MARTIN Boyle can at least contemplate returning to action tonight without the baggage being carried by the majority of his team-mates, who Alan Stubbs hopes will use their determination to make up for Saturday’s Scottish Cup disappointment against Livingston.
The Hibs manager may well turn to the on-loan winger as he freshens up his side for the must-win fixture. Boyle is at least unencumbered by memories of having contributed to Hibs’ defeat to Falkirk last weekend. He could be let loose this evening as Hibs seek to fill a creative gap left by the suspended Scott Allan’s absence.
No-one should presume that being cup-tied meant Boyle escaped suffering on Saturday. Indeed, he believes it was worse being one of those who were sitting in the stand with no hope of affecting the outcome.
“Personally, it was depressing not to be involved in the first place and it was painful to watch,” he said. “I can’t fault the lads for effort or commitment and it was the most one-sided game I’ve watched in a while.
“But we were caught by a sucker punch and you get punished when you don’t take your chances. Falkirk did that to us. We’ve had it a few times this season where it’s been ‘one of those games’ but I was still shocked. We need to pick ourselves up and, hopefully, get that second place. I thought I would be fine being cup-tied for the game but when I got there and saw the stadium and atmosphere I just wanted to be part of it.
“I was just as upset as those who took part. I kick every ball. I even wanted to join in the warm-up! The boys know they played well and just couldn’t score but the feeling of disappointment at losing a semi-final is just the same.
I was just as upset as those who took partMartin Boyle
“The manager spoke to us and said we need to go again,” he added. “The best thing that could happen is to have a game so soon and, hopefully, we can get three points. We are still chasing second spot and promotion is the main objective this season. The Scottish Cup would have been a bonus.”
With that “bonus” no longer on offer, Boyle and his teammates need to re-fix their sights on the one target left available to them; promotion to the Scottish Premiership. He knows there is a good chance Hibs will need to win all their remaining three league fixtures, starting this evening, to secure second place. Victory tonight against in-form Livingston would bring Hibs to within a point of Rangers, with two fixtures each remaining.
“I watched Sportscene when I got back from Hampden and heard Rangers had won to go four points clear but that doesn’t bother us,” said Boyle.
“There is still a lot to play for. Every game is a tough one but we just need to keep winning, although we know we need a favour along the way. They [Rangers] play Hearts at the end of the season and we play Falkirk and I think it will come down to that. The aim is to win our last three games and get nine points and then worry about Rangers.”
Boyle knows he could well feature in another nerve-shredding afternoon a week on Saturday, having already endured one last season at Dundee. With Hamilton Accies making up the goal difference every few minutes it seemed against Morton, the need for a win against Dumbarton became ever more essential for the Dens Park side, who secured the championship with a narrow 2-1 win.
“Hamilton Accies were winning 10-2 when I came off and it was nervy,” he reflected. “I’m not sure I could handle that again but, after it was over, it was the best feeling ever. We kept thinking we’d win the league but it was pushed back until the final game and the boys were getting nervous.”
Boyle turned 21 the weekend before Dundee’s vital clash with Dumbarton, so postponed his partying until after the title was secured. His birthday is this Saturday, the same day as Hibs host Alloa Athletic. He hopes to have reason to postpone the partying for still longer this year as Hibs seek to negotiate a return to the top tier via the play-offs.
“I’ll never forget the celebrations,” said Boyle, whose Dundee contract expires this summer. “The difference this time is that, even if we get second, we’ll still have a lot to do – but I’m aiming for back-to-back promotions.”