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.