St Mirren 3-2 Heart of Midlothian
Hearts suffered a disappointing return to Hampden as they succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of St Mirren in the Scottish Communities League Cup Final.
Ryan Stevenson put the Jambos ahead inside ten minutes, but an Esmael Goncalves strike sent the teams into half time on level terms. Steven Thompson then scored immediately after the restart, before Conor Newton added a third soon after. Stevenson grabbed his second to hand Hearts a lifeline, but the Saints held on for the win.
Gary Locke, taking charge of his first game since being appointed manager on a permanent basis, made three changes to the side that faced Hibs last weekend. The injured Fraser Mullen was replaced by the fit again Dylan McGowan at right back, whilst Darren Barr returned from suspension in place of Callum Tapping in central midfield.
Meanwhile, Arvydas Novikovas made way for Jamie Walker on the left flank as Hearts lined up in a 4-4-2 formation spearheaded by strikers John Sutton and Michael Ngoo.
Over 25,000 Jambos welcomed the boys in maroon onto the Hampden turf and the Jambos enjoyed a bright start to the game, deservedly taking the lead on eight minutes.
Ngoo chased down a loose ball in the left channel before playing it into the path of Stevenson. The winger turned his marker and curled a shot into the far corner past the outstretched Craig Samson.
The Jambos took confidence from the early strike and, truth be told, could well have hade a couple of more goals as both Sutton and Ngoo passed on some excellent goal scoring opportunities.
The Saints capitalised on their failure to extend their lead, however, as they pulled level towards the end of the half. Gary Teale broke the offisde trap down the right wing and cut inside before teeing up Goncalves whom swept his shot into the far corner.
The Saints' momentum carried on into the second half as they took the lead within a minute of the restart. Paul McGowan found time and space on the left before delivering a pinpoint cross at the near post which Thompson stabbed into the roof of the net.
It was a devastating blow for the Gorgie side, but they none the less pushed forward immediately after and nearly found themselves back in it when Taouil drifted in from the right before seeing his cross sent inches wide by Ngoo.
Shortly after the hour mark, however, the Saints grabbed their third as Newton was released through the heart of the maroon
defence and calmly fired the ball into the bottom right corner.
The gaffer introduced Novikovas and Jason Holt in a bid to rejuvnate his side, but a well organised Saints team were proving hard to break down.
Hearts none the less carved out an opportunity with ten minutes remaining as McHattie forced a rebound from Samson with a well struck shot on the edge of the box, but Ngoo's follow up was blocked by an outstretched Saints leg.
Shortly after, Stevenson went agonisingly close as he hit the crossbar after latching on to a knockdown from Danny Wilson on six yards.
He made no mistake minutes later, however, as he curled the ball into the far corner to put Hearts back into the game after a delightful through ball from Ngoo.
His strike set up a tense finale as Hearts threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Saints, but despite Stevenson again seeing an
effort crash off the woodwork, the Jambos were unable to draw level.
The Saints duly held on to condemn Locke's men to a heart breaking defeat.
St Mirren: Samson; Van Zanten, McAusland, Goodwin, Dummett; Teale, McGowan, Newton, McGinn (Carey 81); Thompson (Parkin 77), Goncalves (Mair 90). Subs not used: Adam, McLean.
Hearts: Macdonald;McGowan, Webster, Wilson, McHattie; Stevenson, Barr (Holt 70), Taouil (Carrick 80), Walker (Novikovas 64); Sutton, Ngoo. Subs not used: Ridgers, McKay.
Referee: Craig Thomson
Top man: Kevin McHattie