MATCH PREVIEW: SAINTS VERSUS HEARTS

PHOTO: John Sutton scored his only goal in a Saints shirt to date against Hearts on the opening day of the season.

In terms of the result, Sunday's home defeat against Celtic was a disappointment. On the other hand, there were plenty of positives to take from the performance. As they prepare for an important 4th v 3rd clash at McDiarmid Park (Saturday, 3pm kick-off), Tommy Wright's men will take confidence from the amount of chances they created against the Scottish champions.

Another important league match awaits St. Johnstone as they welcome 3rd place Heart of Midlothian to McDiarmid Park on Saturday afternoon. It is probably too early to use the term 'six-pointer'. Nonetheless, this match could end up being a particularly significant one as we approach the mid-way point of the league season. Hearts currently sit one point above Saints in the Scottish Premiership. An away win could potentially put a dent in St. Johnstone's 'Top 3' aspirations. In that scenario, Hearts would increase the gap to four points with the added bonus of a game-in-hand. However, a home victory would ensure that Saints rise above the Jambos into 3rd place with a two-point lead.

This will be no easy task. Hearts have only faced defeat in two of their previous ten league matches, both at the hands of the same opponent (Aberdeen). They have struggled to pick up points since the start of November though, their last three matches resulting in two draws and one defeat.

Having won the 2014/15 Scottish Championship at a canter, Robbie Neilson's Hearts team have seamlessly continued their upward spiral. Neilson bolstered his squad during the summer transfer window, recruiting Blazej Augustyn and Juanma Delgado amongst others. The stats suggest that Hearts have found a decent balance between attack and defence, scoring twenty-nine goals and conceding only eighteen. Their goal difference is currently the 2nd best in the league.

If recent encounters between St. Johnstone and Hearts are anything to go by, a high-scoring match could be on the cards. Remarkably, fourteen goals have been scored in the last two league clashes between the sides. The most recent meeting took place at Tynecastle on the opening day of the league season. Juanma opened the scoring in front of a sizeable Hearts support who were hoping to see their team return to the top-flight in style. Jamie Walker doubled their advantage in the second-half, shortly after Osman Sow had missed a penalty for the Jambos. Simon Lappin reduced the deficit for Saints before Callum Paterson made it 3-1. With fifteen minutes remaining, it seemed unlikely that St. Johnstone would emerge from the game with anything other than a defeat. However, in the space of three minutes, Saints showed their character by scoring two goals (courtesy of John Sutton and Graham Cummins) to make it 3-3. But it wasn't to be. All of Saints' hard work proved to be in vain as Sam Nicholson scored an 80th minute winner and ensured that Hearts got off to a winning start.

St. Johnstone drew 3-3 with Hearts in their last meeting at McDiarmid Park. There were many talking points: a dubious red card for Steven Anderson, two dubious penalties for St. Johnstone and a somewhat less dubious goalmouth 'bust-up' towards the end of the game which resulted in dismissals for Hearts' Ryan Stevenson and Saints' Alan Mannus. As if this wasn't enough, St. Johnstone had already used up all of their substitutions. Left-back Tam Scobbie bravely volunteered to take over goalkeeping duties. With all due respect to poor Tam, his strengths evidently lie in other areas! The Saints support collectively held its breath, knowing that any shot on target would almost definitely result in a late equaliser for Hearts. This ultimately proved to be the case, as Danny Wilson directed a header into the net and secured a point for the away side.

There is a possibility that Saints may be reacquainted with a familiar face on Saturday afternoon. Winger Danny Swanson was impressive during his loan spell at St. Johnstone last season. Despite reported interest in a return to McDiarmid Park, Swanson eventually opted to join Hearts on a permanent basis. For St. Johnstone, this match comes too soon for the injured pair of Graham Cummins and Simon Lappin. After picking up a minor knock against Celtic, it's possible that Chris Millar will be back in contention for a start.

Come along to McDiarmid Park and support St. Johnstone as they aim to break into the Top 3. Come on ye Saints!

match preview by Ollie Wale

Cash turnstiles will be in operation for this fixture.

WEST STAND Adult - £23
Senior Citizens (65 and over) - £14 13 - 16 year olds - £13 Kids aged 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult, maximum of two children per adult) - Free of charge

EAST STAND Adult - £22 Senior Citizens (65 and over) - £12 17 – 18 year olds - £11 13 - 16 year olds - £8 Kids aged 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult, maximum of two children per adult) - Free of charge

ORMOND FAMILY STAND This is a mixed family stand. One adult and up to two children aged 12 or under can gain admission at a cost of £15.

Unaccompanied adults or children aged 12 or under will not be admitted. Children aged 13-16 can gain admission at a cost of £8. Additional adults within a'family group' are admitted at a cost of £15.

AWAY SUPPORT (NORTH STAND) Adult £22 over 65s £12 13-18 year olds £11 Kids aged 12 and under (must be accompanied by an adult, maximum of two children per adult) - Free of charge

WHEELCHAIR USERS & DISABLED PEOPLE WHO DO NOT USE A WHEELCHAIR

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