Feb 7 2012 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
STEVE Lomas hails from a military family so he knows what to do when you’re in a tight fix. Send for the SAS, writes PA Sport’s Gordon Bannerman.
Half-time and Saints were trailing and fearful of a cup exit, with a 4-5-1 formation posing more problems for themselves than the opposition.
The Perth manager had to up the firepower to maintain an interest in the destination of the William Hill sponsored Scottish Cup, otherwise his team were odds-on favourites to make a sharp exit.
So Lomas looked to the bench and unleashed Cillian Sheridan to renew a tried and tested partnership with Fran Sandaza.
The Spaniard was in the spotlight after a drawn-out transfer window game of charades played out in Govan but while the goals he craves evaded him in the capital, his precision pass sprung Sheridan to calmly tuck away an equaliser with time running out.
It was no more than the Perth side deserved for clawing their way back into contention and refusing to wilt even with the dismissal of vice-captain Dave Mackay four minutes earlier.
On a sunlit afternoon Edinburgh, the initial Lomas team sheet oozed caution, with David Robertson brought in to support lone attacker Sandaza.
But the prudent game plan was undermined 10 minutes in, with Hearts’ most potent weapon Henry Templeton exploiting space offered up fatally by backtracking Mackay to squeeze a 16-yard ground shot between Peter Enckelman and his right hand post.
Timid Saints were unable to build any momentum or pose a serious threat. Sandaza swiped at a Robertson cut-back but Enckelman breathed a huge sigh of relief when Robinson miscued a Templeton set-up and the ball bounced into the grateful keeper’s gloves.
It called for drastic action and Lomas didn’t shirk it.
It was tantamount to an admission that his tactical ploy had failed but that didn’t prevent the Northern Irishman going back to the drawing board without further delay. Robertson, already cautioned, was kept indoors.
A torn hamstring had deprived him of striker Sheridan, who hadn’t wasted his time spent recuperating.
The man from County Cavan famously modelled a line in retro Christmas sweaters on Sportscene, and he has grown a Grizzly Adam beard.
But he was back doing what he does best within seconds of taking to the field at Tynecastle.
Sheridan immediately brought a sense of purpose and strength to the Saints attack and a dash through the inside left channel and dinked cross teed-up Sandaza for the equaliser within 60 seconds of the restart.
But a stretching close range header cannoned back off the crossbar with fans in the Roseburn Stand rising, prematurely, to acclaim the leveller.
More sustained pressure was imposed on the home side in the first five minutes than in the previous 45.
David McCracken headed over, Murray Davidson bounded into the box but his straining shot cleared the target from a Liam Craig delivery before Craig himself alarmed the keeper from fully 30 yards.
With the hour approaching Saints got a huge dollop of luck and a decision which rightly riled the locals.
With bookings mounting, erratic referee Craig Thomson managed to unite both sets of fans near the end when an enthusiastic chant of “You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” rang out around the ground.
But on that occasion he failed to detect Mackay’s hand in proceedings leaping for a Webster delivery into the area.
Having survived that scare, Steven Anderson picked out Lee Croft with a pinpoint crossfield pass and the winger teed-up Sandaza. The Spaniard anticipated a goal, not another air shot which was greeted with ironic cheers from a thankful home support.
Within seconds a normally mild-mannered Mackay was booked for dissent and Lomas warranted a dressing down for disputing a ludicrous caution meted out to Croft for a midfield collision.
But Mackay’s complaints were exacerbated when he misjudged an initial tussle with Templeton and his attempted hooked clearance unwittingly caught the winger’s head.
His departure looked ominous for the Perth side’s survival prospects but once again they dug deep and refused to fold. Instead, they stunned the Gorgie crowd by springing the offside trap minutes after Sandaza had shot tamely at keeper McDonald.
Sheridan had a long way to run and time on his hands before spotting the whites of the keeper eyes.
But he drilled home a low and impressive finish.
Not content with a replay, they almost crafted a winner with six minutes left.
Croft linked with Sandaza and steadied himself for the striker’s teasing cross.
A volley into the top corner was on the cards and Croft had time to imagine the headlines.
But his weary legs refused to spring and the Englishman couldn’t grab the glory.
A Sandaza stepover was halted by Webster with Craig, inevitably, calling in vain for a pass and Enckelman gathered in a poked Templeton shot before time-up.
HEARTS: Macdonald, Hamill, Webster, Black, Elliott, Templeton (Driver 90), McGowan, Skacel (Taouil 77), Zaliukas, Robinson and Mrowiec. Subs not used: Ridgers, Barr and Glen.
SAINTS: Enckelman, Mackay, C. Davidson, Morris, Anderson, M. Davidson (Millar 78), Croft (Keatings 84), Robertson (Sheridan 46), McCracken and Sandaza. Subs not used: Mannus and Oyenuga.
REFEREE: Craig Thomson.