Change sparked Hearts into life at St Mirren but Paisley club rue missed chances
Robbie Neilson believes the point Hearts gained at St Mirren could turn out to be useful in the overall context of the season.
Robert Snodgrass’ second-half equaliser cancelled out Ryan Strain’s early free-kick, which put the hosts 1-0 ahead. Hearts returned to Edinburgh unbeaten in six games, with St Mirren now ten without defeat. “I don’t think we’re ever happy with a point. We wanted to take three points,” said Neilson. “The first-half performance wasn’t the levels we want to get to. The second half was miles better. Sometimes you have to take the point and get up the road.
“St Mirren make the game very difficult for you to play. At any opportunity the ball is going forward, long throws, corners, set-plays. It can make the game unpredictable. In the first half, if ten passes were a goal we would have probably won 10-0. But ultimately it’s about getting shots on goal. We were too deep.”
Neilson ordered wing-backs to be more adventurous during his half-time team-talk and quickly reaped the rewards. Snodgrass restored parity on 48 minutes as Hearts played at a higher tempo than they had done in the first period.
“In the second half we were a lot higher and managed to penetrate them. We had to get our wing-backs much higher,” explained Neilson. “In the first half they were really deep. Barrie (McKay) and Cammy (Devlin) were coming deep and there was nobody near the strikers. We need to be more aggressive.
“For most of the second half we controlled it, other than a few counter-attacks. In the final moments, sometimes you get days like that where it doesn’t quite come together. We pass instead of shoot, but this is a difficult place to come. They beat Celtic, drew with Rangers, beat Aberdeen and Hibs. So to come here and pick up a point, at the end of the season it could be a decent point.”
St Mirren saw defender Marcus Fraser red carded for a late stamp on Hearts substitute Jorge Grant. Ultimately, they were left to rue two chances late in the first half for striker Alex Grieve which might have seen them 3-0 ahead at the interval.
“Alex has been terrific for what that boy has been through,” said manager Stephen Robinson. “His attitude, his energy, it epitomises everything about the football club. He’ll get us goals. If you work that hard you’ll get a little slice of luck. The harder you work the luckier you get. No criticism from me for anyone on the pitch, I thought the boys were excellent to a man.
“The unbeaten run goes on, I believe it’s the best since the 1980. It shows we’ve come a long way when we’re disappointed not to beat a team of that calibre with the money they’ve spent and the resources they’ve had.
“We’re disappointed not to have all three points. The game should have been won in the first half. We were terrific and took the game to them, pressed them really well and showed great quality at times. We scored one and probably should have had another two and it wouldn’t have been unjustified.”