For a team who insist they are looking up, there were an awful lot of their punters who trudged out of Tynecastle looking pretty down.
It is a fairly infrequent occurrence but it was as poor a performance from the Gorgie side on their own patch and, with Aberdeen dropping points, it was a missed opportunity to close the gap on the teams ahead of them.
But both sides got exactly what they deserved from this game. St Johnstone served up a dynamic and robust performance as defender Steven Anderson broke the club’s appearance record, they earned only their third win in 16 games and moved to within one point of safeguarding their top six place ahead of the split and did it by controlling the game from start to finish, opening the scoring in the 10th minute, adding a second in the 21st minute and wrapping up the three points with another three minutes from the final whistle.
With a high-tempo, pressing game, they dominated possession and became the only team outwith Celtic and Aberdeen to win at Tynecastle. It left a home crowd, fed goals and wins on a fairly consistent basis over the past two seasons, dissatisfied.
Their side lacked spark and had looked vulnerable all afternoon, with set pieces a terrifying prospect, especially after they conceded their first two goals from corners. The first was flicked on by Brian Easton for Murray Davidson to lose his marker, his stooping header beating Neil Alexander. Davidson repeated the trick 11 minutes later, nodding home again. The midfielder, along with Chris Millar, pulled the strings.
“We showed what a good side we are,” said St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright. “Not many teams come here and win and we could have had a few more goals as well.
“We can’t complain though as we have played some excellent football and won 3-0. I have been here before and seen teams being turned over but I thought we were on the front foot from the first whistle. That maybe took them back a bit but they couldn’t get a foothold in the game.”
It was only Hearts’ third defeat since December, only their third home loss this season but too many players fell shy of the standards expected. “We had been doing really well all season but we are not quite good enough to win games when we have five or six players that don’t perform,” said Hearts coach Robbie Neilson, who said his men had been too predictable. “We were naive at times and there is still some inexperience there. We gave away two goals at two set plays and that is the frustrating thing as they are two balls into the box that we should deal with. We don’t want to lose 3-0 at home like that, end of story.”
The third goal came in the dying minutes but showed that, while Hearts had upped it ever so slightly, St Johnstone were still the more clinical team. The opening was created by David Wotherspoon and Stevie McLean but it was Darnell Fisher who applied the finishing touch from a tight angle. It was no more than they deserved.