Covid outbreak at Hearts as St Johnstone net vital win to move off the bottom of the Premiership

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Hearts’ miserable record at McDiarmid Park continued as St Johnstone earned only their second Premiership win since October.

Ali Crawford and Jamie McCart struck either side of Nathaniel Atkinson’s first Hearts goal to lift Saints off the bottom of the table. That left the Edinburgh club deflated by successive league defeats against the bottom two teams amid a concerning run of form.

Their last victory in Perth was in a 2012 Scottish Cup tie, whilst you must rewind to November 2010 for their previous top-flight success here. It must be said that they didn’t do enough to complain at the 2-1 final scoreline.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While St Johnstone gave their hopes of avoiding relegation a much needed shot in the arm, their opponents have now failed to win any of their last five games inside 90 minutes.

Hearts striker Ellis Simms is tackled by St Johnstone's Murray Davidson.Hearts striker Ellis Simms is tackled by St Johnstone's Murray Davidson.
Hearts striker Ellis Simms is tackled by St Johnstone's Murray Davidson.

A Covid outbreak at Riccarton denied Hearts the services of captain Craig Gordon and top goalscorer Liam Boyce, while defender Michael Smith was injured. St Johnstone’s absentees included goalkeeper Zander Clark, striker Chris Kane, midfielder David Wotherspoon and full-back Shaun Rooney.

Both teams fielded reserve keepers in the shape of Elliot Parish and Ross Stewart and it was the latter collecting the ball from his own net inside the opening minute.

A flowing passing move down St Johnstone’s right involved Tom Sang, Glenn Middleton and Melker Hallberg. The Swede’s reverse pass was then promptly dispatched into the corner of the net by Crawford.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Hearts responded quickly through Atkinson. The Australian levelled the scoreline by calmly converting a rebound after Barrie McKay’s angled 20-yard attempt struck a post.

With Parish looking nervous at high deliveries, the visitors sought to test his confidence. St Johnstone failed to clear Stephen Kingsley’s corner and Simms flicked the ball against the other post following Josh Ginnelly’s head flick.

Two midweek storms contributed to an uneven McDiarmid Park surface not conducive to crisp passing play, and that was largely the story of the first half. Hearts often preferred the quicker forward ball but that left their most creative player, Barrie McKay, slightly marginalised.

Saints attempted to play though midfield, however creating clear chances was difficult in an increasingly scrappy encounter. Ellis Simms should have done more with Josh Ginnelly’s cutback early in the second half other than clip it high into the stand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Likewise, Crawford’s wayward effort on 55 minutes was uncharacteristic. The hosts waited only moments to score. McCart cantered in unmarked to head Melker Hallberg’s free-kick beyond the exposed Stewart, putting Saints 2-1 ahead before the hour mark.

Hearts looked unsettled at that point but pressed forward needing an equaliser. John Souttar’s header from another Kingsley corner was parried at point-blank range by Parish. The central defender saw another header strike the crossbar in the latter stages, Parish collecting as Haring tried to force the ball over the goal line.

Simms then rasped a drive against Parish’s fists from a tight angle before the final whistle. As the home support celebrated, those from the Capital vented their disgust and jeered Hearts off.

St Johnstone (3-4-3): Parish; Cleary, Gordon, McCart; Sang, Hallberg (Gilmour 73), Davidson, Gallacher; Middleton (Bair 87), Hendry (Ciftci 78), Crawford (Butterfield 78).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Hearts (3-4-3): Stewart; Sibbick, Souttar, Kingsley; Atkinson, Devlin (Halliday 65), Haring, Cochrane (Mackay-Steven 65); Ginnelly (Woodburn 65), Simms, McKay.

Referee: Grant Irvine.

Attendance: 4,409.

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this article. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our sports coverage with a digital sports subscription.