Hibs skipper Ian Murray today hailed Garry O’Connor’s “phenomenal” goalscoring form, predicting a record-breaking season for his Easter Road team-mate.
O’Connor claimed two more to take his tally for the season to ten from 11 matches as Hibs ended their seven-month run without a home win in the SPL as they dumped St Johnstone in a five-goal thriller to extend their unbeaten run to five matches.
In doing so the 28-year-old became the leading marksman on both sides of the Border, outstripping even Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
However, his feat won’t be enough to convince Scotland boss Craig Levein – who watched O’Connor score twice in the 3-3 draw with Dundee United at the weekend – to hand him an international recall when he names his squad to face Liechtenstein and Spain in the final two Euro 2012 qualifying matches later today.
Murray, though, is convinced Levein won’t be able to resist O’Connor’s case if the striker continues his current hot streak which has seen him score six in his last four matches.
The Hibees utility man said: “It looks as if Garry is going to score in every game. Some strikers would be happy to get into double digits over the course of an entire season but Garry has reached that figure in less than a quarter of it. Ten goals for a team which has been getting a bit of pelters for not scoring is just phenomenal.”
While some questioned the wisdom of O’Connor returning to Hibs after spells with Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia and Birmingham City and Barnsley in England, Murray believes the frontman is simply revelling in playing in a green and white shirt again.
And although he doesn’t want to put unfair pressure on his team-mate, he reckons O’Connor will now be gunning to claim the title of Hibs’ top goalscorer in an SPL season, one which is jointly held by Anthony Stokes and Derek Riordan who each claimed 23 in a single campaign.
Murray said: “How many can Garry score? I don’t want to put too much pressure on him but the volume he’s scoring at the moment speaks for itself. I can see no reason why he can’t reach 20, it’s probably a target he has set himself in any case.
“Any more than that he’d be absolutely delighted but I’m sure he’ll be looking to get level with Stokesy and Deeks.”
As for O’Connor’s international prospects, Murray believes Hibs will benefit from their star man being overlooked this time round although he feels a return is inevitable should he continue to bang in the goals.
He said: “He’s the in-form Scottish striker at the moment but from Hibs’ point of view I think we’ll be happy to see him get a bit of time off after Saturday’s match with Rangers and be fresh for our next game against Motherwell.”