Alex Lowry's talks with Hearts' Steven Naismith and ex-Rangers boss Michael Beale as talisman qualities show for Hibs derby
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After 56 minutes in Dingwall on Saturday, the floppy hair, goatee beard and still-slightly-adolescent face emerged from the away dugout. Alex Lowry would again play a very grown-up part in an important Hearts victory, just like at Kilmarnock four days previously. After his exhilarating stoppage-time winner in the Viaplay Cup, he produced a sumptuous cross for Alan Forrest to head the visitors’ winning goal at Ross County.
The talismanic role undertaken by Lowry over the last week is part of the midfielder’s plan to regain a place in the Hearts team. He intends to make it nigh on impossible for head coach Steven Naismith to continue keeping him on the substitutes’ bench. Evidence suggests a strong case.
Lowry’s work out of possession is also improving. He chased and harried Ross County players with a level of intensity not seen in his earlier Hearts appearances. He is still only 20 and learning the requirements for regular Scottish Premiership involvement. There is clear progress as a season-long loan move from Rangers begins to pay dividends for all concerned.
With Hearts hosting Hibs this weekend, Lowry knows his impact off the bench stands him in good stead for an Edinburgh derby debut. “I want to be starting games so making an impact is the best way I can get myself back in the team,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the game and hopefully I can keep going. I’ve had a goal and an assist [in the last week]. I should have had another goal on Saturday. As long as I can contribute to the team I am happy. I’m just delighted overall we got the three points and can focus on a big game at the weekend.”
Lowry has approached Naismith for advice. “I’m not going in saying: ‘Why I am not playing?’ It’s more: ‘How can I can get in the team?’ The manager has given me quite a few things to do and I've done it. He put me on earlier than he did in midweek so I’m happy.
“We spoke about the other side of the game, something I need to work on in training and make it a habit so that it doesn't hold me back. It’s mainly getting back into a shape or, if we lose the ball, reacting straight away so there is not a delay; just going straight to the ball and winning it back. Small details but they make a hell of a difference in the game.
“It is different. I've played with Rangers through youth football and we were one of the more dominant teams, so it is something I've had to work on as I've got older. I'd rather have learned it when I was younger so I don't have to do it now. However I can help Hearts, I'll help them: The bits near the goal and the bits in the middle of the pitch, getting the ball back, getting into shape.
“That's two games in a row we've won so momentum is building. It’s down to how we play at the weekend. We need to go out and perform hopefully get another three points.”
Lowry also heard from Rangers manager Michael Beale prior to his sacking by the Ibrox club on Sunday. “I spoke to him a few times: How I am liking it? Enjoying it? How's it going? Nothing crazy. This is my first Edinburgh derby. The boys will focus this week in training and we will hopefully do our job at the weekend.”