Hearts fans want a new striker but club will struggle to find a better forward than Liam Boyce

While Hearts fans implore the club to sign a new striker, Liam Boyce continues going about his business with quiet efficiency.

Liam Boyce is in great form for Hearts.
Liam Boyce is in great form for Hearts.

The decisive goal in Saturday’s 2-1 victory at St Mirren was his fourth in six competitive outings this term and definitely the most important. He also claimed an assist for Andy Halliday’s opener during a fairly physical encounter in Paisley.

The Northern Ireland internationalist is the ideal focal point at centre-forward in Hearts’ new 3-4-3 system. He links play intelligently, creates space, has a physical presence and a clinical eye for goal, although some supporters would like another striker recruited.

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Suggestions of Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland were dismissed by manager Robbie Neilson last week. In any case, would he play ahead of Boyce up top? Not on recent evidence. It would be difficult for Hearts to unearth a better striker within their existing budget.

Boyce is one of the highest earners at Tynecastle Park and is justifiying those wages. A run and cutback teed up Halliday for a delightful finish in the first half against St Mirren. Then after the break, the forward’s trademark shimmy and shift from one foot to the other preceded a powerful 20-yard drive past goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.

Attacking understudies Armand Gnanduillet and Euan Henderson can testify that dislodging Boyce is a daunting task right now. “I love playing with Boycie, he is such an intelligent player,” said the Hearts midfielder Peter Haring.

“When he got the ball on the edge of the box [at the second goal], I knew what was coming. He loves to do that and he’s really good at it in tight spaces to get a clean shot away. We will be very happy with him for the rest of the year.”

St Mirren’s Joe Shaughnessy headed a late consolation before a senseless red card for substitute Kristian Dennis. He threw an arm out at Haring seconds after that goal for a dismissal which killed comeback hopes.

Hearts left with three points – their first win in Paisley for nine years since a Scottish Cup victory back in 2012. They also sat top of the Premiership with a 100 per cent record having beaten Celtic by the same scoreline in their opening fixture.

Haring stressed the need for perspective, however. “We definitely haven’t proven anything yet. It’s only two games into the season. It’s a nice start but we have to continue playing like that with that mentality,” he said.

“Some games didn’t go that well last season but we got back into the Premiership, where we belong. The cup last season was very disappointing and hard to deal with for us and the fans. We never doubted too much.

“We know the quality we’ve got and what we have to do to win Premiership games. The first two games went well but we haven’t proven anyone wrong yet. It will be a long season.

“Six points out of six is what we tried to do. It’s two good results. We’ve been top before – the first season I came here. We had a really good start but I remember how it ended and it was not that great.

“We won’t get too carried away. Beating Celtic was big for us and Saturday helped again. We can now look forward.”

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