Liam Boyce ready to partner Armand Gnanduillet in Hearts attack

Liam Boyce would be keen to partner Armand Gnanduillet up front for Hearts.Liam Boyce would be keen to partner Armand Gnanduillet up front for Hearts.
Liam Boyce would be keen to partner Armand Gnanduillet up front for Hearts.
Prospects of Liam Boyce partnering Armand Gnanduillet in attack will excite Hearts supporters already stirred by their club’s newest signing.

Gnanduillet replaced Boyce for his debut at Stark’s Park on Tuesday evening before scoring twice to complete a 4-0 victory. The imposing Frenchman was brought to Edinburgh as a traditional target-man No.9 and Boyce believes they could work in tandem.

With Gnanduillet’s frame and mobility allied to Boyce’s craft and intelligence, Hearts certainly have the ingredients for a dangerous two-man forward line. Whether manager Robbie Neilson wants to use them together remains to be seen.

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Boyce is keen to give it a try. He can point to three goals in his last two games as evidence of his own form, whilst his new colleague introduced himself to Scottish football by showcasing his own scoring ability. They could, potentially, make a devastating pair.

“Tuesday was the first I'd seen Armand and obviously he's huge,” said Boyce, speaking exclusively to the Evening News ahead of Saturday’s match with Dunfermline at Tynecastle Park.

Feed off him

“He scored a great header and a good striker's goal as well. He looked good holding it up and he's rapid as well. It would be good to partner him and feed off him. He can hold the ball up and I can get in and around him.”

They may well end up fighting against one another for a start if Neilson sticks with his favoured formula of one central striker flanked by two wingers. Boyce welcomes the competition regardless.

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“Yes, 100 per cent. I just want to win games. If there's competition there and we're both scoring, it's only going to be good for Hearts. The big man started well the other night getting two goals, so hopefully it continues.

“Competition is good. You know when you come to Hearts that we're going to sign players and try to get better every year, especially once the gaffer came in. You need to be on your game if you want to keep your place.

“It's the same at international level with Northern Ireland. If you want to play, then you have to be playing well. If you're not, then you have no-one else to blame but yourself.

“You just need to keep giving everything in training and, if you aren't playing, make sure you take any chances you get on the pitch.”

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Different types of goals

Boyce did just that with two headed goals against Raith last Saturday and an inspired finish against the same opponents on Tuesday. He was especially satisfied with the midweek effort due to the passing exchange with his Northern Ireland team-mate Michael Smith in the build-up.

“It was good to get a goal like that, where there was a good bit of play beforehand,” said Boyce. “All my other goals for Hearts have been in and around the six-yard box.

“I wanted to show I can do other stuff as well. It was good for my confidence to get a one-two and get a finish. My confidence is high and I've been scoring in the last couple of games.

“As a team, we just want to keep playing well and win games. If I can score it's a bonus. Obviously I've been scoring lately so I'll just try and keep it up.”

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Hearts emerged as a different animal in Fife after losing 3-2 at home to Raith last week. Vastly increased levels of tenacity and industry saw them take a firm grip of the game which they never looked like relinquishing.

“Saturday hurt us a bit,” admitted Boyce. “We gave away slack goals but should have clawed our way back into the game with the chances we had at the end. We knew going to Raith that we wanted a bit of revenge. We wanted to put it right.

“We know we will get chances when we play like we can. Teams will up their game against us. In the games we've lost, we've given the opposition a start. They've got ahead and then they can sit in. Saturday was an example of that.

"We need to control games a bit more. We know we will get chances and score goals so it's about finding that balance.”

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Extra motivation

The same approach will be vital against Dunfermline. Hearts lost at East End Park in November because Stevie Crawford’s side hustled and harassed them at every opportunity.

"After our performance against them last time, we need a good performance on Saturday,” said Boyce. “They beat us 2-1 at their ground and we didn't play well. We will go out there with extra motivation to do better. At Hearts, we want to win every game.”

Again, Tynecastle will be empty on Saturday with no realistic prospect of supporters returning to football venues in the near future. Players must continue to motivate themselves, although Boyce said they are actually getting more used to the lack of atmosphere.

“At the start it was a bit eerie, you can hear everyone shouting on the pitch. The fans can turn a game for you, if there's a big tackle or you get a chance. The longer it goes on, you sort of get used to it but we are all desperate to have the fans back.

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"We can only blame ourselves in the games we haven't done well so that's no excuse. We know the fans won't be back any time soon by the looks of things, so we need to take things on ourselves. We know how important this season is.”

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