How the Hearts and St Johnstone players fared - Souttar barracked yet shines, Jambos' creative tyro, some Saints but a few sinners

Given all that has gone with John Souttar in the past few days, it was no surprise that the spotlight was well and truly on the Rangers-bound centre-half.

Hearts moved eight points clear in third place and were helped by some strong performances.
Hearts moved eight points clear in third place and were helped by some strong performances.

It didn’t really come as a shock either to hear a section of the Hearts support boo him – they did not let up for the whole match, although there were those in the crowd who responded with applause.

It made for difficult conditions for the 25-year-old defender to perform, but he stood up to the test admirably. He was composed in possession and only blotted his copybook once with a tug on Chris Kane that earned him a deserved yellow card. Overall, though, it was another strong performance, showing why Rangers have landed him on a pre-contract. It remains to see how long he will be at Tynecastle.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

What about the rest of the Hearts players?

Hearts' Barrie McKay (centre) is congratulated by manager Robbie Neilson on an excellent display.

Hearts didn’t really hit top gear in the first half, finding it difficult to control the match. Defensively, they were excellent, with the left-hand side shining. Stephen Kingsley was impressive, as so often is the case, and Brighton loanee Alex Cochrane also stood out. For one so young, he is a composed wing-back. In midfield, Peter Haring and Cammy Devlin only really took hold in the second half, and while Gary Mackay-Steven’s end product was a shade disappointing, striker Josh Ginnelly showed composure to score twice. The man-of-the-match, however, was Barrie McKay, a creative tyro in attack, willing to drive at players and fashion chances. It was no surprise to see him create both of Hearts’ goals.

Saints and sinners

As for St Johnstone, this was another damaging result in their fight for survival. Their first-half display showed promise, especially with debutant forward Nadir Ciftci linking up well with Cammy McPherson in midfield. Ciftci’s level dropped in the second half, which is understandable, but St Mirren loanee McPherson was good from start to finish and by far Saints’ best player. The rest of his team-mates were a level below, though. Jacob Butterfield and Murray Davidson lost their way after the break, but it was the backline that looked the most fragile. Liam Gordon and Jamie McCart struggled under constant pressure, while new signing Dan Cleary had a night to forget. He and Michael O’Halloran down the right flank were exposed. The substitutes made little difference. However, manager Callum Davidson will hope the display in the first half can be replicated more often, as that will give them a puncher’s chance in a proper relegation scrap.

How the players rated?

Nadir Cifci gave St Johnstone reason for optimism with his efforts in attack.

Hearts: Gordon 7; Halkett 7 (Moore 3), Souttar 7, Kingsley 8; Smith 7, Haring 7, Devlin 7, Cochrane 8; McKay 8 (Halliday 3), Ginnelly 8, Mackay-Steven 6 (McEneff 3).

St Johnstone: Clark 6; Cleary 4, Gordon 5, McCart 5; O’Halloran 4, Davidson 5 (Crawford 2), McPherson 7, Butterfield 5 (Gilmour 2), Booth 5; Ciftci 6 (Middleton 2), May 4 (Kane 3).

Read More

Read More
John Souttar booed by Hearts fans - but Rangers-bound defender shows fortitude a...

Don't miss out on a 30 per cent discount on an annual sports subscription. We have a special offer throughout January where you can get a reduced package. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions/sports for more details.