Alex Lowry refused English clubs to join Hearts from Rangers - but Tynecastle management issue a warning
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Alex Lowry turned down clubs in England and Scotland to join Hearts on loan and enjoyed an exciting debut against St Johnstone in Perth. The 20-year-old had the chance to go down south but picked Tynecastle Park once it was decided he could leave Rangers for the season.
He made his debut as a substitute in Saturday’s opening Premiership match at McDiarmid Park, which saw Hearts finish 2-0 winners with goals from Yutaro Oda and Lawrence Shankland. Frankie McAvoy, the Hearts head coach, explained his thoughts after a pleasing result in front of more than 3,000 travelling fans from Edinburgh.
“I'm relieved for myself and the backroom team but delighted for the players and the supporters. They were fantastic and came out in big numbers so I'm delighted we picked up three points and kept a clean sheet,” said McAvoy, who also gave new Japanese forward Kyosuke Tagawa a debut in the game
“It will take time for us to gel. That's not a cop-out to buy people time. We've brought a new group in, it will take time to gel them in in terms of how we want them to play – also fitting into the group and finding camaraderie between them. We are delighted with the impact the subs made. You could see the quality that added. We need strength in depth and we need them being really competitive.
“We knew we didn't do as well as we were hoping we could so [in the first half]. Historically, St Johnstone is a tough place to come and we knew Hearts' results previously. They were under a wee bit of pressure after losing 4-0 to Stirling Albion and being put out of the Viaplay Cup, so they were a wounded animal.
“VAR breaking down before the game started probably didn't help us much. It allowed them to settle a wee bit and put pressure on us with long throws, free-kicks and balls into the box. That's been an area where we needed to do better from last season and I thought we did that in the main.
“We said that we needed to take more chances getting forward, more penetrating passes, trying to get runs in behind. You can see we get full-backs high and the wide players inside and vice-versa. We had to breach them in behind. We were pleased with the second half but we know we are a bit rusty. St Johnstone have had four competitive games, we've had pre-season games. It's not the real stuff, is it? I felt we got better as the game wore on.”
Asked about Lowry’s impact, McAvoy accentuated the substitute’s impact in the second half but cautioned against people hyping him up too much over the coming weeks and months of his season-long loan.
“You can see he's got a bit of quality. We knew that,” said McAvoy. “He is coming from a massive club in Rangers and we are delighted he wanted to come here. He had a lot of options on the table and chose to come here. He had the chance to go down south but he felt we play in the right manner and felt he could add something. I think you could see that today.
“We used him in a few positions where he can bring that creativity to try and unlock defences. Sometimes it's difficult when teams sit in and defend, it can be hard to break them down. He has that quality.
"Even the second goal. He has that intelligence to play a looped pass for [Liam] Boycie, who unselfishly plays it across for Shanks to finish. We know we are getting a good young player but we need to be mindful not to put him under too much pressure in terms of him being the guy who's got to go and win games all the time. That's not the case. We are a team and it's not about individuals. He will fit in well.”
Boyce and Beni Baningime made their returns from knee ligament injuries and received a rapturous welcome from the Hearts fans. “It's brilliant, great to see them back on the pitch,” smiled McAvoy. “Sometimes you get wee niggles coming back from bad injuries. Credit to the medical team. They worked really hard to get them ready. Again, that adds some strength in depth to the squad and we will need that going forward. It's a marathon, not a sprint. You don't win it on the first day but it was important to get a positive start with three points.”