There was no doubt in Oli Shaw’s mind as he raced off to celebrate that magical moment of scoring only seven minutes into his first Edinburgh derby.
Yes, he’d twice done so against Celtic in both the Betfred Cup and the Premiership and, only a few days earlier, the 19-year-old had snatched the winner in a narrow win over Ross County.
But he knew a goal against Capital rivals Hearts would eclipse everything and underline his burgeoning reputation as one of Scottish football’s most promising young strikers.
However, his sheer joy was quickly replaced by total incredulity as assistant referee Sean Carr ruled his strike hadn’t gone over the line after it had come crashing down off Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin’s crossbar after he’d managed to get across in front of John Souttar to meet team-mate Martin Boyle’s driven cross.
Carr, as everyone now knows thanks to television evidence, was wrong, his blunder not only probably costing Neil Lennon’s players victory but precious points as they slipped further behind Aberdeen and Rangers in the race for that second place in the Ladborkes Premiership.
Today Shaw admitted the decision had left his head reeling for a few minutes until he was able to clear his thoughts and refocus on helping the Easter Road side to what, eventually, was a ninth successive match against the Jambos unbeaten, their last defeat at the hands of their biggest rivals having been in August, 2014.
“One hundred per cent,” was his reaction when asked for his own take on that moment. “I was convinced it was in and was away celebrating with Martin.
“It’s maybe hard for the linesman, but he should be seeing that one. At that point I was just thinking ‘it’s in, it’s in, it’s in.’ Then after five minutes I just focused on getting into the box and trying to get another chance.
“Obviously it was disappointing, it could have been the winning goal but it wasn’t to be. I didn’t speak to either the assistant or the referee but I saw it at half-time and it was definitely in. Goal-line technology might have helped, but we move on.
“It was a crucial time in the game, we were right on top and who knows, we could well have gone on to win had the goal stood. It reminded me a bit of Leigh Griffiths’s free-kick against Hearts a few years ago which also wasn’t given – I watched that one on the telly.”
Shaw, whose prolific strike-rate for the Hibs development squad has persuaded Lennon to promote him to the first-team squad in recent weeks, revealed he didn’t know until their coach pulled up outside Tynecastle around 90 minutes before kick-off that he’d actually be playing but said he was delighted to have shown he could handle such an occasion before making way for Simon Murray, scorer of the winner in the previous derby, with 18 minutes left to play.
He said: “The gaffer only named the team when we arrived at the stadium. I never thought too much about it, if he wanted to throw me in I would try to do my job. I didn’t have a thought about it, I just prepared as I always do and if I started, I started.
“The derby is the biggest game in a Hibs jersey, a must-win match and the gaffer trusted me to put me in. To have scored would have been a good way to top it off.
“I’ve been to a few derbies sitting with the fans so it was great to play in one. The atmosphere, the magnitude of the game is massive but I was in my zone, focused on playing my game and I enjoyed it.
“Hearts are a physical side, I was expecting that and bring up against the likes of Christophe Berra, a Scotland internationalist, and John Souttar from the Under-21s, it was a great experience but I felt I matched them.
“Doing that gives you confidence going into future games.”
Shaw admitted he’d heard all the verbals emanating from Gorgie in the lead up to the match, the talk of “coming to get Hibs”, skipper Berra’s claim of becoming the dominant team in Edinburgh once again and former Hearts midfielder Gary Mackay talking about a “return to normality”.
But, he insisted, all of that simply went over his head. He said: “There was a lot of talking, them saying the tide had perhaps turned as they are on a good run of form and had beaten Celtic. But we are doing well in the league so we didn’t listen to what they had to say, we just focused on ourselves.”
Carr’s bad call was the second big decision to go against Hibs in the space of a fortnight, a blatant handball by Rangers defender David Bates going unpunished and leaving Lennon’s players without the penalty which could well have seen them take a point from that match.
Added to his “ghost goal” those have proved to be costly but Shaw insisted he and his team-mates can round up an impressive first half of the season by winning their final game of the year against Kilmarnock tomorrow.
He said: “There have been big decisions that haven’t gone our way unfortunately, but we’ll bounce back. Hopefully we can round off the year with a win against Killie.
“That would be a great end to the first half of the season. Coming up from the Championship we have set our own standards. We want to finish as high as we can and being where we are at the minute we are happy with what we have achieved so far and hopefully we can continue that into the new year.”
Scotland Under-19 cap Shaw knows tomorrow’s match can, perhaps, go some way to repairing the damage done by Wednesday night’s blunder with Premiership leaders Celtic facing Rangers in the Old Firm derby while Hearts travel to face second-placed Aberdeen meaning, whatever the outcome of those respective fixtures, something has to give.
Again, though, he was adamant all he and his team-mates can do is concentrate on their own business, well aware of the turnaround in Kilmarnock’s recent fortunes under new boss Steve Clarke even if Hibs did, eventually, enjoy a comfortable 3-0 victory at Rugby Park earlier in the season.
He said: “Killie are on a wee run, they’ve been doing well as we saw in them beating Rangers at the weekend. It will be tough, but we will be ready for it. The gaffer believes in us, we believe in ourselves and if we play our own game the results will come. And hopefully if I get the chance to play I’ll get myself a few goals.”