THIS William Hill Scottish Cup tie went to a replay as St Johnstone produced an unlikely equaliser after being reduced to ten men, forcing the teams to meet again at McDiarmid Park on Tuesday week.
David Templeton’s low drive put Hearts in front early in the match but, after St Johnstone’s Dave Mackay was ordered off for a second yellow card, substitute Cillian Sheridan levelled the score on 78 minutes. The game was keenly contested throughout, which should ensure a fascinating rematch in Perth.
With Marian Kello missing through injury, Hearts started Jamie MacDonald in goal against a St Johnstone team that eliminated them from last season’s Scottish Cup. The Perth side had also won both previous league encounters between the clubs this season. MacDonald was in action early to save Murray Davidson’s drive from distance, but other than that he enjoyed a tranquil opening period.
Hearts’ patient build-up play produced a chance for Ryan McGowan in the ninth minute, but Peter Enckelman held his first-time effort from 20 yards. Moments later the Australian teed up the opening goal. He collected a pass from Marius Zaliukas wide on the left and delivered it inside to Templeton. The winger, given a surprising amount of time by the St Johnstone defence, turned and scampered forwards before sending a low drive into the corner of the net.
The balance of play was even throughout the first half, although Scott Robinson might have doubled Hearts’ advantage minutes before the interval. Templeton’s dribbling run on the left ended with a low delivery which the teenager mishit, allowing the ball to loop harmlessly into Enckelman’s arms.
St Johnstone began the second half in emphatic fashion when Francisco Sandaza headed Sheridan’s cross against MacDonald’s crossbar. Davidson then sent a first-time shot spinning high into the Roseburn Stand from Liam Craig’s cutback. It was clear that the visitors were playing with greater purpose as MacDonald repelled a vicious 35-yard volley from Craig.
Hearts resisted that concerted pressure and appealed for a penalty on 58 minutes when Mackay appeared to handle the ball whilst challenging McGowan in the air. Referee Craig Thomson remained impassive but did hand the hosts a significant advantage when he reduced St Johnstone to ten men 17 minutes from full-time. Mackay, having been booked for dissent on 61 minutes, was issued a second yellow card and subsequent red for high feet whilst challenging Templeton.
Perhaps the adversity galvanised St Johnstone, who equalised seconds later. Sandaza’s threaded through ball found Sheridan galloping in behind the Hearts defence. The striker ignored vociferous claims for offside from Hearts to eyeball MacDonald and stroke the ball beyond the goalkeeper.
As expected, Hearts pressed forward in numbers during the closing stages but could not find a winning goal. The teams will now do battle again on Valentine’s Day with no love lost during this encounter.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; Hamill, Webster, Zaliukas, McGowan; Robinson, Mrowiec; Skacel (Taouil 77), Black, Templeton (Driver 90); Elliott. Subs: Ridgers, Barr, Glen.
St Johnstone (4-4-1-1): Enckelman; Mackay, McCracken, Anderson, C Davidson; Croft (Keatings 84), M Davidson (Millar 78), Morris, Craig; Robertson (Sheridan 46); Sandaza. Subs: Mannus, Oyenuga.
Referee: Craig Thomson.