Hearts are first in the Scottish Premiership after holding out for a 2-1 away win against St Mirren – their first victory in Paisley since 2010.
The home side probed for a route to goal but Andy Halliday and Liam Boyce strikes either side of half-time proved enough for Hearts. Joe Shaughnessy pulled one back for St Mirren but Hearts retained their 100% record after a win over Celtic last weekend. Kristian Dennis was sent off for Saints 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Halliday’s goal came at a somewhat odd time. Both St Mirren and Hearts were still figuring each other out, Curtis Main and Boyce going close for either side. But nobody had created anything clear-cut.
Nice work from Beni Baningime on the edge of the Saints box soon fed Boyce again. The Northern Ireland international managed to get the ball to Halliday, who did well to lift his shot into the net.
Hearts were having joy in playing out from the back and St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin made a tactical tweak to change that. Once he made the alteration, his side started to pile the pressure on. Eammon Brophy fired a couple of shots at Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon but the away captain wasn’t fully tested.
Main’s scissor-kick at least made the 38-year-old dive – but it was still wide. Jamie McGrath had created a few openings for St Mirren but a vital goal to level things was alluding them. They had Hearts camped in their own half for a period.
Injuries, offsides and fouls broke up the rhythm of the game, much to the just over 1,000 home fans’ frustration. Boyce would serve to silence them as Hearts grabbed hold of possession late in the game. He lined up a shot from the edge of the box and Saints goalkeeper Jak Alnwick couldn’t get enough of his hand on the ball to keep it out.
Goodwin was soon served a bittersweet moment. Shaughnessy’s header handed Saints a lifeline but seconds after Hearts’ kick-off, Dennis was shown a straight red card for a collision with Peter Haring. Robbie Neilson’s Hearts had scored with their two shots on target and that was enough to seal victory. Here are three things we learned.
Baningime looks like a terrific signings for Hearts. Winning Man of the Match on his debut against Celtic last weekend – having joined from Everton 48 hours previous – the midfielder carried on his good work versus St Mirren. He brought calmness to the midfield and played a big part in Hearts’ opener.
Hearts on top
Dundee United’s win over Rangers earlier on Saturday means Hearts top the table ahead of Sunday’s four Premiership fixtures. While not of great importance after matchday two, it’ll be a morale-boost for Hearts to finish the weekend at least joint-top. They have now won six on the bounce.
No Saints pay-off
After a first-half tweak, St Mirren had good spells of possession But they struggled to do a lot with it, half-chances coming infrequently for strikers Brophy and Main. Boyce’s goal was a sucker-punch but Goodwin will know he needs more end-product in attack. The red card so soon after scoring summed up the afternoon in attack.
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