Hearts boss Robbie Neilson backs 20-goal Lawrence Shankland to keep scoring
Robbie Neilson backed Lawrence Shankland to kick on and score even more after he became the first Hearts player to hit 20 goals in a season for 31 years.
The Jambos skipper notched his side’s second goal in their 3-0 Scottish Cup fourth-round win over Hibernian.
And manager Neilson revealed that Jambos record goal-scorer John Robertson, the last man to score 20 in a season for the Tynecastle club back in 1991-92, messaged him at full-time to ask for Shankland’s phone number.
“Brilliant for him, brilliant,” Neilson said when asked about Shankland’s feat. “The first guy to text me was Robbo, looking for Shanks’ number. Whether that’s to congratulate or warn him, I don’t know! We’ll need to wait and see!
“But it just shows how long it’s been. It’s 31 years since someone hit 20 and that shows how hard it is.
“But I always knew bringing Lawrence here, having him at Dundee United before and seeing him at Ayr United, that he scores goals.
“It’s up to us to create them and we’ve managed to do that. I think he’ll go on to score more.”
Shankland’s day ended on a downer when he was sent off in stoppage time after picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Rocky Bushiri.
“I’m disappointed with that,” Neilson said. “I didn’t think there was any contact. But we can’t appeal so there’s not much we can do.”
Josh Ginnelly and Toby Sibbick were Hearts’ other scorers but Neilson admitted his side were not at their best despite the emphatic scoreline.
“I’m delighted,” he said. “It’s always difficult when you come to your main rivals in the early rounds. Obviously, getting through is the main thing.
“Performance-wise, 3-0 potentially flattered us a wee bit. I think the game was pretty tight. It was a close game.
“They hit the post early doors. If that goes in, it changes the game.
“I don’t think there was a lot of quality in the game, passing-wise, possession-wise or movement-wise, but I think it came down to three moments of quality. Gino’s finish, Lawrence’s finish and then Toby’s at the end to be the icing on the cake for us.
“It was a great result. Not the kind of performance we’re looking for but we’re not going to be that bothered because it’s about being in the next round.”
Hibs manager Lee Johnson fears defender Bushiri may have broken his leg after he was carried off on a stretcher following a challenge with Cammy Devlin in stoppage time.
“It looks like a bad one, if I’m honest with you,” the Easter Road boss said. “Touch wood he hasn’t broken his leg but it certainly looked like that from the challenge.”
Johnson felt his side – who have now lost 10 of their last 14 matches – contributed plenty to the game but he conceded Hearts were simply far more “clinical” with their opportunities.
“I do think we need to get that first goal more often than we’re getting it at the moment,” he said. “And we did have opportunities to do that.
“We hit the post and their first opportunity comes from a breakaway.
“The second goal is poor. It’s really poor defending, too easy for Shankland to come inside Chris Cadden and open up and shoot.
“It was a decent finish but the difference up to that point was the clinical nature inside the box. In terms of control, will and skill, we had a lot of it but we’re out of a cup and we’re extremely disappointed.”