CALLUM PATERSON reckons things might finally be starting to turn in Hearts’ favour after the team produced a remarkable late comeback against St Johnstone on Saturday to bag a share of the spoils at McDiarmid Park.
Defeat had looked a certainty after Hearts fell 3-1 behind, but two goals in the dying minutes from Sam Nicholson and Danny Wilson handed them an unlikely point and Paterson hopes that Hearts have finally found the formula that will see them pick up vital points in games to come, believing that the young team have learnt their lessons from past matches.
He said: “I think if you look back over the whole season, you can see that we have not had much luck, it’s just not been there for us.
“And we have had to fight for every single point that we have managed to get so far.
“We’re slowly but surely getting there and to come away with a point, especially when we were a couple of goals down at one stage, is a great result.
“We have been down in quite a few games this season and have tried our hearts out to get back into it and it hasn’t really happened for us. To be honest, we’ve been
getting a bit fed up of it! On Saturday, though, I think we showed that we are capable of doing it.
“This has definitely been a learning process for the younger boys and hopefully now everyone is beginning to see the progress that we’re making.”
Paterson, who was unlucky to see a looping header bounce back off the bar in stoppage time against Saints, admitted that it hadn’t looked too promising for Hearts when they found themselves 3-1 down.
Stevie May’s hat-trick had done the damage for Saints, with only Dale Carrick’s debut goal for the club offered in reply up until that point.
Paterson added: “It didn’t look too good when we were 3-1 down, but thankfully we kept going right to the end and it paid off for us.
“We felt that the decisions didn’t go with us in the first half but it kind of turned around a bit in the second half and we started to get the run of the ball, too. We got there in the end and everyone was delighted in the dressing-room after the game.”
The match was great entertainment for supporters who not only saw that hat-trick and late fightback but also witnessed three red cards and a melee inside the goalmouth after Hearts’ second goal, below.
Paterson admitted: “The game itself was a bit mad. I mean, Jamie MacDonald ran the whole length of the park just to get involved in the celebrations after the equaliser.
“It shows how much this means to everyone at the club.
“We are not only a team, we are a close-knit family.
“We wanted to get the ball back quickly after we scored the second goal because we didn’t want to lose. Everyone just seemed to get caught up in the heat of the moment and it all kicked off a bit.
“There were no punches thrown and it wasn’t a mass brawl, or anything like that.
“These things happen in football and it probably shows just how determined both sides were to take something from the game. St Johnstone are a difficult side to take points off of and particularly when they are at home. Any point is a bonus to us right now – it doesn’t matter how we get there.
“I thought we showed great team spirit and I think that really sums up the attitude that all of the players have right now.”
As a result of that fracas, Ryan Stevenson will be banned for Hearts’ next two matches at least – this weekend’s trip to Ross County and the Scottish League Cup semi-final against Inverness at Easter Road on Sunday week.
He and Saints keeper Allan Mannus were both given their marching orders – and one or two others could maybe count themselves fortunate not to find themselves in the same boat.
Stevo is one of the Jambos’ most important players in terms of experience and Paterson admitted that losing the 29-year-old is a blow.
He added: “We have got some important games coming up and I think that he might be out of the semi-final now as well.
“We have just got to try to plug the gap as well as we can and get on with it. We don’t have the biggest squad but injuries and suspensions happen and you have just got to deal with it whenever they come along.”