St Mirren 2 - 0 Hearts: Adam Hammill inspires hosts to win

Five games without a win, five without a goal and only one point from a possible 12, it is a damaging run for erstwhile tabletoppers Hearts, who are slipping down the league standings on a game-by-game basis.

St Mirren's Adam Hammill wheels away to celebrate his opening goal. Pic: SNS/Roddy Scott

Toppled from top spot last time out, they dropped below second-placed Rangers this afternoon.

The fact that the latest defeat came courtesy of a frustrating day against a side whose only other win this term came on the opening day of the season was all the more disappointing. But the most worrying part is the lack of goals.

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In the absence of Steven Naismith, they have been impotent in front of goal but exasperated manager Craig Levein said they can’t sit around waiting for the Scotland striker to return to the fold and show them the way to goal.

“I’m fed up talking about the same thing and frustrated as you can imagine,” said the manager. “We had plenty of the ball and created chances but didn’t take them. I feel they are all waiting on someone else doing it.

“But what I don’t want to do is get to a situation where I’m waiting for players to come back. There are loads of points to be played for between now and Steven and Uche coming back.”

They had the chance to take an early lead but Steven MacLean was profligate when the fourth minute opportunity presented itself.

Michael Smith burst onto a loose ball and whipped it in from the right and although Craig Wighton jumped for it, it fell for the former St Johnstone striker at the back post and he should have found the target with his first-time shot but it ruffled the side netting instead.

It was one of the away side’s best chances and while there were headers from set pieces and more than enough possession, there was no cutting edge.

The same could not be said for St Mirren, though, who had not won in the league since the opening game of the season and had not tasted triumph since manager Oran Kearney took over in September. But the Northern Irishman has insisted that progress was being made and they backed up those words with some positive action against Hearts, pulling further clear of bottom side Dundee and edging close enough to Hamilton that they could actually leapfrog them if they gain another victory next weekend.

“We’ve been on a run of bad luck,” said the Saints boss. “There have been decent performances but we haven’t had the result to go with it and our lads have tried to deal with defeat after defeat and have shown character. Now we’re hopeful this will be a good release for them.”

Hearts had looked to stab home the opener in the seventh minute but Peter Haring’s effort was blocked and that was ominous for the visitors. St Mirren, even without Anton Ferdinand, who was sidelined by a tight hamstring, were more than a match for anything their misfiring guests could conjure up.

For a while, the same could be said at the other end, although while Jimmy Dunne and Clevid Dikamona each pulled off quality last ditch tackles, they also needed the help of the crossbar to deny Kyle Magennis in the 33rd minute.

In the 44th minute Stephen McGinn beat Dunne and lashed a shot at goal but Zlamal was off his line to narrow angle and block and Dikamona got the ball away from the danger area. But it was only a temporary reprieve.

In the 46th minute Adam Hammill scored an audacious goal, sending a 40 yard volley dipping over Zlamal and into the net and then in the 54th minute he doubled the tally, when McGinn’s heavy touch played him in and he placed his effort across the Hearts keeper and just inside the far post.

Against a team who have found goals impossible to come by, it was always going to be enough. Hearts did find the back of the net when Arnaud Djoum headed in but the assistant referee had already flagged for offside.

Added to the first-half foul on Smith, which Hearts thought merited a red card for Magennis, it was another blow.

“It should be a sending off but it is just something else to put on the list of things that didn’t go for us,” said the frustrated Levein, who now needs to find a solution to the scoring problem before Rangers come calling next weekend.