Steven Naismith believes Lawrence Shankland is well on his way to becoming a Hearts legend after his stoppage-time winner against city rivals Hibernian further endeared him to supporters.
The talismanic captain overcame the disappointment of an early penalty miss to score the only goal of a tense Edinburgh derby in the third minute of time added on with what opposing manager Nick Montgomery described as “a moment of quality”.
Shankland produced a lovely touch to take down a long kick-out from goalkeeper Zander Clark before creating space for himself in the box and curling a stunning shot high past David Marshall.
It was the Scotland forward’s 44th goal in a year and a half with Hearts and his 16th strike this term, making him one of the fastest-scoring Jambos hitmen of all time.
“I don’t think he is far off it (becoming a legend),” said the manager. “With his goal record, his goal return, are there many better than him and John Robertson (Hearts’ record goalscorer)? I’m not so sure.
“He is in that bracket for me. And I think there is still more to come. His goal return is unbelievable, but that’s his easiest part because he has done it his whole career.
“His hold-up play now, his standing in the game is miles from where it was when he was at Ayr or Dundee united.
“He understands the game, he is now a leader, he is the captain. He is an all-round centre-forward who I would argue is now the best finisher in Scotland.”
Shankland hit the post with a fifth-minute penalty before Hibs forward Martin Boyle saw a spot-kick pushed on to the woodwork by Clark in the 14th minute.
Naismith was pleased his side were able to keep a 10th clean sheet in 19 league matches as they kept themselves two points clear of Kilmarnock in third place with a game in hand.
“I don’t think the game was particularly great, it lacked quality in general,” said Naismith. “Some of our build-up was decent but then that calmness to find the right pass, we didn’t pick the right pass.
“It was a mental first 15 minutes with two (missed) penalties, but then when you have someone like Shanks it’s never over.
“Us having a good defensive structure and not giving up goals always gives us a chance. And when Shanks is there, you know that if he gets a chance he is more than likely to put it away, which he did.”
Hibs boss Montgomery admitted Shankland was the difference on a night when he felt his team merited at least a point.
“It’s a cruel game at times,” he said. “Both teams would probably have been happy with a draw, but it’s one moment of quality.
“It’s a quality strike and it’s why there’s so much in the media about him moving on. He’s one of the best strikers in the league and, apart from that one moment, we did keep him quiet.
“For large periods of the game we were very good, we just lacked that final pass, that final bit of quality to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
“Anyone watching that would’ve felt it was a draw.”
Hibs had Josh Campbell carried off the pitch on a stretcher in the second half.
“I think it’s a bad twist of his ankle,” said Montgomery. “It adds to the list of players we’ve got out at the moment, but hopefully it’s not as bad as first thought.”
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