Hearts 1 - 1 St Mirren: Sean Clare own goal denies Jambos win

Not content with the number of injuries that helped derail the team after a glowing start to the season, Hearts have now started to shoot themselves in the foot.
Hearts' Sean Clare was dejected at full-time. Pic: SNS/Rob CaseyHearts' Sean Clare was dejected at full-time. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey
Hearts' Sean Clare was dejected at full-time. Pic: SNS/Rob Casey

Last week it was goalkeeper Colin Doyle who threw the ball in the back of his own net to deny his colleagues even a share of the points away to Motherwell. He paid the price for that last gasp blunder, demoted to a place on the bench for the hosting of St Mirren.

It was an unforgiving management decision but it did not rid the team of it’s kamikaze tendencies as Sean Clare gifted St Mirren a share of the points in this one with a 66th minute own goal, just 11 minutes after the home side had made the breakthrough at the other end through Clevid Dikamona.

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Having netted the opener, bulleting a header from an Olly Lee corner past Vaclav Hladky, for his first goal for the club, the Congolese defender then had keeper Zdenek Zlamal to thank for sparing his blushes when an intended clearance was palmed away as it veered dangerously close to the top corner of his own net.

Just as they have in the past few weeks, Hearts struggled to find a way past a team more interested in avoiding relegation than joining them in the quest for a European place, and while some of the credit for that goes to a team which has been overhauled as manager Oran Keaney tries to find a route away from the foot off the table, Hearts undoubtedly played a role in their own downfall.

“I am disappointed, frustrated,” said manager Craig Levein. “We didn’t start the game particularly well today and brought pressure on ourselves. We didn’t pass the ball quickly or accurately enough.

“St Mirren did what they came to do. They did it to Aberdeen last week and they have done it to us today so all credit to them. But when a team does defend a little bit deeper and they have a lot of ball in front of them, the ball needs to move quickly and we didn’t do that. It wasn’t accurate either. When we got in good positions to cross the ball we didn’t put it in well. We didn’t cross the ball enough. All the space was in the wide areas and we didn’t make the right decisions.

“When you stop crossing it the guys who make runs into the box to score think ‘well I have made the run four times and no crosses have come in so maybe I will do something different this time’ and alongside that we had some players who did not play well. Put that all together and the recipe isn’t a good one.”

It produced an end result unpalatable to the home crowd, who had expected everything to click back into place when their more notable absentees returned from injury. Instead they were served up sub-standard fare by a side who passed up another chance to close the gap on fourth place Kilmarnock and stretch the gulf between themselves and city rivals Hibernian.

The boos rang around the ground at full time and there is some making up to do when they face up to Celtic midweek and then tackle Partick Thistle for a place in the Scottish Cup semi finals next Monday.

Injuries and suspensions had reduced the full-back options but there was still hope in the stands that they could recapture some of the early season form that had allowed them to batter the Paisley side 4-1 at Tynecastle earlier in the campaign.

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But this is an improving St Mirren outfit. A massive overhaul in January has imbued them with greater ability and a more potent belief that they can still avoid the drop.

Grabbing a point at Pittodrie in their last game have bolstered that and they simply built on that in Gorgie.

They were denied a solid shout for a penalty in the 25th minute when Duckens Nazon was clattered by Dikamona on the edge of the area. The referee decided it was outside the box, the St Mirren players disagreed but while Cammy MacPherson was unable to find the target with his curled effort, the Hearts defender dropped himself in it after the game with an unfortunate understanding of the rules. Denying it was a penalty, he did however admit the clash had been on the line.

That will be of little consolation to St Mirren, who left with a point but the feeling that it could have been even more.

But even an under-performing Hearts would have grabbed the win had it not been for an inspired quadruple save from Czech keeper Hladky just after the half hour mark.

First up was an overhead kick from Dikamona but having blocked that it broke to Christophe Berra at the back post. His effort ricocheted towards Lee who had another stab but still Hladky was defiant and when it pinged towards Peter Haring, back in the fold following his lengthy injury lay-off, he drove another effort in but still the game remained at deadlock, St Mirren determined to leave the capital with something for the afternoon toil.