Hibs’ Martin Boyle justifies Neil Lennon’s selection choice

Hibernian's John McGinn, left, battles with St Mirren's Lawrence Shankland at Easter Road. Picture: Garry Williamson/SNS
Hibernian's John McGinn, left, battles with St Mirren's Lawrence Shankland at Easter Road. Picture: Garry Williamson/SNS

If the recently sidelined Jason Cummings thought he had his work cut out trying to force his way back into manager Neil Lennon’s thinking prior to the weekend match, he could find it even tougher now.

Leading the line on Saturday, Martin Boyle and Grant Holt served up the goals needed to better bottom of the table St Mirren and while both passed up chances to add the gloss to the scoreline craved by their gaffer, Lennon said he was happy overall with the way the pairing had worked out.

They were up against a St Mirren side that started with good intentions and some attacking verve, but seemed to lose their way and their self-belief as time wore on. Boyle exposed that fragility when he opened the scoring in the eighth minute. An incisive ball through to him from Andrew Shinnie was all the invitation he needed and, through one on one with Jamie Langfield, he showed great composure to wait for the keeper to commit. As he went to ground, Boyle lifted the ball over him and into the empty net.

Not a bad start for a guy who has had to be patient this term and admitted to being shocked that he was given a starting berth ahead of the club’s top scorer. “I was surprised,” said Boyle. “It shows good faith in me. Hopefully I’ve repaid that by stepping up. I thought I linked up well with Holty and I am just happy to be in the team.”

Most of his game time this season has come as a substitute but, following last weekend’s injury to James Keatings, the 23-year-old forward was given the job of tapping into the experience of striking partner Holt and utilising his speed to give the visiting defence an uncomfortable afternoon. Boyle is a speed merchant and was a constant threat when running at the St Mirren rearguard and in behind them. He turned in a performance that earned him the man of the match award, a standing ovation from the fans and the right to get a run in the team.

“It’s obviously been a bit frustrating, but I still enjoy coming to work every day,” he said. “I’m just the type of boy who knuckles down and works hard. If I’m given my chance, I feel it’s down to me to take it. We go out every game with a game plan and we had the top scorer on the bench, who can’t even get a game just now, and we’ve got the likes of James Keatings as well. His injury has been my gain, but I need to keep producing performances like that.”

St Mirren have changed managers in a bid to get themselves up the table and new gaffer Jack Ross says it is about reinforcing positives and convincing the players that the promise they showed in the early stages of this game, when Lewis Stevenson had to head a Ryan Hardie effort off the line, can be built on. But while that remains an issue, the gulf between the teams was all too evident, especially after Holt added a second on 34 minutes.

The second half was a procession, with Holt profligate in missing a penalty late on as Langfield guessed smartly and got down to save his effort, but Hibs created enough openings to win the game by four or five goals.