloves for league matches. “Young Jack’s come in and done really well – I’m really impressed with him,” he said. “Not much has been made of the goalkeeping situation because he’s come in and done so well. It’s been unfortunate for the likes of myself that he’s done so well, but even Neil Alexander will probably face a battle to get in when he’s fit because Jack’s doing really well.”