Match Report: Hearts 3-2 St. Johnstone28 August 2022
New signing Orestis Kiomourtzoglou watched from the stands as goals from Kye Rowles, Liam Boyce, and Lawrence Shankland wrapped up the win for the boys in maroon – with the only thing taking the shine off the day being first-half injuries to Kye Rowles and Liam Boyce, with the latter forced to leave the pitch on a stretcher.
Robbie Neilson opted to make a number of changes from the side that took on Zurich at Tynecastle on Thursday night; Andy Halliday, Josh Ginnelly and Nate Atkinson were all handed starting berths, whilst Lewis Neilson slotted into the middle of a back three for his first start of the season.
It was to be a quick start to proceedings in Gorgie, with St. Johnstone taking the lead after five minutes. Under pressure from a Saints attack, Craig Gordon cleared his lines into the direction of Graham Carey, with the midfielder snatching at his opportunity to curl the ball into the top right corner.
Hearts responded in earnest – Liam Boyce rolled his marker brilliantly before sliding in Ginnelly with a well-timed ball. Gino did well to beat his man and hit the box, but his resulting effort slammed over the crossbar with nine minutes played.
A foul by Phillips on Ginnelly on the edge of the area paved the way for a promising Hearts free-kick – with Peter Haring’s effort smashing the wall before Andy Halliday’s follow up with a devastating half-volley whizzed just wide of Remi Matthews’ left post.
The visitors’ backs were firmly against the wall as Hearts pushed for an equaliser; GMS did well to slip in Boyce on the counter, with the Irishman’s effort forcing a diving save from Matthews. It went behind for a corner, and Hearts soon found themselves on level terms.
Mackay-Steven swung the corner in, with Kye Rowles leaping highest to power home an almighty header past Matthews to bag his first goal in maroon. It wouldn’t be too long before the boys in maroon would have their second.
A brilliant sweeping move, sparked by some marvellous midfield work from Devlin and Haring, dispossessed Daniel Phillips on the half-way line. Haring played the ball out wide to Ginnelly, who dashed for the box and got a cross off. Lurking in the middle was Liam Boyce, who pounced to nod home for the second. Hearts were in the lead, and Boycie had his first goal of the season.
Something to take the shine off the first 45 was Kye Rowles’ early exit from the game, forced off after 34 minutes, with Barrie McKay taking his place as Hearts reverted to a back four. McKay’s impact, as expected, was near enough instant. A delightful ball to Ginnelly across the deck saw Gino unleash a vicious shot from an impossibly tight angle – with the woodwork coming to Saints’ rescue.
A flashpoint occurred on the cusp of half time after a crunching tackle from Daniel Phillips in the middle of the park hurt both Cammy Devlin and Liam Boyce. Boycie came off the worse of the two, with a stretcher required to take him off the park as half-time beckoned.
Lawrence Shankland was introduced from the bench to fill the breach in Boyce’s absence.
Our number nine nearly made an instant impact on the second half after Ginnelly squared the ball across to him after catching Matthews off his line. Shankland took the shot under pressure, but St. Johnstone recovered with Matthews getting back in position in the nick of time. Just moments after that chance, Saints would pull the game back. Andy Considine nodded in a flick on from a corner after 53 minutes to set up a tense second 45.
The game settled down into a rhythm, with neither side able to establish a firm foothold in the game. Shankland saw a chance go astray at one end, whilst Ali Crawford ballooned another at the opposite end of the pitch.
Josh Ginnelly, meanwhile, tried his luck from distance – with Hearts struggling to prise through a well organised Perth rear-guard.
Just as Carey opened the scoring, it was Carey who helped sew it up – but not for the Saints! McKay was crudely brought down by the Saints man with a penalty awarded. Lawrence Shankland, as is so often the case, stepped up and buried the ball past Matthews to catapult Hearts into the lead with ten minutes left to play.
There was to be no further action, and Hearts walked away with all three points. Next up; Kilmarnock at Tynecastle in the Premier Sports Cup on Wednesday night.
Hearts: Gordon, Rowles (McKay 34’), Neilson, M. Smith, Atkinson (C. Smith 62’), Haring, Devlin, Halliday, Ginnelly, GMS (Forrest 58’), Boyce (Shankland 45’)
Subs: Stewart, Shankland, Forrest, McKay, Henderson, Denholm, Darge
St. Johnstone: Matthews, Brown (Montgomery 45’), Considine, Mitchell, May (Blair 75’), McGowan, Wright, Hallberg (Crawford 19’), Carey, Murphy, Phillips (Gordon 45’)
Subs: Parish, Gordon, O’Halloran, Mahon, Bair, Montgomery, Crawford, Ballantyne, Kucheriavyi