Dale Carrick: Comeback was all for Billy

Dale Carrick celebrates his goal
Dale Carrick celebrates his goal
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SIX goals, two spot kicks, three red cards and a mass brawl inside the goalmouth. There was even a hat-trick thrown in.

So what was the big talking point at the end of an action-packed 90 minutes? Unbelievably, it was the display of the match officials.

Brian Colvin and his assistants angered both sets of supporters with a number of questionable decisions over the course of an enthralling 90 minutes at McDiarmid Park, but Hearts’ battling spirit overcame any sense of injustice they had as Danny Wilson’s header snatched them a dramatic, late share of the spoils.

Stevie May’s treble had given Saints a commanding lead with only Dale Carrick’s first goal for Hearts’ senior side giving the visitors any hope, but Sam Nicholson and Wilson hit home within minutes of each other to turn Hearts’ fortunes around.

Afterwards, Carrick admitted that it had been one of the craziest games that he had ever played in.

He said: “I’m so happy that I’ve finally scored my first goal. It’s a big relief.

“That is probably the craziest game I’ve ever been involved in. It was probably a good game to watch and a great atmosphere.

“It has shown that we are positive. We are trying to strive for everything and it’s building up morale with each game. We are just looking for that win now and hopefully we can get it soon.”

Ryan Stevenson and Callum Paterson passed late fitness tests, but Scott Robinson was missing from the pool through suspension.

Hearts had an early effort but Stevenson’s powerful, curling attempt from the edge of the box, after collecting from Carrick, was straight at the keeper.

Saints then came close in nine minutes when Wright, May and then Murray Davidson all had a go within the matter of just a few seconds but a combination of goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald and his defenders kept them out.

Saints were left stunned with 25 minutes gone when Steven Anderson was shown a straight red card for a foul on Carrick. He was fully 30 yards from goal when he made the challenge and Carrick seemed to be going wide in any case and it looked like a yellow would have been sufficient punishment.

That left Saints boss Tommy Wright with a difficult task and he shuffled his pack slightly, bringing on Gary Miller in place of Lee Croft.

The day went from bad to worse, however, for Saints when Davidson had to be stretchered off before the break and was later taken to hospital for surgery on his injured knee.

However, the home side were celebrating in 39 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after a foul on Nigel Hasselbaink by Kevin McHattie. The defender’s tug on Hasselbaink’s shirt seemed to be outside the box he was booked. May confidently slotted home from the spot with his right foot, low into the corner of the net leaving MacDonald no hope.

Saints bagged a second through May again just a few minutes after the restart, although the goal – which came after MacDonald was unable to hold his first effort – seemed to take a touch off the unfortunate Brad McKay on its way into the net.

Hearts’ first goal came on the hour when they were already two down. Carrick managed to get his head on the end of a McHattie cross from the right and he sent it straight into the back of the net, but the visiting support’s celebrations didn’t last long as Saints were awarded another spot kick just minutes later, this time for a handball from McHattie.

May slotted home in an almost identical fashion as he had the first, low and hard into the bottom corner, with MacDonald going in the opposite direction.

That looked to have killed the game, but, with just a couple of minutes of normal time remaining, Nicholson also bagged his first senior goal for the club to make it 3-2, firing home from close range.

His goal sparked a mass brawl inside the goal and, as a result, both Ryan Stevenson and Saints keeper Allan Mannus were shown straight red cards after punches were thrown by both sides.

Tam Scobbie collected the keeper’s shirt and it was nine against ten. Hearts, sensing a point, got their reward inside stoppage time when Wilson rose above the Saints defence to head home the leveller.

Carrick said of the melee which followed Nicholson’s goal: “I was getting the ball and chucked it up to the half way line. Then I turned round and saw the madness so I came back and tried to help out. I wasn’t involved, I was just trying to play the bodyguard and stop it – but I’m not the biggest.

“You don’t see the referee in the net very often do you? But I don’t really know what happened. The dressing-room after the game was buzzing. It was great from the boys and we were all delighted to fight back from 3-1 down and get the draw. When their keeper was sent off and a defender put on the gloves it looked more positive and we tried to target him by putting high balls in and get the taller guys to get headers in, and that’s what got us the result.”

St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright believed that his side had been worth the win and said: “We’re obviously bitterly disappointed to lose the two points – we were by far the better team, even with ten men. But it is always difficult when you go down to nine men and no goalkeeper.

“I think in those situations we should walk away, but it is difficult. Alan sees three or four Hearts players trampling over Frazer (Wright) and gets involved – Stevenson comes running out of left-field and then two players who really do very little get sent off. There were big decisions during the game that caught up with us.”