Hearts failed to make it four successive league wins and in turn go top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table after a 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone in Perth.
Graham Cummins’ second half strike was enough to leave Hearts rueing a number of missed chances in a game they really should have at least drawn.
Tony Watt showed early on what he brings to the Hearts side, driving at the home defence on the counter before sliding in Nicholson on the angle of the box. The wide man’s touch could have been better however, and rushed his shot across Zander Clark who was able to gather.
Nicholson then turned provider when he ghosted past Brian Easton on the right and tried to pick out Bjorn Johnsen’s near post run. The big striker got a toe on it, but not enough to diver it past Clark.
Watt was inches from volleying Hearts in to an early lead after Rossi headed goalwards with Clark stranded. Ricky Foster didn’t know much about it, but his intervention in keeping the ball out with his face from point blank range proved vital.
The Jambos were piling on the pressure early, and a it took a stunning save from Clark to prevent a wonderful team move being finished by Faycal Rherras. Watt sent Nicholson scampering in behind, who in turn picked out his marauding left back and his placed shot was going in until Clark threw out a left hand.
Clark again was the only thing between Hearts and 1-0, saving brilliantly after a loose pass gave Walker a free shot from ten yards, dead centre.
Murray Davidson fluffed Saints’ first real opportunity of note, driving in to the box but fluffing his shot, which trundled harmlessly into Jack Hamilton’s hands. Steven MacLean then firmly met Michael Coulson’s cross, but couldn’t keep his header down.
Clark continued to act as a one-man barrier after the break, skipping to his left to tip over Watt’s free-kick which was on it’s way in to the top corner. He was in the right place again as Igor Rossi powered a header on target from Nicholson’s corner
Somewhat typically, St Johnsone took the lead with heir first foray of the second half. Liam Craig’s cross-cum-shot across goal was turned in first-time by Cummins. There were strong claims for offside, but the flag stayed down.
Hamilton survived a heart-stopping moment when he first kicked straight to Craig’s feet, then almost allowed his drive to spill through his hands and over the line.
The frustration was becoming visible amongst the Gorgie men, none more so than Neilson, who said one thing too many to the fourth official, resulting in Beaton sending the Hearts boss to the stand.
Clark was finally beaten with a minute remaining, but Callum Paterson’s header crashed back off the cross bar after he attacked Nicholson’s corner. One final chance to drew level went begging at the death when Muirhead could only poke a loose ball wide.