St Johnstone 1, Hearts 0: Fans turn on Craig Levein as revived Saints add to Hearts’ troubles

Hearts failed to secure the morale boosting result manager Craig Levein had hoped to take into Sunday’s League Cup semi-final with Rangers.

Fans vent their ire at Hearts boss Craig Levein (inset). Picture: SNS Group
Fans vent their ire at Hearts boss Craig Levein (inset). Picture: SNS Group

A second-half own goal from skipper Christophe Berra consigned the punchless capital side to yet another disappointing result in Perth, where they have failed to secure three points since Jim Jefferies was in charge nine years ago.

Tommy Wright’s Saints team followed up their first win of the campaign against Hamilton Accies to engineer an escape from the basement and rise to eighth place.

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Troubled Hearts, on the other hand, are now joint bottom of the table with St Mirren, having failed to score in four of their last five league games, with just a solitary win to their name all term.

At full-time angry visiting fans who had stayed to the end chanted “Craig Levein we want you to go” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning.”

As anticipated, Tynecastle manager Levein listed midfielder Jamie Walker on the bench after recovering from a broken leg sustained in August, while on-loan Manchester City attacker Ryotaro Meshino was rubbing shoulders with him in the dug-out with half an eye on the cup semi-final.

Aidy White, Loic Damour and Callumn Morrison were drafted in after the weekend draw against Livingston.

Levein’s opposite number Wright stood by the side which secured their first win of the campaign against Hamilton Accies at the weekend and toasted his first clean sheet of the season.

The home side forged the first opening, with alert defender Berra fending off Murray Davidson’s left foot connection on a David Wotherspoon cross at the expense of a corner kick.

Three minutes later former Hibs midfielder Wotherspoon nudged a ball into the path of Stevie May but the striker opted to take it first time on the turn and lashed his effort high into the stand behind Hearts goalkeeper Joel Pereira. The Edinburgh visitors carved out an opportunity in the 19th minute but full-back White’s first time strike veered well wide of the target.

Former Perth striker Steven MacLean sustained a head knock but his former manager, Wright, wasn’t impressed when a subsequent counter attack was reined in for a drop ball after brief touchline treatment meted out to the Hearts forward.

A misunderstanding in the Hearts defence almost gifted influential Saints midfielder Ali McCann a 37th minute opportunity but to the relief of the errant Oliver Bozanic his keeper Pereira was alive to the danger and raced from his line to mop up the danger.

Three minutes from the interval Berra was cautioned, despite his protestations, for a foul on May on halfway.

When Morrison made tracks towards the Perth penalty area Hearts fans were off their seats only for the winger to shoot tamely at the previously untested keeper Zander Clark.

Hearts left-back White was next in the referee’s book for illegally reining in Wright early in the second half and before the end striker Uchu Ikpeazu joined him for persistent fouling.

Michael Smith blocked a low Matty Kennedy drive, David Wotherspoon totally miscued his attempt to convert Anthony Ralston’s driven cross and Davidson was denied by Pereira at full stretch as Saints pressed. And the Perth pressure paid dividends in the 59th minute when an apparently distracted Berra turned Drey Wright’s corner kick into his own net after Jason Kerr had failed to connect at the near post.

It was the first time this term that St Johnstone had opened the scoring in a league game and they would have cruised to the final whistle but for a vital goalline clearance from Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey to deny Wallace Duffy.