Hearts boss Robbie Neilson sets Lawrence Shankland new target

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has challenged Lawrence Shankland to chase down another scoring target before the end of the season.

The striker is the first Hearts player to score 20 goals in a season since John Robertson 31 years ago following his strike against Hibs in the Scottish Cup. He reached that target in 32 appearances and Neilson now wants him to set his sights even higher. Hearts still have 16 league games to play and are in the last 16 of the cup.

Asked if 30 goals is a realistic target, Neilson replied: “That’s got to be the target for Lawrence. We knew when bringing him here that he would score goals for us. We create chances and he is a guy who can get on the end of them and score.

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“To get 20 is outstanding because it is 31 years since someone has actually hit that mark. Robbo was the last one. Can he go to the next level? Can he get 25? Can he get 30? We’ll help him and hopefully he can get there.”

The Hearts boss handed Shankland the captaincy after Craig Gordon suffered a double leg break on Christmas Eve and believes he has thrived on the extra responsibility.

“I’ve known Lawrence for a long time,” Neilson added on Sky Sports. “I watched him at Queen’s Park, Aberdeen, then Ayr United when I was at Dundee United. I managed to get him there. I knew his leadership qualities were there and I felt that giving him the armband would actually help him progress on and off the pitch and I think that’s worked out well.”

Lawrence Shankland has scored 20 goals in 32 games for Hearts so far. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS