Robbie Neilson lauds Hearts hero Lawrence Shankland and reveals John Robertson is looking for him after goalscoring exploits

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson hailed his striker Lawrence Shankland for becoming the first man in maroon to score 20 goals in a season for 31 years after netting in the 3-0 Scottish Cup success over Hibs, revealing that legendary Jambos striker John Robertson has already been in touch looking for Shankland’s number after his record was matched.

Shankland scored Hearts’ crucial second goal in a competitive Edinburgh derby at Easter Road, either side of strikes from Josh Ginnelly and Toby Sibbick, to send his team into the fifth round of the competition, and while the Hearts boss said that the prime objective was simply getting through to the next round of the Scottish Cup, the fact his men managed to do that with a win at the home of their city rivals was the icing on the cake.

The cherry on top was captain Shankland becoming the first Hearts player since the Hammer of the Hibs, back in season 1991/92, to bank 20 goals in a season. Three of them have come in this season’s three tussles with Hibs, which is a return Robbo will appreciate as much as the Hearts fans.

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“It’s brilliant for him, brilliant,” said his manager, aware of the significance of his captain and top striker hitting his target in Leith. “It just shows how long it’s been. I think it’s 31 years since someone hit 20 and that shows how hard it is. But I always knew bringing Lawrence here, having him at Dundee United before and seeing him at Ayr United, that he scores goals. It’s up to us to create them and we’ve managed to do that. I think he’ll go on to score more.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson had to watch the game from the stands.Hearts manager Robbie Neilson had to watch the game from the stands.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson had to watch the game from the stands.

Revealing one of the first messages he had on his phone at full time was from Robertson, Neilson said: “He was looking for Shanks’ number. Whether that’s to congratulate or warn him, I don’t know. We’ll need to wait and see.”

The result means that Hearts are now unbeaten in nine capital head-to-heads and the result also provided Neilson, who watched from the stand following last weekend’s sending off, with his first derby win at Easter Road as a player or coach.

“I’m delighted but ultimately for me it’s just about beating Hibs,” he said. “It’s for the fans. We had 3,500 fans here today. We all know league form goes out the window in these games and it’s all about what happens in 90 minutes. We’ve managed to get it here. It’s been a while since we have won here so it’s nice to get it done.

“It’s always difficult when you come to your main rivals in the early rounds. Obviously, getting through is the main thing. Performance-wise, 3-0 potentially flattered us a wee bit. But I think the game was pretty tight. It was a close game. They hit the post early doors, if that goes in it changes the game. But all in all the most important thing is to be in the hat and we are.

“I don’t think there was a lot of quality in the game, passing-wise, possession-wise or movement-wise. I think it came down to three moments of quality. Gino’s finish, Lawrence’s finish and then Toby’s at the end. It was a great result. Not the kind of performance we’re looking for but we’re not going to be that bothered because it’s about being in the next round.”

The only real disappointment is the fact that Shankland was shown a second yellow late in the game, leaving his team-mates to see out the match with 10 men. It will also rule the striker out of the next round. “I’m disappointed with that,” added Neilson. “I didn’t think there was any contact. But we can’t appeal it so there’s not much we can do.”