Saints 1-1 Hearts

By Stuart Gillespie
Last updated : 29 December 2013

It's typical Saints. We won the game no one expected us to on Thursday, then we find ourselves clinging on for a point at home to a Hearts side who are absolutely awful. It shouldn't have been that way though as we were the better side in the first half before changing our system at the break. We struggled to cope - although still created a few chances - and we were arguably lucky to escape with a point, although a draw was just about the right result.

As with the game against Dundee United, this will be a shorter report - regardless of the result - due to the ridiculous problems on the FootyMad network at the moment. No point writing a lengthy analysis that probably won't be seen until next year! As a result of the United thugs kicking our players (funny how Jackie McNamara didn't mention that) we were without the injured Kenny McLean, so Danny Grainger made a rare start instead. He played at left midfield, Sean Kelly remaining at leftback and John McGinn moving into a more central position. Ryan Stevenson was back from injury for the Jambos and was one of the few experienced players in a rather youthful team.

We couldn't afford to let Hearts settle and build some confidence after they were destroyed by Kilmarnock during the week, so scoring an early goal was the perfect start. Hearts showed alarming indecision as they tried to deal with Grainger's cross and we gave them plenty of time before deciding to punish them, Steven Thompson throwing his foot in and diverting the ball past Jamie MacDonald. You can't ask for a much better start than that - although we tried, Thompson making a terrific run down the right before passing to Jason Naismith whose shot was palmed away by MacDonald. Danny Wilson then headed wide for Hearts before Grainger had a shot blocked after a good move.

Hearts weren't lying down though and Jamie Walker was unlucky to see his drive go wide after Hamill's short free-kick. We were on top but the final ball was pretty poor, aside from the odd Grainger corner, and we rarely threatened MacDonald as we tried to double our advantage. We did plenty of attacking and had lots of play in the final third but, worryingly, weren't doing a great deal with it. Newton did bend a shot narrowly over but aside from that it was mainly crosses and balls in that were miscontrolled or just out of reach of an attacker. We hadn't looked in too much trouble at the back, but getting to half time without a second goal was a bit disappointing.

There was a surprise at the break when David van Zanten emerged in place of Marc McAusland, the big defender not appearing to have suffered a knock in the first half. It was also a strange move considering we had Lee Mair on the bench. It looked even stranger when our defence looked all at sea at the start of the half as we tried to regroup. Eventually we got the ball clear from a Hearts attack, but not very far and Hamill promptly rattled it into the top corner from miles out. It was a fantastic strike and Kello was blameless - the problem stemming from our poor defending.

After Jim Goodwin screamed in vain for a penalty for handball – karma perhaps catching up with him after his escapes against Partick Thistle and Ross County - we almost retook the lead. Naismith's shot was going miles wide but Thompson was alert enough to get on the end of it, only for his effort to go by the far post. Scott Robinson was then booked for fouling the striker before Stevenson shot straight at Kello. We were struggling to cope and our keeper was beaten by an effort from Jamie Walker but thankfully it went past the post. Finally, with 15 minutes left, we mustered some chances - although Thompson's as blocked before Kelly should have at least hit the target rather than head over from Newton's cross.

A poor kick-out from Kello that clipped Hearts sub David Smith gave Stevenson a sight of goal but he sent it over before we finally made a change - although replacing McGowan with Gary Harkins was probably not what most folk had in mind! Newton - who scored a rather famous goal against Hearts earlier in the year - shot directly at MacDonald after a decent run. We threatened again moments later when Harkins tried his luck with a fierce shot that smacked off the head of a Jambo and went behind for a corner that McGregor couldn't divert on target.

Stevenson sent an over-head kick wide as Hearts sensed a win and they almost had it in the final seconds, Kello brilliantly blocking Walker's point blank shot when a goal looked a certainty. A huge let-off in a game we should arguably have put to bed in the first half. Improvements needed for Thursday's trip to Kilmarnock.

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