LAWRENCE SHANKLAND admits that he and his Hearts team-mates should have seen out their 1-0 lead in Sunday’s Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road on an afternoon of firsts for the former Dundee United centre-forward.
The 26-year-old opened the scoring in Leith as he latched onto Barrie McKay’s inch-perfect dinked ball forward midway through the first half, retaining his composure to coolly slot the ball between the legs of the onrushing David Marshall and into the back of the Hibernian net.
It was Shankland’s first time experiencing the derby in the capital, his first goal for Hearts and, so he thought, a first winning goal against Hibs. It looked for all the world like Robbie Neilson’s men would go on and claim the three points as a few decent chances to make it 2-0 were spurned. Only a remarkable double save from Hibs captain Marshall shortly after the restart kept the hosts in the contest.
Then, with the final kick of the game, Martin Boyle marked his Hibernian homecoming by combining with Elie Youan following a hopeful punt forward to drill the ball beyond Craig Gordon and just about take the roof of Easter Road.
“It's a sickener for us, conceding that late in the game,” Shankland grimaced. “Everyone knows that. At the end of the day, we got a point away from home in a derby. But yeah, he [Boyle] probably did steal my thunder.
“We just had a throw-in to defend in their half. They've managed to get the knockdown and I think we were a wee bit open for the second ball, which I think caused us the biggest problem.
“That allowed them to get the runners down the side of us and the boy [Elie Youan] played a good ball in to be fair, and they got their goal. We didn't manage it as well as we should've.
“Start of the second chance, first 10-15 minutes, we made three good chances. Marsh made a really good double save to be fair, and I think there was another one as well, I can't really remember.
“But when you get those chances you need to get the second goal. And had we got it I think we would've saw the game out. It would've given us a lot better situations in which to hold on. We're disappointed with that.”
Boyle’s late intervention was certainly a sucker punch for Hearts but Shankland maintains that there are a few silver linings from Sunday’s performance. The striker’s link-up play with McKay was impressive and produced a goal – the pair’s on-pitch understanding certainly augurs well for the remainder of the campaign – and the Shankland says that getting the chance to play alongside players of the winger’s talent was a big factor in his decision to return to Scotland this summer.
“It knocks [confidence] obviously when you go into the changing room and you've conceded that late,” Shankland conceded. “It feels like a defeat.
“But when we've all settled down we'll look at the bigger picture. We've not lost the game and that's the most important thing. It was a decent performance from us and there's plenty of positives to take.
“Aye, it was a great ball [from McKay for the goal]. He's a clever player and part of coming to Hearts was to play with players like that.
“He'll find you in those areas. I made a good run and if you make good runs then players like that can find you. It was a decent goal.
“It was great, obviously it was my first competitive goal for Hearts. There's no better game to get it in for myself, so I'm delighted with that. But obviously I would've been much better if we'd took the win.”
Shankland’s derby debut didn’t go to plan in the end and although he was hoping the team would return to Tynecastle with three points in tow and the city’s bragging rights secured, he still looks back on the experience fondly. The final moments were painful, he says, but he enjoyed the heated atmosphere at a sold-out Easter Road.
“They're really good games to play in,” he added. “Part of me coming here was to play in these kinds of games for this club. I enjoyed it, but I could've enjoyed it a lot more if they hadn't spoiled the party at the end. It wasn't to be.”