Sep 1 2009 by Les Stewart, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
St Johnstone 2 Hearts 2
ANOTHER four goals, a stoppage time equaliser, a bundle of cautions, a spitting incident and an in-vogue diving controversy.
All that was missing was a sighting of the kitchen sink. That and the home win Derek McInnes was seeking going into the international break.
In a mirror image of the curtain-raiser against Motherwell, Saints produced a poised passing game which at times left the opposition bewildered. But ultimately, they relied on an exquisite Martin Hardie free-kick with the last kick of the ball to salvage a point.
The substitute was tripped on the edge of the box and it was a Hail Mary moment. Hardie took stock and a deep breath before executing a perfect right foot strike into the top corner.
The midfielder threatened Usain Bolt’s track records as he sprinted down the touchline, meeting exuberant keeper Alan Main half-way.
The goalkeeper, who had been a spectator in a first-half adorned by a Murray Davidson header – his second strike at this level – was beaten by a Jose Goncalves header in his six-yard box, with no one keeping tabs on the defender as he rose to glance home a penetrating Thomson free-kick.
It added up to more dead ball misery for the Perth backline and in the 86th minute unattended David Obua seemed to have pilfered the points by
ramming home an angled shot after Main had done well to beat away a fierce Novikovas strike.
It would have been a gross injustice had Hardie not stepped up to the plate.
The Perth team’s first-half football had been exciting and expansive, with Davidson, a relentless box to box player on par with Philip Scott or Harry Curran in their Perth pomp, netting with one of four headers created by perfectly-timed surges into the danger zone.
His finishing wasn’t quite as precise, with the second of two diving efforts denying Saints a 10th minute lead. Dave Mackay, influential again before succumbing to injury, pumped in a cross which an aggressive Kenny Deuchar directed into Davidson’s path. But the midfielder’s touch squeezed wide.
Hearts, third placed last term, were floundering, with Deuchar dominating in the air and Collin Samuel couldn’t be halted legally.
The 23rd minute opener was overdue. Mackay might have been aiming for Deuchar again but Davidson got there first leap and bullet a header
inside the upright from 12 yards. That £50,000 summer investment looks a bargain.
Half-time was beckoning before Hearts worked an opening, with Glen pulling his shot wide.
Another Deuchar touch found Filipe Morais ghosting in but his header drifted away from the target.
In the 56th minute Graham Gartland was shepherding the ball back to Main when Nade bundled in. He hit the deck passing Main. It may have registered on the Richter Scale but not with the officials, who declared it a dive. Main had been going apoplectic.
An earlier unsavoury incident seemed to have evaded the attention of officials and managers alike. But Suso Santana’s spit towards Grainger did the capital club’s reputation no good.
But soon afterwards Gartland was cautioned for a clatter and that paved the way to an unlikely equaliser.
With Mackay and Davidson succumbing to injury, Saints almost snatched the lead, but keeper Balogh fended off a Hardie header as Gartland tried to repeat his Motherwell strike.
The Irishman netted a header long after an offside whistle before Obua added to the crime count by celebrating a likely winner with Jambos fans behind the goal.
Morais had a strike blocked by Wallace and the keeper fended off a delicate Deuchar shot before Hearts opted to run down the clock with their third substitution. And that bought time for Hardie to work a miracle.
St Johnstone: Main, Mackay (Irvine 55), Grainger, Morris, McCaffrey, Gartland, Millar, Davidson (Hardie 66), Morais, Deuchar and Samuel (Milne 81). Subs not used: McLean, Craig, Reynolds and May.
Hearts: Balogh, Wallace, Goncalves, Suso (Novikovas 60), Black, Obua, Nade (Palazuelos 90), Bouzid, Stewart, Glen (Wittenveen 58) and Thomson. Subs not used: Kello, Kucharski, Thomson and Smith.
Referee: Mike Tumilty.