Match Report: Hearts 1-0 St Mirren14 January 2023
Robbie Neilson made two changes to the side that started in Paisley last weekend. James Hill came in for his Hearts debut, alongside the returning Andy Halliday in place of Alan Forrest and Cammy Devlin. Meanwhile, fellow new arrivals Garang Kuol and Yutaro Oda had to settle for a place on the bench.
Hearts had struggled to settle in the opening 20 minutes and Zander Clark was the first of the two goalkeepers to be called into action when making a routine save to deny Curtis Main from distance.
With the extra man in the middle of the park, the visitors were seeing more of the ball in an attacking sense, but it was Hearts who broke the deadlock on 28 minutes.
St Mirren were pressing high up the pitch, so when Hearts were able to beat that press, the Buddies were always going to be vulnerable, and it was no surprise to see Barrie McKay finding an initial pocket of space to operate in.
The Hearts midfielder received the ball midway inside the St Mirren half and immediately set his sights on the Saints backline. A crisp pass found Halliday on the edge of the box, and as McKay continued his run, the layoff was perfect for the number 18 to curl the ball past Carson and into the back of the net.
That goal had given Tynecastle a lift and Lawrence Shankland almost doubled the lead in first half stoppage time, but his goalbound effort was well blocked by Richard Taylor.
Half time: Hearts 1-0 St Mirren
With Hill slotting in at centre back, Alex Cochrane found himself back out at left wing-back and he almost set up the second goal, ten minutes into the second half. He got the better of Ryan Flynn and after his initial cross was blocked, he set up Andy Halliday who curled the ball over from inside the box.
Hearts were looking a bit leggy as we passed the hour mark and an injury to Cochrane did little to aid matters.
The introduction of Jonah Ayunga gave the Buddies a lift and he almost equalised for the visitors with a low shot that struck the outside of the post.
Robbie Neilson was shown a second yellow card and sent to the stands for the remaining 15 minutes, as Kuol was introduced for his Hearts debut.
Clark was once again at his brilliant best to deny a flurry of St Mirren efforts eight minutes from time. Greg Kiltie was first to try his luck, before Clark, who was lying on the ground at this point, produced a magnificent reactionary save to deny Main on the rebound.
As St Mirren threw everything at Hearts, chances were always going to come on the counter-attack and substitute Stephen Humphrys should have wrapped up the points in stoppage time, but after being sent clean through by Kuol, he fired wide.
Hearts had to survive one last scare as Main fired a free kick wide from 20-yards, but the Jambos held on for another three precious points.
Hearts: Clark, M. Smith, Shankland ©, Rowles, Halliday (Forrest, 87), McKay (Kuol, 77), Cochrane (Devlin, 60), Sibbick, Ginnelly (Humphrys, 77), Hill, Snodgrass
Subs: Stewart, Grant, Kio, Atkinson, Devlin, Forrest, Humphrys, Kuol, Oda
St Mirren: Carson, Gallagher, Shaughnessy ©, R. Taylor (Brophy, 85), Flynn, Baccus (Reid, 67), O’Hara (Kiltie, 33), Gogic, Tanser, Grieve (Ayunga, 67), Main
Subs: Urminsky, Campbell, Kenny, Reid, F. Taylor, Kiltie, Olusanya, Brophy, Ayunga