St Mirren 0-2 Hearts: Star proves blip is only Temp-orary

JIM JEFFERIES admitted matchwinner David Templeton wasn't happy with his performance against Saints last night - but backed the little winger to use that disappointment to ensure he puts in a blistering display in the Edinburgh derby this weekend.

Templeton scored one stunning goal and then won a penalty for Hearts' second as they moved within six points of top spot in the SPL with what was their first-ever win at New St Mirren Park.

Man-of-the-moment Templeton flitted in and out of the game before those second-half contributions and was only minutes away from being substituted when he finally broke the deadlock against Danny Lennon's men. The player himself looked disheartened by his own display when he was eventually replaced by Arvydas Novikovas seven minutes from time, but Jefferies wants him to channel that frustration into making sure he turns on the style against Hibs. The Edinburgh rivals face each other for the second time this season on Saturday and Jefferies is keen for Hearts to continue their scintillating recent form which has seen them keep eight clean sheets in their last 11 games on their way to taking 28 points from a possible 33.

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The manager knows that, with Rudi Skacel battling to overcome a calf injury in time for the weekend after missing out last night, Templeton can hold the key against Colin Calderwood's men. "I was going to give him another five minutes last night before taking him off," said Jefferies. "He knows that he didn't have one of his best nights, his decision making was a bit off - that's why I switched him over to the right, to see if I could get him going again. We thought that would let him get far enough away from me and Billy that he couldn't hear us and that would help him relax!

"Wee Novikovas has been waiting in the wings and I thought that he was very good when he came on but thankfully we kept him on long enough to get the goals. He knows that he can do better but you can't expect the laddie to play well every week. I think that it will just make him even more determined to go out on Saturday and put it right. Being at home, in front of a big crowd, is when he really turns it on."

Having fielded a settled side throughout most of their recent matches, Jefferies was forced to alter over a quarter of his team last night, with Skacel joined on the sidelines by Stephen Elliott, who had a virus, and goalkeeper Marian Kello, who had a slight back strain. In came Ryan Stevenson, Calum Elliot and Jamie MacDonald, with the last-named making his first appearance of the season.

It looked like Saints would give MacDonald an early test when Paul McGowan tried a dipping volley, but his effort fell a few inches behind the 24-year-old goalkeeper's net.

Hearts enjoyed the majority of the pressure in the first half but could not make it count, winning five corners in the space of just four minutes at one point. John Potter had a chance to breach the Hearts defence before the break but MacDonald, despite almost being down on his knees in the six-yard box, somehow managed to narrow the angle and spread his body wide to block the shot.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Templeton carved out a chance for Elliot, only for the striker to shoot against the post. After the break, though, it was a different matter as Hearts found their stride and began to turn the screw. Kevin Kyle picked out Elliot who did well to turn away from goal to win himself some space and then send the ball back into the middle. It was eventually knocked out to the edge of the box where Ian Black was waiting but the midfielder's powerful snapshot was off target.

The home side had a brilliant chance to edge in front on the hour when Darren McGregor and then Craig Dargo both had close range headers blocked by MacDonald. The Hearts keeper then did well to collect in mid air after another header, this time from Higdon, before Dargo could get a touch onto it to take it into the net.

Hearts eventually made the breakthrough after 63 minutes with a goal fit to win any game. Just as Jefferies was preparing to replace him, Templeton picked up possession in the middle of the park and ran through a sea of legs before getting a little break of the ball as it looked like he might have lost it. He then raced in on goal again before drilling low into the net beyond Paul Gallacher. Substitution postponed.

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Stevenson could have doubled Hearts' advantage soon after, only to be twice denied by the Saints keeper in quick succession. But the 1,382 Hearts fans who travelled through to Paisley didn't have much longer to wait for their second goal and, again, Templeton was in the thick of things. The little winger cashed in on a mistake in the Saints defence to scamper forward again and when he reached the box he was duly brought crashing to the ground by Potter. There weren't too many arguments from the Saints defender's team-mates as Potter was shown a straight red card and Kyle stepped up to rattle home his sixth penalty of the season and third in successive games.

Hearts could have added another in stoppage time when Eggert Jonsson's pass picked out sub Novikovas down the left. The Lithuanian raced to the by-line and cut the ball back for David Obua, only for the Ugandan, making his first appearance since October, to be denied by Gallacher.

Saints manager Danny Lennon was disappointed to be left empty-handed but praised the contribution made by Templeton. Lennon said: "In the first half I felt that they put us under a great deal of pressure but I thought that we dealt with it quite well. In the second half, we could see that they were going to take the wee boy Templeton off and I thought that we had done very well against him - but it just goes to show you that when you do have quality like that in your side you can make it pay.

"Guys like him are matchwinners, he is a quality player and he made it pay last night."

The win kept Hearts in touch with the Old Firm in the SPL table and Lennon believes the rampant Jambos can increase the pressure on the Glasgow sides this season. "Hearts thoroughly deserved their victory, I felt that they got their momentum going and picked up every second ball," he conceded. "If anyone can go on and split the Old Firm this season then I think Hearts can."