St Johnstone 0 - 0 Hearts: Harry Cochrane off in bore draw

St Johnstone's David Wotherspoon and Hearts' Prince Buaben. Picture: SNS/Kenny Smith
St Johnstone's David Wotherspoon and Hearts' Prince Buaben. Picture: SNS/Kenny Smith
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If you’re late enough you’re old enough to get a red card. Poor Harry Cochrane has learned football is the toughest of schools.

After his headline-stealing performance last weekend, when he became Hearts’ youngest-ever league scorer, the 16-year-old was swiftly introduced to the game’s ability to send players crashing back to earth.

It spares no-one, not even slightly over-eager teenagers. Cochrane picked up two yellow cards from referee Kevin Clancy within 20 second-half minutes and will now miss Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby.

Craig Levein sought to protect his player afterwards, understandably. He explained that having watched the incident again there was no actual contact between Cochrane and Blair Alston for the youngster’s second booking. The manager suggested the St Johnstone player over-reacted.

“I have watched it back and he doesn’t touch him,” said Levein. “All he tries to do is stop the ball on the line to prevent the clearance, he doesn’t try to tackle him.

“Also, I’m not 100 per cent sure Kevin saw it. I think he just heard the squeal. You can’t appeal it and there is no point speaking to the officials.”

This stalemate wasn’t unexpected. Two teams buoyed by historic results in their previous outings contrived to cancel each other out in a less-than-engrossing spectacle.

Pragmatic often to a fault, both Tommy Wright and Levein will derive satisfaction from a share of the spoils and the clean-sheets. Both felt their side should have won. Wright was on slightly firmer ground to make this claim.

The teams’ combined total of seven goals against Rangers and Celtic last weekend counted for little. Emphasising the difference a week can make – in fact, make that six days – was the change in fortune endured by Cochrane.

An innocuous tug on Chris Millar after 56 minutes, for which he gained a first yellow card, became very significant indeed when he lunged into Alston on the near touchline with 15 minutes left.

Referees are not known for showing goodwill, even at this of year. Clancy brought out a second yellow, and then a red one. Cochrane, who received a hug from Levein as he made his way to the dressing–room, will learn from the experience.

Cochrane is now suspended for Wednesday’s Edinburgh derby and Hearts suffered an additional blow when Michael Smith pulled a hamstring and was replaced late on.

After their respective triumphs of last weekend, this was a gravely disappointing spectacle. Both teams conjured up a decent scoring chance between them in the first-half. It fell for the home side. Joe Shaugnessy got a strong connection with his head after Steven Anderson’s knock back, but the effort was hit slightly too straight at Jon McLaughlin, who tipped over.

Hearts appeared to be taking time to familiarise themselves with the sensation of playing a game outside Edinburgh. Not since October, when they won 2-1 in Dingwall against Ross County, had they travelled outwith the city boundaries – a run of ten successive games, one of which was at Easter Road.

St Johnstone would not enjoy circumstances where they are forced to play at home for a prolonged period. They’ve now picked up just two points from six home matches and while they looked the brighter of the two sides yesterday, this is not a commendation.

At least the second-half was an improvement on the first. Kyle Lafferty failed to make to make a good connection in front of goal from Connor Randall’s long cross in what was Hearts’ best chance.

The hosts were denied when David Wotherspoon, who had just replaced Stefan Scougall, was afforded room on the left. He performed a couple of step overs before hitting an angled shot towards the corner. But McLaughlin saved well to preserve his side’s fourth clean sheet in a row.