Frankie McAvoy's gushes with praise after Hearts win as Aidan Denholm exit situation addressed after impressive return
Trailing 2-1 from last week’s first leg in Trondheim, the Jambos got off to the worst possible start in front of a packed and expectant Tynecastle when Isak Thorvaldsson put the Norwegians ahead. However, a goal seven minutes later from Lawrence Shankland and a second-half double from midfielder Cammy Devlin secured a 3-1 victory on the night and a 4-3 aggregate scoreline. They will now take on Greek outfit PAOK in the play-off round.
“It was a rollercoaster of emotions at the side of the pitch,” said McAvoy. “We lose an early goal, which wasn’t ideal if I’m honest with you, 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, 3-1 down on aggregate, to win 4-3 on the night and the players deserve immense credit.”
McAvoy also praised the part the crowd played, with a raucous atmosphere spurring them on. “The support drove us on, it was a special occasion,” continued McAvoy. “Tynecastle under the lights is difficult and daunting for anyone. The Ultras behind the goal really make it a big occasion in Scottish football and it is great to see because the fans really make it here. I can't speak it highly enough of them. They drove us on and that's fantastic. Everyone talks about cliches of a 12th man, they were that tonight.
"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.”
While everyone in maroon put in an impressive performance, two-goal hero Devlin was given a strong appraisal from McAvoy. The Australian is not known for his goalscoring exploits, having only scored three in his previous two seasons, but his two strikes were so crucial for Hearts - even if the winner was deflected.
“I need to see the goal back, it did look as though it hit their boy,” McAvoy said. “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. 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.”
While Devlin grabbed the headlines, there was also a composed performance for his midfield sidekick from 19-year-old Aidan Denholm, who was making his first start for the club. The teenager was told he could leave the club during the summer but has now forced his way into the first-team picture under the new management,
"Who told him he was leaving?” smiled McAvoy, “That's obviously before our time. We judge everybody what we think they can bring to the group. We're delighted with him, Naisy [Steven Naismith, technical director] worked with him in the B team last season and felt he could offer something. He has always been round about us. He's a fantastic young kid, great attitude. great enthusiasm desperate to do well for Hearts as they all should be. It just shows you you never know what can happen with you in football. He should be proud of himself, he's a good young player with a big future ahead of him.”