AGED only 19, Sam Nicholson will have a considerable wait to tell his grandchildren about the goal he scored for Hearts in the first-ever Edinburgh derby to be played outwith the top tier.
Indeed, he won’t have many memories to draw on since he was struggling to recall what happened just a few minutes after the final whistle yesterday, following Hearts’ 2-1 win over Hibernian at a sold-out Tynecastle.
A passionate Hearts supporter, it is understandable if the moment was lost in the intense rush of emotions as Nicholson opened the scoring with a sweetly-hit strike after 76 minutes. It was all just a blur, he later smiled.
One moment he was driving at the Hibs defence with the ball at his feet, the next the ball was nestling in Mark Oxley’s net after Nicholson had let fly from 20 yards, having already nutmegged Scott Robertson. Hibs manager Alan Stubbs later put the ease with which Nicholson bypassed Robertson down to the Hibs midfielder knowing he was already on a yellow card, but the Hearts player’s cheekiness was admirable.
“I can’t even remember half of it. I just remember running away and celebrating,” Nicholson said. “It was an unbelievable feeling, I can’t get my head around it.
“I am a Hearts fan, I went to games when I was younger. I watched players scoring against Hibs and dreamt it could be me.”
Someone had remarked that the goal, a sweetly-struck left-footed strike, was one that former Hearts favourite Rudi Skacel would have been proud to call his own. “To go out and do it is just unbelievable,” said Nicholson. “I am not sure if it was Rudi-esque, but I am just delighted it helped us win the three points.”
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson was clearly pleased with the result, which means his side have taken maximum points from their two tough opening league games, against Rangers and Hibs.
“Football broke out a little bit,” he said. “We played some nice passing movements but before that there were a lot of long balls and people were scared to make mistakes, which ultimately leads to guys being scared to take the ball. Over the piece, we created a few chances. Not a lot of clear-cut ones but we did enough to win it.”
Neilson applauded the performance of 20 year-old Jack Hamilton, who was recalled as cover early last week from a loan spell at Stenhousemuir and then pushed into a starting spot after No 2 goalkeeper Scott Gallacher was injured in training.
Hamilton conceded a penalty after 30 minutes – he was adjudged by referee Willie Collum to have impeded Danny Handling – and he was relieved to see Hibs skipper Liam Craig send his kick past the post.
The ’keeper was a steady presence thereafter and coped well with crosses while also saving a Farid El Alagui header, although the Hibs striker did score late on to make it 2-1 with a fine shot from the edge of the box.
“I was delighted for him [Hamilton], but a wee bit disappointed he didn’t keep a clean sheet which would have been great for him,” said Neilson.
“Jack was great. I didn’t have any issues before the game about putting him in. He’s a good goalkeeper but he’s also a really strong character. He’s a confident boy, he’s liked by the group and they respect him. So coming in wasn’t an issue.”
Neilson revealed that Scott Gallacher, who had been expected to play after Neil Alexander fractured a cheekbone against Rangers last weekend, could be absent for a while, which means Hamilton is in line to start again against Livingston in the Petrofac Training Cup on Wednesday.