St J’stone 1 – 1 Hearts

Hearts maintained their unbeaten start to the Scottish Premiership season after fighting back to earn a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone.

Liam Gordon had put the Perth side in front before Josh Ginnelly equalised late in the first half for the Tynecastle club.

There had been a pitch inspection an hour before kick-off on the back of the torrential rain that had fallen throughout the day but referee Steven McLean was content enough with the surface to let the game go ahead.

St Johnstone made four changes from the team beaten by Celtic. In came Lars Dendoncker, Murray Davidson, Ali Crawford and Stevie May to replace Efe Ambrose, Craig Bryson, David Wotherspoon and Glenn Middleton.

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A minute’s silence was held across all six matches in the Scottish Premiership, as clubs and fans paid tribute to Walter Smith who passed away at the age of 73

Hearts’ top goalscorer Liam Boyce was one of three changes from the side that drew with Dundee, with Alex Cochrane and Ben Woodburn also dropping out. In came Armand Gnanduillet, Andy Halliday and Ginnelly.

It was Gnanduillet who had the first chance of the game, the striker heading wide from Michael Smith’s cross.

But it was the home team who moved in front after 11 minutes. It was poor defending from Hearts to allow Cammy MacPherson’s corner to drift all the way to the back post where Gordon had a tap-in.

Liam Gordon celebrates after his goal saw St Johnstone take the lead
Liam Gordon celebrates after his goal saw St Johnstone take the lead

The visitors responded with a Ginnelly shot from the edge of the box that sailed high into the stand, while Smith was also wasteful with a chance that the Northern Irishman dragged well wide.

Jamie McCart then came close to scoring at the other end with a header from a MacPherson corner before Craig Gordon made a brilliant stop from Chris Kane after May had partially blocked the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance.

Gordon was called into action again not long after, sliding out of his goal to deny Kane and then May. The St Johnstone fans shouted for a free-kick for either handball or a foul but McLean gave neither.

That proved costly when Hearts equalised after 40 minutes against the run of play. Beni Baningime played in Ginnelly and he finished well past Zander Clark from the corner of the box.

Josh Ginnelly helped Hearts to remain unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership this season
Josh Ginnelly helped Hearts to remain unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership this season

The visitors could have been ahead at the break but Gnanduillet’s header from Halliday’s corner was well saved by Clark, before the Frenchman saw another chance thwarted early in the second period.

John Souttar then nearly scored from 30 yards with an audacious effort that went just over, before Reece Devin threatened at the other end in a rare St Johnstone second-half attack as the teams settled for a point apiece.

What the managers said

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “I’m disappointed in the way we’ve lost the goal. First of all, I think it was a handball and then it was a free-kick on Ali Crawford. You can see his back foot is taken away from him.

“That took a player out of position and they capitalised on it. I’m sounding like a broken record but big decisions are costing us. It basically gave Hearts a foothold in the game.

“I’m normally pretty calm and see the bigger picture but it’s just costing us points at the moment. Decisions are going against us – a lot of them. Hopefully it turns for us in the next quarter and somebody else can have a wee moan.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: “It was similar to the Dundee game on Saturday. We played well, created chances and just that final moment wasn’t there.

“But the key thing is we have dominated against the double cup winners, a team that is very good at home. We had 70 per cent possession and 20 shots on goal. The disappointment is we never took the three points we merited.

“It’s nice to be unbeaten but we could have more points. We should have beaten Dundee, we should have won at St Johnstone and Ross County.

“That’s six points dropped so there are definitely areas to improve but we are playing good football. We are dominating games but we just need to work on that final moment.”

What’s next?

Aberdeen take on Hearts at Pittodrie on Saturday at 3pm. Dundee United host St Johnstone at the same time.

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