Danny Handling today breathed a sigh of relief after finally ending his three-and-a-half-year wait for a goal at Easter Road, admitting: “It was long overdue.”
The midfielder became one of the youngest ever Hibs players when he made his debut aged just 17 years and 97-days-old against Aberdeen in May 2011, but while he’d scored away against Motherwell, Ross County, Rangers and Livingston, Handling revealed he was beginning to wonder if he’d ever find the net on home soil.
But those worries vanished as he notched the Easter Road outfit’s opening goal against Alloa Athletic, knocking the ball home after Wasps goalkeeper Craig McDowall was unable to hold Jason Cummings’ angled shot, with striker Dominique Malonga adding a second to give Alan Stubbs’ side their first home win in the Championship in three months.
Today Handling relived the moment, saying: “It was a long time coming, far too long to be honest. It was always at the back of my mind that I had to get a goal at Easter Road. I made my debut at 17 and I’m turning 21 in February so it’s been a long, long wait.
“I was getting ready to go mental at Jason when he took on the shot and missed when I was all alone in the box. But the goalkeeper could only palm it out to me and I was delighted to put it in.”
The strike was Handling’s third goal of the season and took his overall tally to just five in 56 first-team appearances, 29 of them starts, a figure which he readily branded “not great” and one which has brought criticism from some quarters.
Now, though, the Scotland Under-21 internationalist is intent on winning over the doubters, revealing he’s had a chat with head coach Stubbs about improving his goal-scoring rate.
He said: “I was an out-and-out striker before but now I’m playing a bit deeper. I like where I am but it does make it harder for me to score, although I feel I should be getting more.
“You do read things you don’t want to be reading but you just have to try to block it out and get on with it.
“My goalscoring isn’t great for a player in my position, but hopefully I can build on it and this will prove to be the first of many both at Easter Road and elsewhere.”
Stubbs, meanwhile, has his fingers crossed David Gray will be fit to face Raith Rovers on Saturday after the right-back was forced off with 30 minutes to play against Alloa with a groin injury, a problem which, he revealed had been “rumbling” on for a couple of weeks.
The Hibs boss said: “We’ve been trying to manage it but for him to come off tells us he was really feeling it otherwise he would more often than not play through the pain. We’ll have to wait and see, but hopefully it’s one that will settle down quite quickly.”