Heart of Midlothian 5-2 St Mirren
Saturday 9th November 2019, KO 15:00 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Tynecastle Park
Hearts recorded their first home win of the league campaign with a five-star showing against St Mirren. Goals from five different scorers outlined the attacking threat the Jambos posed, as they climbed up the league table.
Austin MacPhee made five changes to the side that were defeated by Rangers in last weekend’s Betfred Cup semi-final. In defence, Aaron Hickey and Michael Smith returned to their normal berths of left-back and right-back, respectively, while Clevid Dikamona came into the side to partner Christophe Berra in defence. Andy Irving came into the midfield for Glenn Whelan, who had to be replaced due to injury against Rangers.
At the front end of the park, it was all change as Steven MacLean, Ryo Meshino and Sean Clare dropped out in place of Uche Ikpeazu, Jamie Walker and Steven Naismith, the latter two making their first starts since August for the Jambos.
The Jambos got off to the best possible start when, following a bustling run from Ikpeazu down the right wing that won a corner, Irving played in a cross to the front post and Naismith nipped in ahead of the St Mirren defence to fire a shot high into the net.
Despite the opener, however, St Mirren were competing well in the match and came close to levelling when Tony Andreu burst into the area and fired a shot that stung the palms of Joel Pereira. Moments later, they levelled when Sam Foley crossed to the back post, Andreu nodded it down and Jon Obika blasted the ball high into the net.
Parity didn’t last long, though, as Hearts retook the lead on the half-hour mark when an Aaron Hickey throw-in was headed on by Naismith to Ikpeazu, who touched the ball around keeper Vaclav Hladky, and prodded the ball home via a touch from Sean McLoughlin. But in a dramatic twist, St Mirren would level again almost immediately.
Hladky played a long clearance downfield that caught the Hearts defence off guard. Christophe Berra jumped, but left the ball hearing a shout from behind, and it ran all the way through to Danny Mullen who kept his composure when one-on-one with Pereira to coolly finish into the corner and equalise.
The first half action wasn’t finished there though, as Hearts retook the lead two minutes before the interval. Irving hammered a superb through ball to Naismith, who was robbed at the last second by Kirk Broadfoot, but the ball broke out to Ikpeazu who played it wide for Smith, and the Northern Irishman curled in a precision cross that was headed home from close range by Ollie Bozanic.
Seconds after the break, Hearts made it four. In a repeat of what had happened just before half-time, Smith curled in another superb cross that was headed home powerfully by the onrushing Jamie Walker who grabbed his first Tynecastle goal, and third of the season, since returning to the club in the summer.
The second-half saw the tempo notably slow with Hearts content to sit on their two goal lead, with St Mirren trying to get back into the match without much success. Walker was withdrawn - still seeking fitness - for Loic Damour, while Aidy White was replaced at his unfamiliar left-wing role by Jake Mulraney, returning after suffering an ankle injury three weeks ago.
And it would be Mulraney who would have the next impact in the match, with a wonderful solo goal. The Irish winger received the ball on the left wing after a drop-ball, cut inside and beat his man with a step-over before curling a stunning effort into the top right-hand corner with his weak foot to put the gloss on the scoreline.
St Mirren kept pushing forward, and drew a stunning save from Pereira after Kyle Magennis let fly from 30 yards with a raking effort that looked destined for the top corner before ‘El Gato’ pounced to claw the ball past the post and save what would have been a rival to Mulraney for goal of the game.
Mulraney came close to scoring his second goal of the game moments later when Naismith robbed McLoughlin 40 yards from goal and broke into the danger zone before cutting it back to Mulraney, whose curling effort was superbly stopped by Hladky. That proved to be the last of the action as Hearts secured a well deserved and long overdue home win.
Hearts: Pereira; Smith, Dikamona, Berra, Hickey; Walker (Damour, 62'), Irving, Bozanic; Ikpeazu (Meshino, 80'), Naismith, White (Mulraney, 60')
Subs: Zlamal, Whelan, MacLean, Brandon.
St Mirren: Hladky, P. McGinn, Waters, S. McGinn (Durmus, 58'), McLoughlin, Magennis, Obika, Andreu (Moias, 78'), Foley, Mullen, Broadfoot (MacKenzie, 68').
Subs: Lyness, Flynn, Djorkaeff, MacPherson.
Referee: Euan Anderson