Clydesdale Bank SPL, Saturday 17 September 2011 - Tynecastle
Hearts continued their renaissance under manager Paul Sergio with a comfortable win over St. Mirren in Gorgie. The Maroons have been unbeaten since Tottenham Hotspur put them to the sword at Tynecastle a month ago but, it has to be said, this was a tedious affair in the autumn sunshine.
I wrote in my column for the Hearts programme about how there are few stadia that can match the atmosphere of a full house at Tynecastle. That appeared to be the kiss of death. There wasn't a full house today and the atmosphere was muted and most unlike Tynecastle. Whether this had an effect on the players, it's difficult to tell but lethargy dominated proceedings, certainly in the first half.
There's a running joke - if you'll excuse the pun - among Hearts fans about how long the perennially injured Andy Webster will last each match. Webster was listed in the starting line up today but didn't even make it to kick-off - he was injured in the warm up and was replaced by Eggert Jonsson. Webster is a decent defender but there has to be questions asked about his fitness for top class football - okay, then, the SPL...
The only moment of note in the opening 40 minutes was a long range effort from the impressive Mehdi Taouil - himself returning from injury - which brought a fine save from Saints keeper Samson. Just as it seemed the game would be goalless at half time, Hearts Marius Zaliukas ventured forward into the visitors penalty box and was tripped by Haddad. Penalty said referee Charlie Richmond and despite the best efforts of keeper Samson to put him off, Jamie Hamill drilled the ball home for the opening goal. Moments later, David Obua should have doubled Hearts lead when he burst into the penalty box but his effort on goal was saved by Samson when the Ugandan really ought to have buried the opportunity.
Hearts were in command in the second half and secured victory with a second goal 20 minutes from the end when Ryan Stevenson dived to head home Danny Grainger's cross although some reports are stating it was an own goal from Lee Mair. 'Stevo' certainly took the acclaim. There endeth the scoring.
Hearts are now a point off third place in the Clydesdale Bank SPL. A victory is most welcome but Paulo Sergio's mission to change Hearts style of play will be a long-term project - and managers at Tynecastle don't tend to be there long enough for such a transition. Certainly today, it seemed like the game lasted far longer than 90 minutes...
Top man: Mehdi Taouil, who just oozes skill.