Robbie Neilson preparing to unleash Lawrence Shankland on Ross County after new Hearts striker hits debut goals

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is preparing to unleash new striker Lawrence Shankland on Ross County in next week’s opening Premiership fixture.
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The striker scored both goals on his debut as a 2-1 win friendly against Stoke City completed the Edinburgh club’s pre-season programme. They now welcome County to Tynecastle Park to begin the league campaign next Saturday.

Stoke’s visit doubled as Gary Locke’s testimonial match and Shankland, signed in a six-figure move from Beerschot on Tuesday, wasted no time making an impact.

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“I was pleased with that, I thought we did well in the first half. Pre-season has gone well so far,” said Neilson. “I was delighted with Lawrence. I pushed and pushed to get Lawrence here and we finally got it over the line, which we were delighted with.

“You see both goals – the first was like a poacher’s finish and the second one was a great finish with great technique. Our job is to create chances for him and he’ll score goals.

“He will be involved next week. We’ve got a number of great players here so there is competition and there are a lot of guys who’ll come in and out. You look at the subs who came come on, they are top players. Gary Mackay-Steven was excellent when he came on, plus Jorge Grant. There is a lot of competition here now.”

Shankland’s goalscoring instinct inside the penalty area is one of the main reasons Neilson wanted him at Hearts. “That’s what he does,” added the manager. “We had him at Dundee United and the job of the team and the club is to create chances for him and keep him in these areas.

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“He’s the guy who will put the ball in the back of the net. We have to help him and he has to help us.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson during the 2-1 win against Stoke City.Hearts manager Robbie Neilson during the 2-1 win against Stoke City.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson during the 2-1 win against Stoke City.

A crowd of 7,789 turned out to honour Locke for 20 years of service to Hearts as player, coach, manager and now ambassador.

“I was delighted for Gary,” said Neilson. “The turn out was well-deserved and he has been a massive servant to the club. He was here as a fan, player, captain, coach, manager, ambassador. Hopefully he has a good night.”