Saints off bottom after beating Hearts

Jamie McCart winner v Hearts
Jamie McCart (right) made Hearts pay for poor defending by heading in a crucial St Johnstone winner

St Johnstone hauled themselves off the foot of the Scottish Premiership after beating Hearts to claim just a second home league win of the season.

In a manic start, Ali Crawford finished off a fine team move after just 51 seconds before Nathaniel Atkinson slotted Hearts’ sixth-minute equalizer.

The pace dipped but Jamie McCart capitalized on slack defending to head in a priceless second-half winner.

Despite going four games without a league win, Hearts remain third.

The Tynecastle men have a healthy nine-point cushion on fourth-place Hibernian, but his side’s form will be a concern for manager Robbie Neilson.

As for St Johnstone, the Perth club’s revival continues. They have lost just one of their last six games – winning two and drawing three – and now sit two points above Dundee, who have two games in hand.

Hearts traveled to Perth with a 12-year hoodoo to put to bed. Not since 2010, when St Johnstone were led by Derek McInnes, had the Tynecastle side won a top-flight game at McDiarmid Park.

A 14-game winless run looked like it would extend to 15 when Crawford applied the finishing touch to a free-flowing St Johnstone move inside the first minute.

But in a frantic opening, Hearts equalized when Atkinson slotted in a rebound after Barrie McKay’s low, curling shot bounced off the right-hand post.

Both sides, who were missing first-choice goalkeepers Zander Clark and Craig Gordon, were relentless in their push for a second in an end-to-end start.

On-loan Everton forward Ellis Simms stabbed a close-range effort off the near post before St Johnstone’s Murray Davidson drilled a half volley just wide at the other end.

The home side continued to probe and the impressive Melker Hallberg saw a long-range effort drift wide from the top corner in the second half.

Hallberg was key to the decisive goal soon after when the former Hibs midfielder’s deep free-kick caught Hearts out. The visiting defense’s failed offside trap saw McCart ghost to the back post and pick his spot in the far corner.

The remainder of the game was about St Johnstone’s dogged defending and Elliot Parish’s inspired goalkeeping.

John Souttar first had a close-range header thwarted by Parish before the Scotland defender got his head to another corner late on.

Souttar’s flick took a nick and dropped onto the bar, but Parish was able to get his body behind Peter Haring’s rebound and spirited St Johnstone saw out a monumental win.

Man of the Match – Melker Hallberg

Melker Hallberg and Alex Cochrane
The January signing (left) from Hibernian, who assisted both goals in an all-action display, looks a shrewd piece of business for the Perth side

What did we learn?

The full-time scenes in the home dugout and stands told you everything about how big a win this was for St Johnstone.

Before Saturday, they had won just one home league game all season – against Dundee in October.

Since the winter break, Davidson’s men have picked up nine Premiership points from seven games. In the 20 games before the shutdown, they had earned just 14.

The Perth side can now go to Ross County, who sit a place and four points above them, next weekend in a buoyant mood.

Is complacency creeping in at Hearts? Neilson’s men have won just two of their seven league games in 2022.

It would take an almighty collapse for the Tynecastle side to surrender a third spot, but they need to recapture their clinical edge and resolute defending to avoid the gap to fourth narrowing further.

What did they say?

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “We reacted really well, we didn’t let our heads go down. Now we are looking up. We’re positive and looking to catch teams.

“We want to play with a tempo and energy and try to get more points. We needed luck, we needed something to change. We got that luck at the end. It would’ve been hard to take if we drew the game.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson: “We lost a goal after a minute, it was just slackness. Overall, we didn’t do enough. We are in a wee bit of a rut just now. It’s up to us to get out of it.

“The last two weeks we’ve come off it. We’re a good team but not good enough to go through the season at our highest level. Next week at St Mirren, we need to get back at it again.”

What’s next?

Both sides return to action next Saturday (15:00 GMT) as St Johnstone go to Ross County and Hearts travel to St Mirren.

More to follow.


CiftciNadir Ciftci

St Johnstone

  1. squad number23player nameCiftci

  2. squad number17player namedance

  3. squad numberfifteenplayer nameGilmour

  4. squad number14player nameMiddleton

  5. squad number29player nameHallberg

  6. squad number3. 4player nameButterfield

  7. squad number22player nameHendry

  8. squad number8player namedavidson

  9. squad number27player nameblood

  10. squad numbertwenty-oneplayer nameCrawford

  11. squad number5player nameclearly

  12. squad number4player namemccart

  13. squad number6player nameGordon

  14. squad number3player nameGallacher

  15. squad number12player nameParish

Heart of Midlothian

  1. squad number18player nameMcKay

  2. squad number12player nameAtkinson

  3. squad numbertwentyplayer nameSimms

  4. squad number17player nameCochrane

  5. squad number3player nameKingsley

  6. squad number5player nameharing

  7. squad number14player nameDevlin

  8. squad numbertwenty-oneplayer nameSibbick

  9. squad number30player nameGinnelly

  10. squad number4player nameSouttar

  11. squad number16player nameHalliday

  12. squad numberelevenplayer nameMackay-Steven

  13. squad number9player nameWoodburn

  14. squad number13player nameStewart


St Johnstone

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 12Parish
  • 5clearly
  • 6Gordon
  • 4mccart
  • 27blood
  • 29HallbergSubstituted forGilmourat 74′minutes
  • 8davidson
  • 3Gallacher
  • twenty-oneCrawfordSubstituted forButterfieldat 78′minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 14MiddletonSubstituted fordanceat 87′minutes
  • 22HendryBooked at 36minsSubstituted forCiftciat 78′minutes


  • twoBrown
  • 7may
  • elevenO’Halloran
  • fifteenGilmour
  • 16mahon
  • 17dance
  • twentySinclair
  • 23Ciftci
  • 3. 4Butterfield


Formation 3-4-3

  • 13Stewart
  • twenty-oneSibbick
  • 4Souttar
  • 3Kingsley
  • 12Atkinson
  • 14DevlinSubstituted forHallidayat 65′minutes
  • 5haring
  • 17CochraneSubstituted forMackay-Stevenat 65′minutes
  • 30GinnellySubstituted forWoodburnat 65′minutes
  • twentySimms
  • 18McKay


  • 6Baningime
  • 8McEneff
  • 9Woodburn
  • elevenMackay-Steven
  • fifteenMoore
  • 16Halliday
  • 38Pollock
  • 39McFarlane

Grant Irvine



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