INTO the famous last words category must be placed John McGlynn’s pre-match assessment. His Hearts team were sound in defence and midfield, he said, it was just in attack that they required improvement.
Scorers: St Mirren: Goodwin (38), Guy (47)
Bookings: St Mirren: Goodwin
Yesterday, top to bottom you could take the Tynecastle side to task, even if McGlynn seemed to see the defeat through maroon-tinted spectacles. He claimed to be disappointed with the result but not the performance that delivered a second consecutive defeat. The visitors may have set abut their host with a zing and passed up glaring chances but equally they came a cropper because of two goals that reflected terribly on the supposed competent components of the team.
St Mirren ultimately strolled to victory, and Danny Lennon’s side are looking as sprightly as any in the Scottish Premier League this season. To focus on Hearts’ shortcomings would be entirely begrudging about a first league win in ten games and two-and-a-half years against the Gorgie opponents. Yet, though it was a fine hit from fully 35 yards that allowed Jim Goodwin to put the Paisley club ahead approaching half-time, questions must be asked about keeper Jamie McDonald’s slo-mo-style dropping to his right as the ball reached him.
As for the clincher second, well, even McGlynn himself acknowledged it was a rank bad goal to lose. From a Hearts corner, the ball found its way to Steven Thompson and he sliced through the Hearts backline courtesy of buttery challenges from Darren Barr and Danny Grainger, before slipping the ball out right for Lewis Guy to slot in. “When there are tackles to be won you expect the backline of your defence to get those tackles in,” said the Hearts manager.
Yet, he commended his team thereafter for the fact they “kept working hard, passing the ball, forcing corners” and had “lots of efforts, commitment and possession”. What Hearts did not have were opportunities of any note across the full final half hour, Lennon correct in his belief that his team were “mentally always in control”.
That wasn’t true of the initial stages, with McGlynn pulling a surprise by installing Callum Paterson as his attacking focal point, which meant the man previously in that role dropping to the bench. Twice the youngster failed to capitalise on jittery moments from Marc McAusland. Paterson missed after Arvydas Novikovas had set him up for a whole-goal-to-aim-at hit with a neat cut-back. That he missed the target was inexplicable. His second near thing wasn’t the real thing because, though the 17-year-old drilled the ball precisely where he intended from 14 yards, keeper Craig Samson’s anticipation in diving sharply to his right denied him.
“If he got those two in the back of the net, he would have been the hero tonight,” said McGlynn of the teenager. “And I’m not having a go at him for not doing because he created all sorts of problems for them.”
Switching the player from right-back, following the return of Ryan McGowan, shouldn’t have been seen as dramatic, McGynn petitioned, because Paterson had played up front coming through the ranks. “We played him wide and up-front against Liverpool and we see that he his assets going forward. He has good pace, is good with both feet and he will stand up against any players because he is a big lad.”
Yet, Paterson’s promotion to the forward line can be framed in the negative. “Everyone knows we are short in that department and it’s becoming a wee bit of a problem.” It is becoming a major problem with no goals in three games, yesterday’s reverse preceded by the 1-0 defeat at home to Dundee that followed on from a scoreless draw at Pittodrie.
Indeed, it is now 319 minutes since Hearts conjured up a league goal. St Mirren have proved a failsafe for any struggling Hearts teams in recent seasons. Across Paulo Sergio’s nine-month tenure it was Rudi Skacel who could be relied upon to come with a peach against the Paisley club. Never mind Sergio’s loss; it might be Skacel’s that is felt as keenly at crucial points this season.
St Mirren: Samson, McAusland, Carey (Teal 55), Van Zanten, Mair, McGowan, McLean (Imrie 74), Thompson (Parkin 80), Guy, Dummett, Goodwin. Unused subs: Smith, Robertson, Barron, Reilly.
Hearts: MacDonald, Grainger, McGowan, Barr (Sutton 63), Webster, Stevenson, Taouil, Driver (Carrick 74), Novikovas, Zaliukas, Paterson. Unused subs: Enckelman, Robinson, D McGowan, McHattie, Nicholson.