Liam Boyce's goal ratio shows Hearts striker is priceless as he nears John Robertson levels
Liam Boyce is in his predatory prime right now, demonstrated by eight goals in 11 appearances for Hearts so far this season.
Saturday’s opener in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Ross County was his 26th strike in 50 games for the Edinburgh club since arriving in January 2020 from Burton Albion. Only John Robertson scored more in the same space of time.
Wearing No.10, the 30-year-old is performing like a proper talisman. The kind Hearts simply can’t do without as they reimpose themselves in the Scottish Premiership. They remain unbeaten after six matches but needed to fight tooth and nail for a point in Dingwall.
Boyce calmly converted their first goal before winning the free-kick from which Stephen Kingsley dispatched the second. In between, Blair Spittal’s double and a plethora of other County chances exposed a vulnerable looking visiting defence.
A ratio of more than one goal every two games would satisfy most centre-forwards. “I didn’t know how many I had scored and how many games I’d played until I was reminded beforehand,” said Boyce.
“One in every two games is brilliant – unless you’re Ronaldo, Lewandowski or Messi. But I don’t really think about it, I just think about scoring in the next game.”
Ironically, he played more of a midfield role against his former club as Hearts changed their 3-4-3 system to a back four. Boyce’s influence on proceedings remained huge even from a deeper position.
The visitors created a number of opportunities but were left cursing themselves. “I thought some of the football we played was brilliant, but at the end of the day it came down to us not taking our chances at the right times,” said Boyce.
“At 2-2 I missed a great chance myself when I tried to head it across and just missed at the near post. It was good that we played the way we did and created chances and obviously we are disappointed not to have won.
“It’s a good sign that we are disappointed because it shows the motivation is there and that we want to win every game no matter how well it’s going. The last couple of games we had kept clean sheets and had a couple of chances against Hibs. The back line dug the forwards put when we didn’t score.”
Perhaps it is easy to overlook the fact Hearts are a newly-promoted club such is the expectation level around Tynecastle Park. “It’s astounding what we ask of ourselves and what the fans ask of us.
“We know how good the players are and we believe what we should be doing with the squad we’ve got. I enjoyed playing a deeper role getting the ball and it was good we showed our patience in the second half.”
County delivered a strong performance with a much-changed team, manager Malky Mackay having recruited 12 players during the summer. “We did well to get the point. We frustrated Hearts and caught them on the counter. That’s something we worked on in training,” said Spittal.
Ross County (4-2-3-1): Maynard-Brewer; Burroughs, Iacovitti, Baldwin, B Paton; Tillson, H Paton; Spittal (Robertson 56), Callachan (Watson 82), Charles-Cook (Hungbo 89); White.
Hearts (4-1-4-1): Gordon; Moore, Halkett, Souttar, Kingsley; Baningime; McKay, Woodburn (Walker 65), Boyce, Mackay-Steven (Devlin 56); Gnanduillet.
Referee: David Dickinson