Hibernian head coach Nick Montgomery described Martin Boyle as a “special player” after the forward provided a superb assist for Josh Campbell to score the only goal of the game against Kilmarnock.
The Australia international, who also had an earlier effort ruled out for offside, sped forward with a forceful run from the centre-circle before teeing up his team-mate from close range.
Campbell’s effort after 36 minutes proved to be decisive as Hibs collected their first cinch Premiership victory in seven outings to move within a point of sixth-placed Killie.
Montgomery said: “Martin is a special player and we have to protect him. Coming off in the semi-final (against Aberdeen) he took a little knock.
“We can’t take risks on a player of Martin’s stature at the club and it was the right decision to leave him on the bench at St Mirren.
“It freshened him up and he has had a disallowed goal, possible penalty call and a couple at the end where he just lost his footing.
“Martin is a big player for us and it’s important that we don’t take risks when it’s not necessary.”
Montgomery admitted he was still reluctant to allow Boyle to join up with Australia after picking up a knee issue in last weekend’s Viaplay Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen.
He added: “I’m not the doctor but I will go down and have that conversation. If he’s fit, no problem, he’ll be raring to go with the Socceroos.
“If not, he’ll probably stay. Getting through 90 minutes probably tells you he’ll be desperate to go, and he’s a big player for them as well.
“If it was up to me, he’d stay and we’d rest him! But they’ve got good medical staff there and hopefully it’s two weeks of him recovering for a few days, and getting some minutes.”
Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes admits Boyle’s moment of brilliance was the difference between the teams.
He said: “We should have done better in dealing with the initial move when Boyle got on the half turn.
“I saw when he was rested against St Mirren, I thought they should have let him run riot against Stevie’s (Robinson) team and left him on the bench against us.
“He’s the one that makes the difference and his part in the goal was decisive for them.
“The game was decided by a big moment with Boyle at the heart of it.
“But we are disappointed we didn’t manage to take anything from a game I felt we could have.
“We were just looking for those moments of quality.”