Maroon Memories: Paulo’s team too good for St Mirren

Jamie Hamill celebrates scoring from the penalty spot

Jamie Hamill celebrates scoring from the penalty spot

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Hearts extended their unbeaten run to six games in the SPL with a comfortable win over St Mirren at Tynecastle as they established themselves as early contenders for a European spot.

Jambos boss boss Paulo Sergio made just one change to the team that drew 1-1 at Inverness previously, with midfielder Medhi Taouil fully fit after a groin injury as Lithuanian winger Arvydas Novikovas dropped to the bench.

Defender Andy Webster injured himself in the warm-up and was replaced at the last minute with Eggert Jonsson in the starting line-up,

St Mirren’s Steven Thomson forced out a decent save from Jamie MacDonald in the early stages with a shot from 25 yards out in the first real chance of the match then Lee Mair blocked a shot from Ryan Stevenson at the other end.

Hearts continued to grow in confidence and striker Stephen Elliott came close with an attempt on the St Mirren goal from close range, but his shot just cleared the bar, before Taouil tested keeper Craig Samson with a 20-yard shot that was tipped over.

Dutch defender Illias Haddad almost opened the scoring for the visitors in the 33rd minute with a narrow-angle header from the right-hand side of the Hearts six-yard box that drifted across the face of goal.

He was at fault two minutes after the break when he borught down Marius Zaliukas inside the box and referee Charlie Richmond had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Hamill scored his second goal of the season when he stepped up and converted in typical nonchalant style to give the hosts a valuable break at the interval – but not before David Obua was denied by Samson seconds before the whistle.

After the restart, Hearts piled on the pressure to extend their slender lead with St Mirren pressing equally hard for a leveller.

Shortly before the hour mark, substitute Kenny McLean squandered a free-kick opportunity for St Mirren from 20 yards out, sending the ball sailing wide and high into the stand.

Five minutes later, he tried to find the net with a spectacular overhead scissor-kick, but his effort was always rising.

A crucial second arrived for Hearts in the 69th minute with Buddies defener Lee Mair the unlikely scorer as threw himself at the ball in the six-yard area and headed the ball into his own net, with Ryan Stevenson and Elliot keen to claim the credit.

Stevenson almost made it three for the hosts, with a shot from the edge of the St Mirren penalty area that took a deflection and bounced out for a corner.

The remainder of the second half fizzled out as a contest, with St Mirren unable to find a way back into the match and Hearts comfortably seeing the game out to take all three points.

Hearts: MacDonald, Hamill, Grainger, Mrowiec, Jonsson, Zaliukas, Black, Obua, Elliott, Stevenson, Taouil.