Stephen Humphrys' 60-yard belter helped him overcome a Hearts training nightmare
The ball seemed to take an eternity dropping from the Gorgie sky. Hearts and Dundee United fans watched open-mouthed, Stephen Humphrys waited in anticipation of perhaps the most outrageous goal ever witnessed at Tynecastle Park.
A raking left-footed lob from inside his own half soared over Mark Birighitti and, eventually, plummeted into the Dundee United net. It was the perfect climax to a hard-earned Hearts recovery given the visitors had led 1-0 with ten men until the 71st minute. After two well-constructed passing moves produced Lawrence Shankland’s equaliser and Alex Cochrane’s goal, Humphrys took centre stage.
He collected the ball on the edge of his own penalty area in stoppage-time, held off the challenge of former Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum, then spotted Birighitti well off his goal line. One furious effort from nearly 60 yards later, Humphrys’ name was etched in Tynecastle history.
“Did I mean it? Of course I did,” said the on-loan Wigan Athletic forward. “I saw the keeper off his line, I had just sliced one out of play two minutes before and I thought I’d better not do that again. So I carried it forward a little bit.
“I could hear the bench shouting on me to go to the corner. But I thought: ‘I’ve just sprinted forward, I’ve just sprinted back, now I’m sprinting forward again – I don’t fancy going all the way to the corner flag.
“I had a look at the keeper, thought I would try my luck. It was one of them where, as soon as you hit it, you know straight away that it’s going in. It is by far the best goal of my career, definitely.”
Many inside the stadium expected him simply to launch the ball into a safe area. “Well I did launch it, to be fair. It just happened to go in the net,” laughed the player. “I had a stinker in training on Friday and missed a few chances. I’d been ill for a couple of days, missed training and was just lying in bed.
“Friday was a shock to the system but I guess I got all my bad ones out of the way. I told the manager that, anyway. I am right-footed, just to clear that up. So, yeah, I hit it with my weak foot.”
Inevitably, the goal triggered another rendition of the Humphrys chant. “I love the fans here. Whether they know it or not, lads can hear when there are songs being sung about them. Even when I came on, I could hear my song being sung – and you can’t really describe the feeling, to be honest.
“I grew up singing footballers’ names when I was a kid. To have it happen to you is an indescribable feeling, really. I don’t know all the words by heart. I know the tune but I’m not going to sing it.”
Hearts would dearly love to convert his loan into a permanent signing. “I love it here,” said Humphrys. “I’ve got 18 months left on my contract at Wigan, a club close to my heart. I’ve come here, dedicated myself to this club, and we’ll revisit it at the end of the season.”
Hearts (3-4-2-1): Clark; Hill (Kuol 69), Sibbick, Rowles (Cochrane 69); Forrest (Humphrys 46), Halliday (Grant 61), Snodgrass, Kingsley (Neilson 88); Shankland, McKay; Ginnelly.
Dundee Utd (3-4-2-1): Birighitti; Edwards, Mulgrew, McMann; Smith, Sibbald (Freeman 74), Levitt, Niskanen (McLeod 83); Pawlett (Djoum 51), Middleton; Fletcher.
Referee: Nick Walsh.