Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy is hopeful Odel Offiah will agree a loan move in time to make his debut against Partick Thistle in Sunday’s League Cup tie. The Brighton defender watched Thursday’s Europa Conference League third qualifying round second leg from the stand as Hearts beat Rosenborg 3-1 on the night to progress with a 4-3 aggregate victory.
They now meet PAOK Salonika in the play-off round, the first leg of which is next Thursday at Tynecastle with the return leg in Greece seven days later. Asked if he could have Offiah in place for Sunday, McAvoy replied: “Hopefully.”
Isak Thorvaldsson put Rosenborg ahead early on but Lawrence Shankland’s quick equaliser and Cammy Devlin’s double ensured Hearts’ progress. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions at the side of the pitch,” said McAvoy. “We lose an early goal, which wasn’t ideal, and we looked a little tentative at the beginning, I don’t know if the occasion got to some of us but character sums up the team. We came back from 3-1 down on aggregate to win 4-3 on the night and the players deserve immense credit.
“The support drove us on, it was a special occasion. Tynecastle under the lights is difficult and daunting for anyone. They’re a good team, you saw that tonight. They had more of the ball than they did last week and they were more in our faces. So over the piece I am delighted for everyone connected with Hearts that we’re through to the next round.”
Devlin’s second goal was deflected to top off an outstanding display by the midfielder. “I need to see the goal back, it did look as though it hit their boy. But the good thing is he’s getting forward and into the box, which is one of the things we have asked him to do,” said McAvoy.
“Sometimes you need a bit of fortune to go your way to get results but I also think you have to earn that. I’m delighted for Cammy. We gave Pete Haring an opportunity right up to the death to play and we put a young guy in in Aidan Denholm, who is lying absolutely knackered in the dressing room. That’s great experience for him. He made a couple of mistakes at the beginning but he grew into the game.”
Elaborating on Devlin, McAvoy praised the Australian’s application. “We like him. I hope you are not trying to sell him and push him on. He's done really well for us since we've come in. We're delighted with him.
“Since Naisy came in at the back end of last season what we've tried to do is instill a great bit of camaraderie within the group. You get a special bond between them and the fans and I think you could see that tonight. For me he is a fantastic young player, a great squad member and delighted with his contribution.”
McAvoy also labelled Shankland a “fantastic talisman” but would not be drawn too much on the PAOK tie yet. “I’m just thinking about Partick on Sunday,” he said. “We know it’s PAOK we play in the next round, a trip to Greece. It’ll be a tough tie there and a fantastic occasion here.”