Simon Murray in a hurry to prove he is Hibs' main man

Neil Lennon appears content to remain patient in his pursuit of Anthony Stokes, but Simon Murray seems like a man in a hurry to prove he deserves to stay in the Hibs team come what may.
Simon Murray celebrates after heading home his second goal to seal Hibs' win over Alloa in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNSSimon Murray celebrates after heading home his second goal to seal Hibs' win over Alloa in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNS
Simon Murray celebrates after heading home his second goal to seal Hibs' win over Alloa in the Betfred Cup. Picture: SNS

Lennon insists the Easter Road outfit have done all they can to persuade Stokes they can revive his career and hope to hear from the former Celtic striker ahead of a board meeting today.

If Stokes’ welcome from the Hibs support is assured, given his pivotal performance in their historic Scottish Cup triumph of last year, Murray arrived at the club to more apathy than fanfare when he signed earlier in the summer.

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Aware he needed to win over doubters, the 25-year-old has gone about his task in impressive fashion. His double against Alloa took his tally to seven from four Betfred Cup ties and, after last Tuesday’s treble against former side Arbroath, he knows he passed up a gilt-edged opportunity to become the first Hibs player since Joe McBride in 1968 to net consecutive hat-tricks when he blazed a late chance over.

With Lithuanian international striker Deivydas 
making his debut, alongside midfield compatriot 
Vykintas Slivka, the recruitment of Stokes would threaten Murray’s current position as the focal point of the Hibs attack as they prepare for Saturday’s Premiership return at home to Partick Thistle.

However, the former Dundee United marksman is clearly ready for the challenge of proving to Lennon he has the attributes to keep his place, no matter who else is 
added to the squad.

“The fans are seeing me coming from United and you’ve got to prove yourself to everyone,” he said. “But you’ve got to do it for yourself. I’m just glad I’ve got the goals and hopefully that the fans are happy.

“I think that [Stokes signing] would improve me as a player. The stronger the squad, the stronger you are. I always see myself as a different striker to him, different to ‘Davie’ [Matulevicius]. And if I’m scoring goals, he’s going to have to play me.

“It’s nearly two goals every game, so it’s not too bad. I’m delighted. I was obviously aiming to get off the mark and, as a striker, a goal a game would be an unbelievable tally to have, if you could get that through the season. So, I’m off to a good start.”

Murray’s younger namesake, Fraser, earned Hibs the early breakthrough when he swept in Simon Murray’s low centre after a slick move sparked by Martin Boyle’s injection of pace on the right and smart ball threaded into the inside-right channel.

Boyle’s movement and speed were a feature all afternoon for Hibs, who also welcomed Paul Hanlon back for the last 15 minutes after six months dogged by a pelvic injury.

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Boyle was again heavily involved in the second goal in the 63rd minute, racing on to Fraser Murray’s pass on the counter-attack and slicing the home defence open with a brilliant, driven cross that Simon Murray bundled in.

The third, ten minutes from time, was again created by Boyle, who perfectly picked out Simon Murray’s run with a pinpoint cross and the striker bulleted his header in from 12 yards out.

With Ross County surprisingly drawing at Arbroath, the victory means Hibs progressed as Group D winners and provides confidence for the top-flight campaign ahead.

“It will be tough in the league,” added Murray. “Nevertheless, you’ve got to beat the teams you’re playing [in the cup]. Other teams in the Premiership, no naming them, are obviously struggling. You have to be professional and go about it in the right way. They’re all tough games and we’re just glad we’ve done it the right way.”