Hibernian head coach Jack Ross has revealed that match-winner Martin Boyle promised to hit the ground running against Kilmarnock.
The Australia international turned in a man-of-match showing at Easter Road, opening the scoring after debutant goalkeeper Jake Eastwood inexplicably raced off his line in a bid to win a foot-race with one of the SPFL’s fastest forwards.
Boyle doubled up with a clinical low drive just after the half-hour mark and, although Kilmarnock pulled a goal back through Chris Burke’s wonder goal, Hibernian held on to claim a 2-1 victory.
The display belied a series of pre-season showings which, by Boyle’s own admission, were not up to his lofty standards.
Nevertheless, he told Ross that he would ripple the net in the curtain-raiser – and lived up to his promise.
Ross said: “Martin hasn’t felt like he’s been at his best in pre-season. But he assured us that he’d be right for the opening day.
“In fact, he told us he would score!
“He played in a slightly different role at the start of the game [as a striker] and then back to his more natural position on the wing – but wherever he plays on the pitch, he carries a threat because of that pace.
“And he’s a much better player than a lot of people give him credit for.
“His all-round play is good, how he creates opportunities is excellent and I’m delighted he has got off to that start.”
Burke halved arrears on the cusp of half-time, registering an early contender for goal of the season with a ferocious free-kick from 30 yards out.
However, they could not complete the comeback despite second-half efforts from Burke, Danny Whitehall and an errant Paul Hanlon clearance forcing a wonderful save from Ofir Marciano.
And the spotlight from a Kilmarnock perspective ultimately fell on keeper Eastwood, who got the nod to start ahead of Danny Rogers after joining the club on loan from Sheffield United – only to be replaced at half-time.
But Killie boss Alex Dyer says he did not replace the 23-year-old due to his costly error.
Dyer said: “I was disappointed with the manner of the two goals we lost. The first one was a complete rush of blood from the young goalkeeper [Eastwood].
“It was a mistake but he is a good keeper and he will learn.
“That was not the reason I took him off at half-time. He had a problem with his quad and we will have to get it assessed.
“If he had been fully fit then he would have stayed on the pitch.”
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