Hearts 4, St Johnstone 3: Thriller at Tynecastle

Sam Nicholson, left, and Callum Paterson were on target for Hearts. Picture: SNS

Sam Nicholson, left, and Callum Paterson were on target for Hearts. Picture: SNS

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Hearts celebrated their return to the Scottish Premiership with a dramatic victory over St Johnstone in a thrilling encounter at Tynecastle.

On a day when the Championship flag was raised before kick-off, an early goal from new recruit Juanma Delgado, following a slip by ex-Jambo Brad McKay, allowed the hosts to go in ahead at the interval despite an unconvincing first-half display.

But they were much more impressive after the break and eked out victory courtesy of a Sam Nicholson goal after seeming to have blown their chance of three points when they threw away a 3-1 lead.

Hearts’ opener was a disaster for McKay, who lost his footing just outside the box and allowed Juanma to run on unchallenged and slot gleefully past Alan Mannus from around 15 yards.

The hosts edged further ahead in the 51st minute following a goal which owed everything to some magnificent play from Juanma. The Spaniard seized possession deep inside his own half, spun away from a flurry of Saints players with a sublime piece of skill then surged towards the goal. He could have kept going himself but instead slipped the ball wide to Nicholson, who was hauled down by Mannus. The goalkeeper, who was cautioned, saved Osman Sow’s weakly-struck penalty, but Jamie Walker followed up to ram home the rebound.

St Johnstone grabbed themselves a lifeline in the 56th minute when Simon Lappin arrived at the far post to force home from close range after Neil Alexander, who claimed he had been impeded, failed to deal with Joe Shaughnessy’s long throw into the box.

But Hearts were back in command in the 62nd minute when Walker, after surging towards the end of the Saints box, waited for support and slipped a lovely pass through to the galloping Callum Paterson, who ran on to slot low past Mannus.

However, St Johnstone once again hauled themselves back into the match, with ex-Jambo John Sutton glancing home an inswinging delivery from David Wotherspoon in 75 minutes.

And the Perth side looked to have denied Hearts victory three minutes later when sub Graham Cummins forced home the rebound after Scott Brown’s shot had ricocheted into his path.

The hosts weren’t finished, though, and Nicholson got the winner when he flicked home a magnificent Paterson cross from the right with ten minutes remaining.

Hearts (4-4-2): Alexander; Paterson, Ozturk, Augustyn, Rossi; Walker (McGhee 86), Buaben, Gomis, Nicholson; Sow (Reilly 90), Juanma (McHattie 76). Unused subs: Hamilton, King, Oliver, McKirdy.

St Johnstone (4-4-2): Mannus, Shaughnessy, McKay, Scobbie, Easton; Wotherspoon (Kane 85), Millar (Brown 20), Craig, Lappin (Cummins 68); O’Halloran, Sutton. Unused subs: Clark, Wright, Caddis, Rodger.

Referee: Steven McLean

Att: 16,334