HEARTS settled for a point and some solidity from their trip to Paisley at the end of a controversial week for the Edinburgh club. Marian Kello was the hero with a series of impressive saves to deny a lively St Mirren side, although substitute David Obua might have prised victory for the visitors with a late volley which struck the post.
Tynecastle players finally received their wages, some 19 days late, 24 hours before kick-off which left them free to concentrate on football. They were dogged and resilient but required Kello’s intervention on several occasions to avoid conceding a goal.
Not many 0-0 encounters can be termed enthralling but that description was perfectly apot given the efforts of both teams on a brisk autumn afternoon. Hearts are still refusing to speak to media and did their talking on the field against a useful St Mirren side which displayed exactly why they are sitting comfortably mid-table in the SPL.
With Ryan McGowan and Mehdi Taouil replacing the suspended Danny Grainger and Ian Black, Hearts enjoyed a solid opening but required Kello to push a swerving effort from David van Zanten round the post after quarter of an hour. Then came a dangerous long-range attempt from Taouil which sailed wide of target at the opposite end.
Kello’s reactions denied the hosts again when Paul McGowan exchanged passes with Jereon Tesselaar and angled his shot towards the Slovakian’s left corner. The save was impressive, although it was another warning of St Mirren’s counter-attacking malice given the move began with a diagonal ball out of defence following a Hearts corner. Kello then saved bravely at the feet of Tesselaar.
On 36 minutes, the expertise of the visiting goalkeeper reached new heights as he acrobatically pushed away Graham Carey’s venomous effort from fully 30 yards, which was destined for the top corner. St Mirren finished the opening 45 minutes strongest having created the clearest openings up until that point.
Eggert Jonsson’s header from Taouil’s cross seconds after the restart was Hearts’ first effort on target. Kello then pushed a looping ball from Tesselaar for a corner, and Obua entered the fray as Taouil’s replacement.
There was was another fortunate escape for Hearts in the 58th minute when Steven Thompson threw himself at Carey’s driven ball and his header struck the junction of post and crossbar before bouncing over. The visitors’ start to the second period had been rather pedestrian but Templeton’s right-footed strike on the turn rasped Samson’s palms. From the resultant corner, attempts by Obua and Jonsson were blocked during a brief goalmouth scramble.
It was clear from the midway point of the second half that the tempo of Hearts’ play had significantly increased. Nonetheless, they still needed to fashion a way through the resilient St Mirren rearguard. Stephen Elliott was introduced to help give penetration up front but Kello’s heroics were far from over. He was again called into action when substitute Nigel Hasselbaink collected a quick free-kick from Carey and unleashed a ferocious left-footed shot. The Slovakian’s fist instinctively punched the ball into the air and behind to safety.
The last act came from Obua, whose unstoppable volley careered off Samson’s right post and bounced to safety. With that, the game ended in stalemate as both teams accepted a draw from an entertaining afternoon’s football.
St Mirren (4-1-3-2): Samson; Van Zanten (Barron 46), McAusland, Mair, Tesselaar; Goodwin; McGowan (Haddad 65), McLean, Carey; Steven Thompson, Teale (Hasselbaink 65). Subs: Smith, Steven Thomson, Reilly, McKee.
Hearts (4-3-3): Kello; Hamill, Webster, Zaliukas, McGowan; Mrowiec (S Elliott 79), Jonsson, Taouil (Obua 56); Skacel, Stevenson, Templeton (Driver 86). Subs: MacDonald, Novikovas, Smith, Robinson.
Referee: Steve Conroy.