When Oli Shaw was sent on instead of Simon Murray as the third and final Hibernian substitute at Hampden on Saturday, it was a reminder to the summer signing that he could not bask in past glories.
Forced to watch the showcase semi-final from the sidelines, Murray’s manager, Neil Lennon, said it was “a shot in the arm” for the striker who had netted ten goals in seven games at the start of the season but had drawn a blank since.
But while Shaw scored against Celtic, it was Murray who was given a starting berth and the chance to prove his worth when the Easter Road side hosted the first capital derby of the season.
Grabbing the opportunity with both hands, it took the former Dundee United player just three minutes to get on the scoresheet and bury what turned out to be the only goal of the encounter.
“Obviously, you want to play in every game so I was disappointed [at Hampden], it wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t,” said the 25-year-old. “I’m just glad I got back in.
“We knew that Stokesy was out injured so I was hoping for the nod and thankfully the gaffer put me in. Hopefully I rewarded him.”
He did, with his first goal since 12 August, and it was enough to give Hibs the three points and allow them to jump back above rivals Hearts in the Premiership standings.
“I started the season well with a good few goals but you know you are always going to go through that wee dip in form,” he added. “I have still been working hard in training and hoping to get back in the team. Couldn’t have hoped for a better time for that to happen.
“It was important to get off to a good start and we couldn’t have hoped for much better than that. I was delighted. That was the most memorable goal of my career so far and I will watch it back a fair few times!”
Watching footage of goals was what he had actually spent time doing in the build-up to the derby match as he tried to engineer a return to scoring ways.
With the help of the club’s head of performance analysis, Calvin Charlton, he had studied the technique of some top exponents of the goalscoring art and, once he had been played in by Brandon Barker and had skipped past John Souttar, those images flashed through his mind as he lashed the ball past Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin.
“I was watching a few videos through the week, all the strikers, and seeing how you get your head down and lash at it, hitting it as hard as you can and get it on target. So, my first thought was to get it on target. I had few clips of Jamie Vardy. He puts his head down and hits it,” said Murray.
“The video analysis guy said that. He said ‘just get your head down and hit it’ and I did that early on in the game and maybe that helped because the keepers aren’t fully switched on yet. We haven’t really watched those videos before but when you watch Premier League players, it is good to study what they do and luckily I watched it this week.”
It was enough to return him to scoring ways, prompting relief as well a celebration.
“You don’t aim to have a dip but sometimes you are just not getting the bounce of the ball or the bit of luck you need. The ball is maybe going behind you or a couple of yards in front of you and it just doesn’t click but if you keep working hard then it does come back,” he said.
“I can’t actually remember anything,” of the immediate aftermath of his derby winner. “I just went into a daze. It was like ‘what’s just happened’? and I just start running. I think I did a knee slide of some sort. It was great.
“Hopefully, my confidence will be higher than it was after that goal. The main thing is that we won. Our home form has not been the best but hopefully this spurs the boys on.”