St Johnstone 3-3 Heart of Midlothian
Saturday 1st February 2020, KO 15:00 | Ladbrokes Premiership | McDiarmid Park
Hearts and St Johnstone shared the spoils in an absolute classic of a match today at McDiarmid Park.
In a topsy turvy game, the Jambos fell behind, then lead, before equalising in stoppage time to earn a point that lifts them off the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Daniel Stendel made one change to the side that beat Rangers in stunning fashion last weekend, with Ryotaro Meshino coming into the side at the expense of Lewis Moore, who dropped to the bench.
Hearts started the match brightly and on the front foot, but they were hit by a sucker punch from the hosts. Ali McCann weaved down the right and cut the ball back to Stevie May who swept the ball past Joel Pereira to give Saints the lead.
The Jambos were rocked but these days, their heads don’t go down for long after a setback, and they responded in style. After forcing a series of corners, one was cleared as far as Andy Irving, who slid a lovely through ball for Toby Sibbick on the right flank, and the on-loan man fizzed the ball across goal where Liam Boyce met the ball at the near post to level.
Shortly after, the game was turned on its head. Another corner was poorly dealt with by the hosts, and keeper Zander Clark flapped at the ball, palming it as far as John Souttar who hooked the ball back towards goal over his shoulder. The ball may have been dropping in, but skipper Steven Naismith did what good strikers do, and made sure by heading it in.
The visitors had the momentum now, and they came close to a third just prior to the interval after some nice link up play between Euan Henderson and Sibbick, that resulted in the latter trying his luck from 25 yards but the midfielder curled his effort just wide.
After the break, the home side looked a team reborn as they came out of the traps flying, although aided by a lack of tempo from Hearts after a positive first half. David Wotherspoon gave a hint of danger when he cut in from the left and curled the ball just past the post.
The leveller came moments later. May got in behind the Hearts defence down the left flank, and held the ball up intelligently, before laying it off to McCann, who hit a powerful shot at goal that Pereira could only divert into the net.
St Johnstone were buzzing around the park now, and nearly took the lead when there was confusion between Souttar and Pereira, which saw May nip in and toe the ball towards goal. Unfortunately for the striker, his shot dribbled agonisingly wide of the post, but the goal was coming.
It came after a deep free kick from Liam Craig made it all the way to the back post, where Craig Halkett was deemed to have pulled back Jason Kerr. The defender was booked for his troubles and May dispatched the ball home, sending Pereira the wrong way.
The manager changed things up, bringing on Conor Washington, Uche Ikpeazu and Donis Avdijaj in the latter stages as Hearts pushed forward leaving just Souttar and Halkett defending. Ikpeazu and Avdijaj combined to good effect, when Uche slid in the Kosovan, but Zander Clark was out sharp to save.
Saints almost sealed it with a stunning effort by May just three minutes from time. Pereira was caught upfield trying to start and attack, and the ball fell to the striker 50 yards from goal. He let the ball take a bounce and then fired a shot goalwards that had Pereira scrambling, but the keeper made a top save to keep Hearts in it, and that save proved to be vital.
As the game entered three minutes of stoppage time, Naismith - playing deep in midfield now - launched a long ball forward to Ikpeazu, who nodded it down for Sean Clare who let fly first time from 25 yards as his half-volley screamed into the bottom corner.
St Johnstone: Clark, Kerr, Gordon (O'Halloran, 42'), McCart, Ralston, Tanser (Booth, 46'), Craig, McCann, Wotherspoon, Kane, May (Butcher, 90'). Subs: Parish, Hendery, Swanson, Holt.
Hearts: Pereira, White, Souttar, Clare, Naismith, Halkett, Boyce, Sibbick (Washington, 71'), Irving, Henderson (Avdijaj, 80'), Meshino (Ikpeazu, 60'). Subs: Zlamal, Bozanic, Dikamona, Moore.
Referee: Greg Aitken