Hearts held by St Johnstone

Hearts took the lead twice but ultimately had to settle for a
point in a thrilling 2-2 draw at St Johnstone in the SPL on
Saturday.

The visitors opened the scoring at McDiarmid Park through John
Sutton, and Andrew Driver gave them a 2-1 half-time advantage after
Rowan Vine had levelled the scores.

Steve MacLean equalised after the break in a match filled with
goalscoring opportunities and questionable defending.

Within the first five minutes, Alan Mannus was forced into a
save from Gordon Smith.

Hearts would soon be rewarded for their quick start, taking the
lead in the 14th minute. Driver’s floated free-kick found Sutton
who headed down and past Mannus from the left side of the six-yard
box.

The lead, however, was short-lived. Two minutes later both Kevin
McHattie and Marius Zaliukas failed to make proper connection with
a cross from the right. The latter’s attempted swipe resulted in
the ball being hooked straight up into the air and onto the toe of
Vine to tap home from two yards out.

Hearts should have answered four minutes after conceding their
advantage but Smith floated the ball over the crossbar under
pressure from David McCracken.

It was a good chance but not as clear-cut as the opportunity
Peter Pawlett squandered on 27 minutes. The winger, on loan from
Aberdeen, broke through the offside trap to run onto Vine’s reverse
through ball with only McDonald to beat. The Hearts keeper did well
in parrying the shot, but with the whole goal to aim at Pawlett
should have given him no chance.

Difficulty in dealing with routine balls into the box hurt St
Johnstone again in the 38th minute. This time it was Ryan McGowan’s
long throw from the left that found Sutton’s head in the penalty
area where the goalscorer turned provider by flicking on for Driver
to sweep home.

The lead should have been made comfortable five minutes after
the restart. Driver’s cross from the left was headed back by Sutton
who found his strike partner alone in the centre of the penalty
area. Smith elected to shoot first time and drove his volley wide
of the post.

Pawlett then wasted another chance in what was almost a carbon
copy of his first half opportunity. This time it was Murray
Davidson springing the winger beyond the offside trap, but the same
outcome occurred as McDonald parried away the shot.

From the ensuing corner, MacLean saw his hooked effort from
close range cleared off the line, but the hosts would not be denied
for long.

Callum Davidson’s switched long ball hit Murray Davidson
perfectly in stride on the right wing. The midfielder, streaking
into the box, rolled the ball across goal for MacLean to tap
in.

With the momentum fully behind his team, St Johnstone boss Steve
Lomas introduced Gregory Tade for Pawlett and the striker almost
had an instant impact.

On defensive duties Sutton inadvertently diverted the ball past
his defence for Tade to run onto. MacDonald came out to block but
lost the battle as Tade stumbled past the keeper and tried to prod
the ball past the covering Hearts defenders. After a couple of
ricochets it fell kindly for MacLean to finish into the empty net
before Ryan McGowan appeared from nowhere to hoof clear.