St Johnstone 2-2 Hearts

By Clive LindsayBBC Scotland at McDiarmid Park

St Johnstone twice came from behind to save a point against Hearts in a thrilling match that deserved to be seen by more than 3,000 fans.

Hearts took the lead through John Sutton's close-range header, but Rowan Vine forced in an immediate equaliser.

Andrew Driver restored the lead with a carbon copy of that back-post tap-in seven minutes from the break.

But Saints piled on the pressure and were worthy of Steven MacLean's equaliser, yet again from close range.

The result means St Johnstone stay ahead of the Edinburgh visitors in fifth place in the Scottish Premier League but have now only won once in their last nine games.

St Johnstone had gone into the game forced to field a makeshift defence in the absence of suspended trio Frazer Wright, Dave Mackay and Steven Anderson.

Dave McCracken passed himself fit to make an earlier-than-expected return to the side after a fractured cheekbone, but he and stand-in central defender Tam Scobbie were posted missing as Hearts took a deserved early lead.

Driver curled a free-kick to the back post, where Sutton rose from among the unmarked Hearts bodies to head in from five yards.

The lead did not last for long, however, as Saints exploited Hearts' own defensive deficiencies, with MacLean's low cross taking a deflection off Marius Zaliukas and Vine forcing his shot past goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald from close range at the back post.

Hearts forward Gordon Smith poked a snap-shot wide, while Saints also failed to make the best of a good opportunity.

Vine put Peter Pawlett clear behind the defence only for the midfielder to shoot straight at MacDonald on his return to Saints' starting line-up in place of dropped striker Gregory Tade.

Just as the home side were emerging as the dominant force, Hearts re-established their lead when Ryan McGowan's low cross was forced in by Driver at the back post.

Hearts midfielder Darren Barr was perhaps fortunate to escape with a yellow card for a spot of retaliation after a heavy challenge by former Falkirk team-mate Patrick Cregg just short of the break.

Whether because of an injury picked up in that incident, to save him from a possible red card, or the otherwise anonymity of his performance, Barr could not escape manager John McGlynn's half-time hook, Dylan McGowan his replacement.

Hearts ought to have extended their lead when Smith screwed his shot wide from in front of goal after a Sutton knock-down.

However, the second half was otherwise dominated by St Johnstone.

MacDonald saved well from Pawlett, with Callum Paterson blocking Liam Craig's attempt to score on the rebound.

From the corner, the otherwise hapless Kevin McHattie cleared Vine's overhead kick off the line.

Pressure finally told when MacLean turned in Murray Davidson's low cross at the back post.

It was the swiftly recovering Ryan McGowan's turn to clear off the Hearts line after Tade appeared to wrestle the ball out of goalkeeper MacDonald's grasp and MacLean deflected it towards the unguarded net.

However, Hearts survived to take a point their second-half display hardly merited.

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