A GOOD start and a bright finish was enough for St Johnstone to book a place in the next round of the Betfred League Cup, with a couple of Hearts’ old boys popping up to torment their former employers.
Danny Swanson gave his team the lead in just six minutes and although Hearts were able to hit back and move into a 2-1 lead before the break, the home side overcame that deficit late on.
Swanson was fouled by Alim Ozturk in the 73rd minute and took full advantage of the resultant spot kick, restoring parity by sending Jack Hamilton the wrong way, Then, with just 10 minutes remaining, it was former Hearts defender Brad Mckay, who rose to head home a Swanson corner and gave the hosts victory.
Until that late fightback it had been a case of another game and another Jamie Walker penalty. If the cheating accusations which have dogged the Hearts winger since Sunday’s opening league fixture with Celtic have been playing on his mind then there was no evidence of it in this match.
Today the Tynecastle club will defend their player against the charges of simulation in the hope of avoiding a ban. Had they not decided to appeal the two-game punishment meted out by the SFA compliance officer in light of that penalty incident, then the Scot would not have featured in this one.
But, with something to prove, he put St Johnstone to the sword in the lead up to the interval, first of all winning the free-kick that ultimately led to Callum Paterson’s 42nd minute headed goal, and then dispatching a spot kick past Alan Mannus at the very end of the first half,
The capital club have struggled to make an impression in cup competitions since their 2012 Scottish Cup triumph and while there have been enough going on at the club in recent years to deflect attention from those shortcomings, there is a sense that they should be making greater inroads this term. Tommy Wright’s men made sure they will have to wait a little longer, though.
Hearts had started brightly and came close to opening the scoring in the sixth minute. Conor Sammon bettered the home defence, rounding the last man and his drive from the edge of the area had Alan Mannus foiled but the Irishman was denied by the upright, his effort crashing back off the post.
St Johnstone are a side who have rarely been cowed by their Gorgie rivals in recent times and that effort gave the home team a jolt. They reacted strongly, capitalising when Don Cowie fouled Blair Alston two minutes later. Liam Craig played the ball into Danny Swanson’s path and the former Hearts attacker cracked a 30 yard strike beyond visiting keeper Jack Hamilton to take the lead.
Blair Alston threatened to add to the tally in the 32nd minute but it was Hearts who found the net next, staging their comeback with a busy conclusion to the first half.
The breakthrough came in the 42nd minute when Walker was felled on the edge of the area. Mannus parried the deflected Robbie Muirhead free-kick but when Igor Rossi played it back in, Paterson headed home. The fullback was bodychecked by Tam Scobbie minutes later and when Walker converted the penalty Hearts looked to have a solid grip on proceedings until St Johnstone shuffled the pack, shifted the momentum and left Hearts with questions to answer.
ST JOHNSTONE: Mannus, Shaughnessy, Anderson, Scobbie (McKay 46), Easton, Paton, Wotherspoon,, Alston (MacLean 66), Swanson, Craig, Kane. Unused subs: Clark, Millar, Coulson, Hurst, Connie.
Scorers: Swanson 9, pen 74, McKay 80
HEARTS: Hamilton, Paterson, Ozturk, Souttar, Rossi, Djoum, Cowie, Buaben, Walker (Watt 61), Muirhead (Nicholson 61), Sammon. Unused subs: Noring, Oshaniwa, Nowak, Smith, Zanatta,.
Scorers: Paterson 42, Walker pen 45