LAWRENCE SHANKLAND was just relieved to come out on top against Aberdeen after the Hearts skipper scored the winner in a comeback win that kept the race for third place alive going into the final week of the campaign.

Shankland got on the end of an Alex Cochrane cross to put the dominant hosts – who registered 30 attempts on goal to the visitors’ nine – ahead and put the seal on a comeback after Josh Ginnelly’s spectacular strike cancelled out Mattie Pollock’s opener for Aberdeen.

And while the Tynecastle captain took his tally for the season to 27, he insisted the result was all that mattered despite having the chance in the final two fixtures to become the first Hearts player to score 30 goals in a single season since legendary hitman John Robertson back in 1988-89.

“The sole focus was just winning this game,” Shankland said. “We knew when the split happened it was likely a game we were going to need to win, and the way results have gone it was basically a must-win.

“So that was our job. We’ve done that, and we’ll see what happens in the next two games.”

On chasing that 30-goal milestone, the forward said: “Obviously I’m getting closer to it, but I’m not going to get too excited about it. It’s something that, if it happens, it happens. It would be a great achievement but I’m on 27 just now and it’s a good return. Hopefully, with a couple of games left, I can go and get a few more and we’ll see where we end up.”

Despite the victory, third place is still Aberdeen’s to lose as Barry Robson’s side remain two points ahead going into the final two fixtures. For Shankland, his side just have to focus on their own results to keep themselves in the running, starting with a trip to Ibrox on Wednesday night before hosting city rivals Hibs on the final day of the season. And the prolific marksman insists that starts with the players sticking together under interim manager Steven Naismith.

“The win takes us closer to them [Aberdeen] and that’s all we could do,” he said. “A nd that was big for us going into the last two games. But obviously it’s still in their hands and the pressure’s kind of on them. But we need to go and get our results and take care of ourselves and we’ll see how results pan out.

“It’s about the collective. Today the most important thing was the result.”

The result, while a set-back for the Dons, does not change the fact that if they keep up their end of the bargain against St Mirren at Pittodrie on Wednesday night ahead of their final match against champions Celtic at Parkhead at the weekend, then they’ll hold off the Hearts assault on that prized third place which guarantees group-stage football next season.

Pollock’s first-half header was the only goal Aberdeen have scored in the three post-split matches and with front man Duk missing through injury, Robson’s side looked a blunt force in attack at Tynecastle.

For Leighton Clarkson, the on-loan Liverpool midfielder whose corner set up Pollock’s opener on Saturday, his focus is on helping the Dons to secure that coveted third place.

It has been an up-and-down first campaign in Scotland for the 21-year-old, with a change of manager midway through threatening to unsettle him.

But the creative midfielder feels he has been given a strong platform with which to develop in the north east and is relishing the return of striker Duk, Graeme Shinnie and Ross McCrorie and hopes those reinforcements will provide the edge Aberdeen need to hold firm.

Looking ahead to Wednesday’s clash against St Mirren, the 21-year-old said: “I’ve certainly improved as the season has gone on. I’ve not even thought about [going back to parent club Liverpool]. I just want to see Aberdeen get into Europe.

“Wednesday is massive. We’ll have Duk back, Graeme will be back, and Ross is back as well. They’re three key players, so hopefully we can get them back in the squad.

“I’m only a young player and we’ve got quite a few young lads in there. Some players get nervous, but for me it’s just another game. Going into a game I’m normally quite calm and I just look to get the result. I just want it done as soon as possible, to be honest. Hopefully against St Mirren we can get it over the line.

“They’re a really good team, horrible to play against, but it’s a cup final for us and we need to go and win it.”