Lawrence Shankland reflects on partnership with Barrie McKay, missed chances and Martin Boyle stealing his thunder
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The away side took a first-half lead through a partnership which elicited excitement as soon as the second piece of it was added in the summer. Lawrence Shankland is a proven goalscorer and pairing him with one of the most creative players in the league in the form of Barrie McKay is expected to take the Hearts attack to the next level.
For the first (and highly unlikely to be the last) time this season the pair combined to put the visitors in front. McKay raced down the left wing before halting his run and cutting back to his stronger right foot. He then curled in a terrific through ball which hit Shankland fully in stride. The striker chested it down – with a hit of handball – before keeping his cool to poke through David Marshall and spark jubilation in the away end.
Though his signing delighted the support, there is still a lot of pressure on Shankland to become the club’s next goalscoring hero after arriving from Beerschot. Hearts have been starved of predatory strikers over the past couple of decades and have, famously, not had a single player hit 20 in a single campaign since John Robertson way back in the early 90s.
Shankland’s also got something to prove himself having failed to hit double figures in his last Scottish Premiership season as he was starved of service in Mickey Mellon’s dour Dundee United side, not to mention his struggles over in Belgium. He’ll be looking to get back on the goal trail and regain his place in Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad having won his first of four caps while still a Scottish Championship player. With all these ambitions it’s encouraging to see him getting off the mark in just his second game for his new club and in a tough environment.
“Aye it was a great ball,” said Shankland of the assist from McKay. “He's a clever player and part of coming to Hearts was to play with players like that. He'll find you in they areas. I made a good run and if you make good runs then players like that can find you. It was a decent goal.
"It was great scoring, obviously it was my first competitive goal for Hearts. There's no better game to get it in for myself, so I'm delighted with that. But obviously I would've been much better if we'd took the win.
"It was a great experience. They're really good games to play in. It was part of me coming here was to play in these kind of games for this club. I enjoyed it, but I could've enjoyed it a lot more if they hadn't spoiled the party at the end. It wasn't to be.
"It's a sickener for us, conceding that late in the game. Everyone knows that. At the end of the day, we got a point away from home in a derby. But yeah, [Martin Boyle] probably did steal my thunder.”
It looked for so long like Shankland’s goal was going to be the one which separated the sides until Boyle, registered only the previous evening following his move back to the club from Al-Faisaly in Saudi Arabia, scored with the last kick of the game.
It was a particularly frustrating one for Hearts to take as they’d controlled the majority of the second half and looked to be home and dry after Rocky Bushiri missed with a back-post header four minutes into stoppage time. However, there was still 60 seconds remaining and Hibs got their final opportunity after Aussie centre-back Kye Rowles allowed Elie Youan to chest off a pass to Boyle, who surged forward. Rowles tried to take down his international team-mate but failed to do so, tripping himself in the process and leaving him too far off the Hibs attacker to catch up. After Youan held off a challenge from Craig Halkett to cut-back, Boyle was unmarked to shoot beyond Craig Gordon and send the home fans into raptures.
But while the finger of blame could be pointed at the defence for failing to see the game out in the dying seconds, the forward players have to take responsibility also as Hearts failed to convert a number of chances at the beginning of the second period when they were fully on top and on the verge of putting the game to bed.
"We just had a throw-in to defend in their half. They've managed to get the knockdown and I think we were a wee bit open for the second ball, which I think caused us the biggest problem,” said Shankland. “That allowed them to get the runners down the side of us and the boy played a good ball in to be fair, and they got their goal. We didn't manage it as well as we should've.
“Start of the second chance, first 10-15 minutes, we made three good chances. Marsh made a really good double save to be fair, and I think there was another one as well, I can't really remember. But when you get they chances you need to get the second goal. And had we got it I think we would've saw the game out. It would've given us a lot better situations in which to hold on. We're disappointed with that.
"It feels like a defeat. But tomorrow when we've all settled down we'll look at the bigger picture. We've not lost the game and that's the most important thing. It was a decent performance from us and there's plenty of positives to take.”