St Mirren 1-2 Heart of Midlothian
Saturday 7th August 2021, KO 15:00 | cinch Premiership | St Mirren Park
Hearts made it six points from six in the cinch Premiership after a deserved 2-1 victory over St Mirren at the SMISA Stadium.
The Jambos earned their first win in Renfrewshire in the league for over a decade thanks to goals from Andy Halliday and Liam Boyce, although Joe Shaughnessy did reduce the arrears for the hosts late on, before Kristian Dennis was red carded for violent conduct.
Robbie Neilson named one change to the side that defeated Celtic at Tynecastle Park last Saturday, with Peter Haring coming into the team in place of Stephen Kingsley, who missed out through illness.
Hearts began the match in confident fashion, clearly still feeling positive after the Saturday night scenes in Gorgie, and Boyce was looking sharp up front. Michael Smith found space on the right after some neat passing, and Boyce rose highest to head at goal, but his powerful effort went just wide.
At the other end, Curtis Main found space from a long throw-in and hit a left-foot shot just wide of the post. On the quarter-hour, however, Hearts took the lead. Following some more tidy passing, Peter Haring found Boyce on the left-hand side of the area, and he laid the ball back for Halliday, arriving late in the area, to bend the ball away from Jak Alnwick and into the corner of the net.
The game settled down after the goal, with St Mirren enjoying more possession and going long towards Main, looking for flick-ons for Eamonn Brophy, but it was Hearts who had the next chance when Boyce turned superbly in midfield and sent Haring away. He slid the ball wide to Josh Ginnelly who passed back in towards the edge of the area for Gary Mackay-Steven, but the forward shot wide.
Just before half-time, GMS had another chance when John Souttar stepped out of defence and played a great ball through the middle that Ginnelly dummied, but again Mackay-Steven missed the target.
After the break, St Mirren fashioned a chance out of nothing when a long ball wasn’t dealt with, and Main shot for goal first time from 20 yards, with his effort flashing just pass the post.
On the hour, Hearts mixed it up by bringing on Armand Gnanduillet up front and changing shape, and the substitution paid dividends with 15 minutes left. From a Smith throw, Gnanduillet backed into his marker all the way into the area, and fell over but still got the ball to Mackay-Steven who rolled the ball along the edge of the area for Boyce, and he smashed the ball into the bottom corner after selling his marker a neat feint.
Aaron McEneff then came off the bench and almost immediately made it three when, after more excellent possession, he was teed up 25 yards from goal and hit a rocket of a shot that smacked off the outside of the post and away.
It became frantic now, and St Mirren grabbed a goal from nothing when a lovely cross into the box was headed home by Joe Shaughnessy, who had been sent up front. St Mirren had their tails up, but almost immediately ruined it for themselves when sub Kristian Dennis, at kick-off, ran past Haring and smashed the Austrian in the face. He was instantly sent off for his moment of madness.
St Mirren went long but Hearts repelled them well, and indeed should have settled it, when sub Euan Henderson held the ball up and slipped in Smith but Alnwick denied him with a stunning close-range save to keep his side in the game, for at least another few minutes, before referee Gavin Duncan called time on the match that saw Hearts hit the top of the table.
St Mirren: Alnwick, Tait (Henderson, 77') Tanser, Shaughnessy, Power, McGrath, Brophy (Dennis, 77'), Main, Kiltie (MacPherson, 77'), Dunne, Fraser. Subs: Lyness, McCarthy, Erhahon, Erwin.
Hearts: Gordon, M. Smith, Souttar, Haring, Baningime, Boyce (Henderson, 88'), Mackay-Steven (McEneff, 76'), Halliday, Cochrane, Halkett, Ginnelly (Gnanduillet, 63'). Subs: Stewart, C. Smith, Watson, Denholm.
Referee: Gavin Duncan