Hearts hitman Lawrence Shankland likened to ex-Celtic and Rangers strikers as reasons for improvement explained

If Hearts can supply the service, Lawrence Shankland will find the back of the net, according to interim Gorgie boss Steven Naismith.

Likening the club’s striker’s instincts in front of goal to the Premiership’s all-time top scorers, the stand-in gaffer says he has seen the 27-year-old come on leaps and bounds this term, racking up 25 goals in 43 appearances, including a hat-trick as Hearts bounced back from a tricky period with an emphatic 6-1 victory over Ross County in their last outing. “It’s not just what we’ve done with him, it’s what we have done as a team,” explained Naismith. “We’ve created more chances, more shots.”

A key figure in Hearts’ season, becoming the first player since John Robertson in 1991/92 to bag 20 goals in a single term, the team’s recent slump coincided with his mini drought. Prior to the Ross County game, the 27-year-old had netted just twice since January but with the men around him providing more opportunities he returned to his prolific best and Naismith will be hoping that form continues.

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“He picked up a couple of niggling injuries in that time,” continued Naismith. “Against Hibs we didn’t create enough chances but Shanks had a half-chance he created himself. When you think of Shanks, you then fall back into thinking about Griff [Leigh Griffiths], Boydy [Kris Boyd], Scott McDonald – natural finishers. From the first time he was in the Scotland squad to now, I would say he is an all round forward, his link up play is much better – hence why he gets back in the national team.

Lawrence Shankland is Hearts' top goalscorer this season.Lawrence Shankland is Hearts' top goalscorer this season.
Lawrence Shankland is Hearts' top goalscorer this season.

“On top of that I think the previous manager giving him the captaincy has played a big part, he’s a leader. He’s a good character, he understands when something serious needs to be said or when it’s a good moment to have a laugh. The biggest thing is being that we’re creating more chances, if you create chances he will score goals.

“A goal that springs to mind is the derby one when [Cammy] Devlin wins it in the corner and [Josh] Ginnelly has the shot. Shanks is actually behind Gino but his natural instinct is to run round, thinking about that second phase of that attack. Loads of attacking midfielders would have stood and watched it but he is a top finisher.”