Clinical Hibs winger Martin Boyle underlines his worth

Two-goal matchwinner shows why Jack Ross is desperate to keep him

Martin Boyle scores his second goal in Hibs' victory over Kilmarnock. Picture: SNS.
Martin Boyle scores his second goal in Hibs' victory over Kilmarnock. Picture: SNS.

On the first day of the new campaign, Chris Burke provided the goal of the game, perhaps even a contender for goal of the season, but it was Hibernian who ended the match with all three points.

If Burke’s spectacular strike just ahead of the interval gave Kilmarnock the impetus as they headed into the second half, it was Martin Boyle’s early contributions that gave the Easter Road side a lead to protect.

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A vastly influential player for the Leith side, while some may be minded to cash in on the increasingly-lauded forward, manager Jack Ross will be desperate to hold onto him for the remainder of his contract.

The game had hardly started when he grabbed the opener.

Kilmarnock had tested the home side’s mettle at the other end. But the cross flashed in by Ross Millen narrowly evaded both Nicke Kabamba and Rory McKenzie.

They were made to pay when minutes later Hibs had the ball in the back of the net. It was a breakaway move buoyed by pace and purpose and when debutant and summer signing Kevin Nisbet drove upfield, he found the ideal outlet in Boyle.

Sensing the danger Killie goalkeeper Jake Eastwood burst out to try to clear the 
danger but was left on the deck as Hibs’ Australian international rounded him, took a moment to compose himself and size up the picture in front of him, and then clinically slammed his shot past the covering defenders. Hailed by his team-mates, with no fans allowed into the stadium, he was denied the sight of the fans going nuts.

“It will be much better when the real fans come back,” said Boyle. “‘I mean, a goal is a goal. You’ve got your teammates to celebrate, at least. It’s weird because you want that atmosphere here. I’m hoping they were off their seats watching at home.”

That goal came five minutes into the contest and set the tone, ensuring there would be no gentle reintroduction to the action after the lengthy five-month lay-off. It was a bruising introduction to the Scottish game for the recently recruited Killie keeper, who was forced off injured at half-time, replaced by his rival for the starting berth, Danny 

By that time he had conceded a second. It was a similar goal to the first, this time with Scott Allan leading the advance upfield and Nisbet dragging his man wide left, leaving room for Boyle to come in from the right and slot his low effort through Calum Waters’ legs and across the goal before nestling just inside the far post.

“You want to start the season off right – and we did that,” said the matchwinner. “The first goal, I was a bit fortunate because he slipped. But I was happy to get it. The second, I just got a good, clean connection and it went in.

“I thought we were really good in the first half. In the second I think we sat off the game but our defenders did well, dealing with the crosses they were putting into our box.”

Although Hibs had been the more threatening, Killie did enjoy plenty of possession. Pressing upfield, they lacked the cutting edge of their hosts.

But when they did score, just before the break, it was a stunner. A free-kick on the edge of the box was beautifully struck by experienced Killie winger Burke and popped perfectly into the top corner of the net.

It gave the visitors hope and served as a reminder that age is not always an impediment.

“It was nice! I have been practising for a while so I caught it sweet and it got us back into the game,” said Burke. “I thought that was deserved. We just couldn’t get the other goal that would have secured a point for us, something I thought we merited.

“As you get older you lose certain traits and you have to find ways to add to your game. There are young, fit, energetic boys out there who are very talented and can do things that I cannot do so I have to add to my armoury and ensure I’m playing. That is something I have worked on. I’m delighted to have scored that goal but with hindsight it doesn’t mean anything.”

Kilmarnock tried to break through again and Burke forced a Ofir Marciano save from another quality set piece but in the end Hibs showed enough resolve and having gained their lead, they were unwilling to relinquish it.

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