Hearts debrief: Barrie McKay the magician, why Liam Boyce needs to be ruthless, the delayed substitute

A look back at the 2-0 victory over St Mirren at Tynecastle Park which lifted Hearts into second place.

By Joel Sked
Sunday, 28th November 2021, 7:00 am
Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a key save to deny St Mirren's Jamie McGrath. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon made a key save to deny St Mirren's Jamie McGrath. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Player of the match

So, there was Craig Gordon who did a lot of Craig Gordon things. Then there was the display of Barrie McKay as he showed why Robbie Neilson and Joe Savage were so keen to bring the former Rangers attacking midfielder to the club.

The 26-year-old was involved in all of the team's best play. Actually, involved may be doing him a disservice. He conjured Hearts’ best moments. Across the 90 minutes he created four chances, setting up the opener via the aid of a deflection.

When he’s on it he’s such a fun, easy on the eye talent. Playing from wide he glides infield like a skier at the Winter Olympics trying to avoid the obstacles in his way. Every time he gets on the ball he is looking for that killer pass and now he needs team-mates to get on to his wavelength. Once they do, more chances and goals will come the way of Robbie Neilson’s men, especially Liam Boyce who appeared to enjoy having McKay behind him.

Key moment

There were a series of moments. On the stroke of the first-half whistle Richard Tait was judged to have been offside. On watching the incident back the decision looks bang on but it appeared very close. A goal then changes the dynamic completely and would have intensified the pressure on the home side. After the interval, in the space of minutes, Craig Gordon produced three saves, one of which was excellent from Jamie McGrath, while in the middle of it all Liam Boyce blocked an attempt on the line. These were key moments which allowed Hearts to go in front through Mackay-Steven.

Ref watch

Alan Muir’s decision to send off Joe Shaughnessy angered those of a St Mirren persuasion, even if Jim Goodwin understood why he did it. Overall the official should be commended for trying to let play flow as much as possible and not blow for every time a player went down after contesting an aerial ball or those challenges when you see the slightest nudge in the back when the ball is in the air.

Benefit of hindsight

Liam Boyce. Shoot. Hearts’ best first-half opening fell to their top scorer with Michael Smith playing his fellow countryman in. In the box, on the left-hand side, Boyce tried to come back onto his right instead of showing that ruthless streak and putting his left foot through the ball and back across goal. It has become a bad habit of Boyce at times. He gets into great areas but sometimes ponders, dallies or tries to be too cute inside the box, rather than taking on an early shot.

Moment you may have missed

In the moments leading up to the opening goal Robbie Neilson was preparing a substitute. Josh Ginnelly was stripped and given the rundown by Lee McCulloch of what positions he was to take up in certain scenarios. The prime candidate for the player coming off was Gary Mackay-Steven. Then the winger calmly slotted the ball past Jak Alnwick. It was a contribution Mackay-Steven required as he had underwhelmed and frustrated the home crowd until that point.

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