Hibs' Simon Murray grateful for schooling in junior ranks

After three seasons in the Championship, this was a match everyone at Hibernian was looking forward to. Some more than others.

Simon Murray celebrates scoring a penalty for Hibs against Partick. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS

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Simon Murray joined the Leith side from Dundee United this summer, but he is more used to mixing it in the juniors. He doesn’t regret his career pathway but he is delighted that it has brought him to Easter Road and the excitement of the 
Premiership.

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“It does make me appreciate where I am that bit more,” said the striker. “There are some horrific places to play football in Scotland. There are a few bad ones but Arniston’s not the best. What’s not bad about it? I’m sure there was a guy having a tinny and a fag at the side of the pitch. I did enjoy that as well, to be fair. I just worked hard. Sometimes when you come through the club set-up you take it for granted but I’m happy with the way I came through.”

Taking things for granted is not something he or his colleagues will do, according to Murray whose cv includes spells at Downfield, Tayport and Dundee Violet. Individually and collectively they have got off to a flying start. League Cup progress will be reassessed when they face Ayr United in the last 16 tomorrow night but they will go into the game full of belief after they opened up their league campaign with a notable three points against Partick Thistle, a team who finished in the top six last term.

Key to Hibs’ progress has been the form of Murray, 25, who has scored eight goals – already more than his dad Gary managed in his entire first season at Hibs, he informs with a grin – and is prepared to stake a claim for a ninth, if Steven Whittaker lets him.

The goal in question was the second of Saturday’s haul and was the one that allowed Hibs to overhaul an early deficit and take the lead their superior play and possession merited. The full-back was the one who was credited with the strike after he flicked Danny Swanson’s ball goalwards with the outside of his right boot, but the lurking Murray claims it may have nicked him on the way in. If it did, he says he will be adding it to his tally.

“We’ve not really conceded a goal first in the League Cup games, so it shows strength of character to come from behind and score three goals like that, especially at home when there’s a lot of pressure from the fans,” Murray said. “We have to remember it’s only one game. We’ve another big game on Tuesday because we want to go a long way in the League Cup. But Partick Thistle are a good team and finished in the top six last year. It is what it is – a good first result. But by no means are we entitled to think we’ve arrived.”

It comes back to taking nothing for granted and no-one at Hibs can do that, not when there is competition for every shirt. Even Murray, with his impressive early goals haul, admits that he is looking over his shoulder.

After the home side had gone ahead in the seventh minute when Chris Erskine, pictured, capitalised on a lovely Steven Lawless pass, it was Hibs’ Martin Boyle who ignited the comeback, drilling home an equaliser in the 14th minute. On the bench, the presence of Lithuanian Deivydas Matulevicius literally looms large, and there was uproar every time Anthony Stokes headed out to warm up and a standing ovation when he finally came on.

“I like to score goals and I like to work hard for the team,” said Murray. “I feel as though I add other things to the team. If I keep playing well, hopefully I’ll keep playing. But it makes you perform better because you know there’s someone there waiting to come and take your place. It will make me a better player and I’m looking forward to it. I definitely see it as a positive rather than a threat because when you have quality around you then the pressure’s maybe not solely on you to score. We’ve got firepower through the team. The better the team is, the more chance I’ve got of scoring goals.”

He made his contribution in open play as the team pressed Partick, who will hope to bounce back against St Johnstone tomorrow, and controlled the tempo of the match for all but the first ten minutes, when it looked like the guests might spoil the party.

But Murray also weighed in with a goal. Swanson set up the chance with a neat backheel to Boyle, who burst into the box and was clumsily felled by Callum Booth. Murray converted the spot-kick. That was in the 52nd minute and at that point, effectively, the contest was over.