Jon McLaughlin: I knew Hibs had '˜scored' against Hearts

Jon McLaughlin recalls the thud of shot against crossbar before turning to look behind. He saw the ball bounce down from the underside of the goal frame and cross the line as it hit the turf. Hibs striker Oli Shaw and most others in the vicinity also witnessed it. However, referee Steven McLean and assistant Sean Carr remained impassive and play continued.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 9:30 pm
Goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin looks back as Oli Shaws strike cannons off the bar and over the Hearts goalline in the last meeting with city rivals Hibs. Pic: SNS

Three weeks since the last Edinburgh derby, the goal that never was remains the subject of fierce debate. Except there is no debate, really. It was a clear goal. Martin Boyle’s low cross was struck first time by Shaw and hit the underside of the bar before bouncing about a foot behind the line. McLaughlin, the Hearts goalkeeper, didn’t need the benefit of television replays. Nor did Shaw. They knew it was in.

The injustice denied Hibs victory at Tynecastle Park. Ironically, that goalless draw was the fifth in a six-game sequence which saw Hearts set a new clean sheet record. McLaughlin can allow himself a wry chuckle now, although not at the time.

“I knew it was over the line,” he admitted. “At the time, I just ran forward as far away from it as possible looking to boot the ball up the pitch. You just get the poker face on and get away from there. You are always told to play to the whistle and that’s what I did.

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“It’s probably one that will sting the Hibs fans, especially with us going on to get the club record of clean sheets after it. Was I laughing? Later on I was, but I wasn’t the time. All I was thinking was ‘don’t blow’ and thankfully he didn’t.

“It was close but for the officials to give it they have to be sure. When it bounced I could see it was over the line but I think it was pretty harsh on the linesman because he didn’t have a great view of it.

“If he’s going to give it, especially looking through bodies, with the post in the way and the fact it happened so quickly, he has to be 100 per cent sure. He clearly wasn’t and in circumstances like that they can’t gamble. They can’t make the decision just thinking it might have gone over.

“That was in our favour and thankfully for us it wasn’t given. We got away with one and got a bit of luck there but I think we deserved it because there had been times, especially earlier in the season, where things went against us. It’s all in the past now, hopefully we can go out and win the game this Sunday.”

The Captial clubs meet again, this time in the Scottish Cup as opposed to the league, with Hibs aiming to stretch their unbeaten run against Hearts to ten games. That sequence includes a Scottish Cup victory over their neighbours in each of the last two seasons. McLaughlin is merely midway through his first season in Edinburgh after forging a career in England, but he knows what this rivalry means.

“I know about the past two seasons, we are all well aware of what this game means to the club and what the competition means,” said the 30-year-old. “Hopefully we will be able to get that derby record gone and make progress in the cup.

“It has been fantastic to be involved in the derbies since I came up here. What we need to do now is win one. It’s a prestigious fixture and they are great to play in, but from our point of view a draw and a defeat so far is disappointing. The fans are crying out for us to end this run Hibs have in the derbies, so we hope to do that this weekend.

“I felt in the 0-0 game last month we did a lot of things well. We were very secure and defended well but it was a game we thought we could win. While we have enjoyed playing in them, what will make it better is winning.”

McLaughlin would happily sacrifice his historic clean sheet statistic to achieve that aim. “It is something to be proud of. It’s fantastic to get records both personally and as a team. People try to give the goalkeeper the credit in those circumstances but it’s about everyone because there is no way you are getting a clean sheet unless each member of the team is pulling their weight.

“That’s why we were able to do it, so all the players involved deserve the praise. It has been great and I hope we keep it going. But I think everyone would take a 5-4 win over Hibs this weekend if it means we are through to the next round and the supporters are celebrating a derby win. We will still have it in the league regardless, so we will be aiming to extend it.”

Earning such an accolade should see Hearts offer their goalkeeper a contract extension before his current deal ends this summer. “We haven’t spoken yet, although the club have mentioned they want to sit down and do something. That’s always great to hear and I’m happy about that,” he explained.

“I have enjoyed it here so far, it has been a great experience. There will be a lot of factors which play into it from both sides, so we will sit down and see where we go.

“There was a change of manager when I came in, the old manager had gone and Jon Daly was in charge. So I was well aware of the situation, I was always aware a new manager would be coming in. The good thing was the gaffer, Craig Levein, was at the club and had the power to say who came and went at that stage.

“So from my perspective, I knew it wouldn’t be a case of someone coming in and saying: ‘Hang on a minute, I’m not having this guy.’ It’s always a different scenario when you sign for a club which doesn’t have a permanent manager in place. But the gaffer’s coaching staff were all there, Jon, Liam Fox and Austin McPhee – so nothing much has changed, really.”