Saints 0-2 Hearts
5th August 2023
Saints got their cinch Premiership campaign underway this afternoon against Hearts at McDiarmid Park as two late strikes from Yutaro Oda and Lawrence Shankland saw The Jambos leave Perth with the points.
Steven MacLean’s men put in a battling performance and captain Liam Gordon came close to breaking the deadlock in a tight first half when he put his effort narrowly wide. Whilst up the other end new signing Sam McClelland made an excellent block to deny Lawrence Shankland.
Hearts took the lead with 15 minutes remaining as Oda sent low strike into the far corner of the net.
The Jambos then ended the game as a contest deep into stoppage time. A quick break by Hearts saw the Gorgie side hit Saints on the counter and Lawrence Shankland tapped the ball home from close range to double the visitors lead.
Next up for Saints is a trip to Dingwall next Saturday to take on Ross County, kick off 3pm.
Saints got their cinch Premiership campaign underway this afternoon as they welcomed Hearts to McDiarmid Park. Saints ended their Viaplay Cup campaign on a disappointing note last Saturday they were defeated 4-0 by Stirling Albion and Steven MacLean made six changes to his starting eleven for this afternoon’s match. Ross Sinclair, Liam Parker, Max Kucheriavyi, Alex Ferguson and Luke Jephcott all dropped to the bench whilst James Brown missed out due to injury. They were replaced by Dimitar Mitov, Graham Carey, Drey Wright and Ryan McGowan, whilst new signings Oludare Olufunwa and Sam McClelland both came in for their first starts after joining on two-year deals this week. There was also a place on the bench for fellow new signing Matt Smith who joined Saints this morning on a two-year deal. Hearts lost 1-0 to Leeds United in their final pre-season match last Sunday and Head Coach Frankie McAvoy made one change to his starting eleven as Cammy Devlin came in to replace Jorge Grant who dropped to the bench.
It was a wet afternoon in Perth and before the match got underway there was a minute’s applause in memory of former Saints player Benny Rooney who sadly passed away last week.
There was a slight delay to the match due to a technical issue with VAR however, both sides agreed that they were happy for the match to start whilst the issue was resolved.
Cammy Devlin got the match underway for the visitors but it was Saints who had the better of the opening exchanges. On 8 minutes Saints were awarded a free kick after Peter Haring had fouled Graham Carey. The free kick was taken by Carey and his delivery into the box laid it on a plate for Liam Gordon however, the Saints captain put his effort wide.
PHOTO: A minute’s applause was held in memory of Benny Rooney
2 minutes later great play by Tony Gallacher saw him win the ball from Yutaro Oda on the halfway line. Carey did well to keep the ball in play before advancing down the left channel before sending over an inviting delivery into the box. The ball then broke to Cammy Ballantyne in the box but his strike at goal was blocked by Kye Rowles.
Hearts started to come more into the game and on 19 minutes Stephen Kingsley tried to pick out Lawrence Shankland in box with his cross however, Sam McClelland made an excellent tackle to turn the ball behind. From the resultant corner Kingsley’s cross into the box picked out Frankie Kent however, the defender put his header wide of Dimitar Mitov’s left-hand post.
The Jambos created another chance on 23 minutes as Calem Nieuwenhof drove forward and tried to clip the ball into the middle of the box which broke to Peter Haring but the midfielder put his powerful header wide of the target. Good play by Oda on 27 minutes saw him play in Nathaniel Atkinson but he dragged his low effort wide.
PHOTO: Referee Steven McLean talks with the VAR technician as the game is delayed
With ten minutes of the first half remaining Drey Wright went on a good run down the right before sending over a good delivery into the box which was turned behind for a corner by Atkinson at the back post. Carey’s corner from the left bounced about in the Hearts box before breaking to Dan Phillips who blasted a strike high into the North Stand.
On 38 minutes Hearts were awarded a free kick which was taken by Kingsley and he picked out Shankland in the box however, the shot from the Scotland internationalist was comfortably saved by Mitov.
Saints were awarded a free kick of their own a minute later after May had been fouled by Frankie Kent. Carey took the free kick as he played in May however, Atkinson was able to get back and turn the ball behind for a corner which came to nothing as Hearts comfortably cleared Carey’s delivery into the box.
Saints continued to create chances and with 5 minutes of the first half remaining Wright’s cross from the right was only cleared as far as Phillips whose first-time volley was straight at Zander Clark in the Hearts goal.
PHOTO: Liam Gordon puts his effort wide
On 48 minutes Carey was played in by Ryan McGowan and he took a couple of touches before seeing his effort palmed away by Clark however, play was pulled back as Carey was deemed to have been offside.
Then a minute later a foul on Atkinson by McGowan saw Hearts awarded a free kick in a promising position however, the Gorgie side couldn’t take advantage as Kingsley curled his effort over the bar.
The Jambos created another chance shortly after as Oda twisted and turned in the box before getting his shot away which was well held by Mitov.
On 57 minutes Carey’s corner from the left was met by Gordon however, Zander Clark made a good save to deny the defender. There was then a scramble in the box and the ball broke to Oludare Olufunwa in the six yard box however, his shot was blocked as Hearts eventually cleared their lines.
Saints made their first change of the game on 63 minutes as Max Kucheriavyi came on to replace Drey Wright.
PHOTO: Liam Gordon's header is saved by Zander Clark
3 minutes later Mitov made a brilliant double save to keep the score level. Good play by Kingsley saw the defender play in Shankland but Mitov made a good save to deny the forward and the Saints number one was up quick as he dived at the feet of Oda to turn the rebound effort behind for a corner.
The Bulgarian keeper was called into action again with 16 minutes remaining as he made a strong right-handed save to deny Hearts substitute Kyosuke Tagawa after a good through ball from Shankland had played in the Japanese forward.
However, there was nothing Mitov could do a minute later as the visitors took the lead. Atkinson’s cross into the box from the left broke into the path of Oda at the back post who arrowed a low strike into the far corner of the net. Before play could resume there was a VAR check, which was now up and running, for a possible handball however, following a brief check the goal stood.
Saints then made a double change as Dan Phillips and Stevie May were replaced by Matt Smith, who was making his debut, and Luke Jephcott.
PHOTO: Graham Carey is brought down by Cammy Devlin
Hearts had a chance to double their lead on 87 minutes as Shankland headed the ball to Liam Boyce but the Northern Irishman saw his effort turned behind for corner by Mitov. Alex Lowry took the corner from the left and his delivery into the box was met by Rowles at the near post who flicked a header towards goal which Mitov brilliantly pushed over the bar for another corner.
The final minute of the match saw Saints make another change as Taylor Steven came on to replace Cammy Ballantyne.
However, Saints couldn’t find an equaliser to level the match as Hearts doubled their lead deep into stoppage time to wrap up the points. Good play by Lowry played in Boyce as Hearts hit Saints on the break and the forward broke into the box before squaring it to Shankland who slotted the ball home from close range to end the game as a contest.
Saints: Mitov, Gallacher, McGowan, Gordon, May (Jephcott 77’), Carey, Wright (Kucheriavyi 63’), Olufunwa, McClelland, Ballantyne (Steven 89’), Phillips (Smith 77’)
Unused Substitutes: Sinclair (GK), Considine, Ferguson, Parker, McCrystal
Booked: McClelland, Phillips
Hearts: Clark, Kent, Kingsley, Haring, Nieuwenhof (Lowry 59’), Shankland, Oda (Boyce 84’), Atkinson, Devlin (Baningime 84’), Rowles, Forrest (Tagawa 69’)
Unused Substitute: McGovern (GK), Grant, Halliday, Sibbick, Denholm
Booked: Rowles, Devlin, Boyce
Scorers: Oda (75’), Shankland (90’+6)
Referee: Steven McLean
VAR: Don Robertson
Match Report by Daryl Scott
Picture: Matt Smith is fouled by Liam Boyce