Robbie Neilson reckons we can draw a line under this year's goal of the season competition right now after Stephen Humphrys’ jaw dropping strike against Dundee United.
The Hearts sub sealed the points for the Jambos with the final kick of the game when he burst from his own 18-yard line, rode a couple of tackles and then let fly from the halfway line. Humphry’s screamer settled a frantic battle at Tynecastle as Hearts came from behind to beat 10 men United – who saw Ryan Edwards sent off after a VAR check on his hefty follow through on Andy Halliday.
Steven Fletcher fired United ahead early but Lawrence Shankland and Alex Cochrane turned it around before Humphrys produced something extra special to make sure. Neilson said: I’ve been here for a long time and see a lot of games over the years but I can’t think of a better goal to be honest with you. It was an unbelievable finish.
“As soon as it left his boot we all thought it had a chance, it’s over the keeper, is it dipping and time kind of slowed down a bit. It was outstanding and I’m delighted for him, firstly he is a brilliant boy, he has been brilliant for the dressing room and the group. He has been a wee bit in and out but you saw when he comes on what he can give you.
“It shows you both sides of him, pace, power, strength but also the finesse to have that final finish. I think goal of the season is now done in Scottish football.”
Neilson would love to have the on-loan Wigan ace beyond the end of this season. He knows Humphreys is a cult hero for fans and he said: “He is, and the dressing room, he is a really good character. The boys love him and so does the fans because he is different to what we’ve got there.
“I’m over the moon for him. I would love to keep him longer term but he is a Wigan player and has a contract down there so it will ultimately come down to them.”
Neilson was also thrilled to recover from a sluggish start against a United side who probably deserved more from the game and ended up looking down in the dumps. The Tannadice men started like a train and were infant after just nine minutes when Fletcher got in behind Kye Rowles to get on the end of Ilmari Niskanen’s cross to tuck past Zander Clark.
United were well on top but the match hinged on the VAR flashpoint after half an hour when Edwards steamed into Halliday. The defender got the ball – but he also got a chunk of the man. And when ref Nick Walsh had another look, Edwards was up the tunnel.
Fletcher had a huge chance to make it two for the 10, but he blasted over after being clean through on goal, and Glen Middleton thumped the post as Hearts fans got jumpy. It was a different story after the break as the Jambos penned United on their own penalty box.
The pressure told with 19 minutes to go when Shankland pulled down a loose ball and let fly on the turn, with the ball deflecting into the net. Barely five minutes later Cochrane raced on to Barrie McKay’s pass to lash across the face of goal into the far corner and United’s shoulders slumped.
Humphrys’ grandstand finish helped the Hearts mood after fury at Josh Ginnelly’s stoppage time red card.
The Jambos attacker got booked for time wasting – and then copped another one for sarcastically clapping the ref. Neilson said: “I thought it was terrible. Dundee United were down to 10 but they time wasted all day, two or three times the referee warned them.
“We did it once and he gets the yellow card out, desperate to do it. The second one, yes, you can’t clap him, but Nick Walsh is an experienced referee and the first one for me was handled very poorly.
“We pay the price as we have a man suspended now.”
Neilson was a happy man though and he said: "It was a bit of a rollercoaster game. “We started poorly and were poor in possession again.
“They got the goal and they were the better of the two teams but the sending off changes the game in our favour and we manage to see it out and get the result, which is great.”