Lee Johnson hailed Martin Boyle for a “Roy of the Rovers” return to Hibernian after the forward marked his second debut for the club by stepping off the bench to score an equaliser against derby rivals Hearts in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
The 29-year-old Australia international signed for Hibs on Saturday, just seven months after leaving to join Saudi Arabian club Al Faisaly.
And after being introduced as a 62nd-minute replacement for Josh Campbell, fans’ favourite Boyle sparked bedlam inside a packed Easter Road as he struck with the last kick of the game to cancel out Lawrence Shankland’s first-half opener for Hearts.
It means the Hibees have now scored crucial stoppage-time goals in both their cinch Premiership matches so far.
“It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff, isn’t it?” said manager Johnson. “If you wrote a comic book strip and he was the star of the show, I’m not sure you could write it better than that.
“He’s buzzing, but the boys were buzzing as well when we told them yesterday (that he had signed).
“Sometimes you get ‘Sliding Doors’ moments, and that’s important for our journey, to continue the momentum, to continue the belief.
“It’s two games unbeaten, two 90-plus minute goals, all of a sudden the boys are lifted during the week and we can go into the next important game with a nice vibe.”
Boyle had not played for six weeks prior to his Easter Road return and Johnson admits he had to weigh up whether to include him in the derby squad.
“It was about 9pm last night,” he said after being asked when he knew Boyle would be eligible.
“There was a bit of deliberation about whether I should play him, from one particular key figure at the club who didn’t think I should, but I will remind him gently, very, very gently that that’s my role!”
Reflecting on the draw, Johnson said: “If you take the balance of the game it was probably pretty even. Hearts were probably the better side in that core spell when they had the lead in the second half.
“But nobody gave up, everybody went for it. I think we’ve got better than we showed in terms of that footballing arrogance that we could have shown today, but to turn that within two minutes from everybody going home disappointed to half of the city buzzing is really important.”
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was gutted his side – who appeared comfortable for most of the second half – were not able to see out victory.
“It’s disappointment,” he said, when asked for his overriding emotion. “We expect to come here and win. We put on a brilliant performance, probably should have won but didn’t.
“We dominated the game, scored the goal and had chances to make it two, three or even four. We didn’t do it and that let them back in again. Losing the goal right at the end is massively disappointing.
“I think it was their first or second shot on target. We have to accept it and come back stronger.”