ROTHERHAM United transfer target Stevie May was given a surprise run in Steven Anderson’s testimonial match yesterday, with manager Tommy Wright predicting afterwards that the £800,000-rated Scotland under-21 international would line up against Slovak Trnava in Thursday’s Europa League return tie.
SCORERS: Hearts - Sow 31, Holt 33, Oliver 55, 67
The English Championship side’s manager Steve Evans has targeted the highly-regarded striker, who scored 27 goals for Saints last season, and is determined to add May to his squad.
St Johnstone manager Wright was disappointed with a lacklustre performance by his second string as they slumped to defeat against an impressive Hearts side yesterday but the Perth spotlight was firmly on May.
Wright said: “Stevie May is still our player and if I was a betting man I’d say he will still be our player and playing on Thursday.
“The clubs are still in negotiations. Rotherham are certainly interested in Stevie. They keep knocking at the door and seem determined to get their man.
“I don’t know if Rotherham are looking elsewhere but they have been interested in Stevie for a long time. They aren’t going away and seem to be determined to get their man. But nothing has been agreed.”
From the Hearts perspective, it was a performance which heightened optimism a week ahead of their Championship opener away to Rangers.
First-half goals from Swedish striker Osman Sow – his fourth in four games – and Jason Holt were added to after the break by two strikes from half-time substitute Gary Oliver.
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson said: “We played well. It is pre-season but it was a good tempo in the first half.
“We did a lot of the things we were trying to do. It is important we believe in our passing game rather than kick the ball anywhere when the pressure is on.
“We are a growing team and it is important the coaching staff accept we will lose goals.”
May’s 45-minute appearance was welcomed by Perth fans fearing they had seen the last of the striker in a Saints shirt. But there was little else to console them, with Anderson, starting his first match since the Scottish Cup final after recovering from a hamstring strain, confessing: “They gave us a hiding.”
Also featuring in a shadow team which joined Hearts in giving Anderson a guard of honour before kick-off were one-time Motherwell striker David Clarkson, a free agent after leaving Bristol City, and former Dundee United and Falkirk midfielder Mark Millar.
Neilson fielded a strong Hearts team with Sunday’s league opener at Ibrox looming, and the visitors dominated from the start as veteran goalkeeper Steve Banks was tested by David Smith and Sow from distance early on.
In the 16th minute Saints were forced into a change when Michael O’Halloran limped off to be replaced by youngster Dylan Easton.
Hearts were exerting a stranglehold on the contest and breached Saints’ defence twice in the space of as many minutes.
The opener arrived when Sow bundled over Tam Scobbie in the box, cut inside Anderson and then fired past Banks. In their next attack, Holt had time on his hands on the edge of the area and he drilled a precise shot into the corner of the net.
Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander twice halted Saints efforts before the break, denying a Clarkson volley and spreading himself to divert a Liam Caddis shot. Neilson made ten changes at half-time while Wright brought on Chris Kane for May.
But despite the upheaval, Hearts continued to impress and Oliver dispatched Jordan McGhee’s cross from the right flank with aplomb in the 55th minute. The young Hearts side were oozing confidence and in the 69th minute Oliver raced clear to coolly slot a fourth past advancing replacement goalkeeper Mark Hurst.
St Johnstone: Banks (Hurst 46), Miller (Kitchen 57), Scobbie, Millar, Gilchrist, Anderson, O’Halloran (Easton 16), McDonald (Wilson 68), May (Kane 46), Clarkson (Lander 80), Caddis. Subs not used: Brown, Buchanan.
Hearts: First half: Alexander, L Smith, McHattie, Wilson, Ozturk, Gomis, King, Holt, Sow, D Smith, Walker. Second half: Gallacher, McKay, Buaben, Robinson, Nicholson, Oliver, Carrick, McGhee, Gordon, Henderson. D Smith
Referee: D Robertson