Hearts debrief: McKay for Scotland; Neilson's tactical masterstroke; Devlin's showboating

A look back at Hearts’ 2-0 victory over St Johnstone, Josh Ginnelly’s two goals sending Robbie Neilson’s men eight points clear in third place.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 7:00 am

Player of the match

Barrie McKay. Razor sharp, his touch, dribbling and movement bewildered the Saints defence. He set up two and carved out another couple of chances for MacKay-Steven and Devlin. On a night when all eyes were on John Souttar, who handled the booing well, it was McKay who stole the limelight with a swashbuckling display. On this form he should be pushing Steve Clarke for a Scotland call-up.

Defining moment

Hearts two-goal hero Josh Ginnelly celebrates with man of the match Barrie McKay, who claimed both assists

The first goal, 20 seconds into the second half. Although Hearts were on top in the first half, the end product was missing and Saints were difficult to break down. It could have been more of the same. So the instant breakthrough opened up the game for Hearts in the second half and it was fairly comfortable from then on.

Ref watch

Robbie Neilson and the Hearts fans certainly felt they should have had a penalty early on for a foul on Josh Ginnelly, but TV pictures later suggested that Nick Walsh made the correct call. Decent game overall.

Tactical observations

Two-goal hero Josh Ginnelly is challenged by St Johnstone's Murray Davidson in the box but no penalty

The 3-4-3 shape, tactics and personnel were familiar and predictable, with Neilson opting for pace and movement in attack. It broke down too often in the final third against a well-drilled Saints defence in the first half, but Neilson made a key tactical switch at half time. Moving Ginnelly from the middle out to the right-hand side worked instantly, the goal coming from that area within 20 seconds. Playing wider gave him more space to use his pace and made the big difference in the end, with the second goal coming from a similar area.

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There were two sumptuous pieces of skill for fans in the main stand to enjoy. The first was from St Johnstone’s Cameron MacPherson who watched a rugby-style Garryowen onto his toe on the touchline, killing it dead, then playing a quick one-two round his Hearts opponent and sending Saints onto the attack. Even the Hearts fans must have enjoyed. Cammy Devlin, playing with lots of confidence, then got in on the showboating act with a pullback and Cryuff-style flick in the corner. Sublime and super stuff.

Referee Nick Walsh turned down a penalty appeal early in the first half, with TV pictures later suggesting it was a good call

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