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St Johnstone 2 Hearts 2: Lomas has view from afar but Perth men retain a sharp focus

STEVE Lomas might never get accustomed to sitting in the stand but at least he is enjoying the view.

This was the second of the St Johnstone manager's eight-match dug-out ban and, on this evidence, his presence on the touchline isn't really being missed.

A week after his players dug in to take a point from St Mirren with only nine men, the Perth side were impressive again despite a patched-up team missing four regulars due to suspension. Their second-half performance, in fact, might have warranted more than the single point they collected.

Lomas, who is hopeful that their William Hill Scottish Cup tie against Cowdenbeath will go ahead tomorrow at the fifth time of asking, had nothing but praise for his players' endeavour, especially David McCracken, who returned early from a fractured cheekbone, and Tam Scobbie, as they formed an unfamiliar central defensive pairing.

"I have to give my boys credit for coming back twice," said Lomas. "With a break of the ball at the end there we could have got the win. It was pretty much one-way traffic in the second half and if we had gone on to win that game I don't think anybody could have had any complaints."

Hearts again elected to take the radical approach of fielding two strikers and it was a move that paid off, with John Sutton and Gordon Smith putting St Johnstone's defensive understudies under sustained pressure early on before they ran out of steam in the second half. Had Smith scored, rather than shooting tamely wide, to make it 3-1 early in the second half then Hearts would likely have gone on to win the game but manager John McGlynn was not too downhearted with the outcome.

"It was a very well-earned point for us," he said, while confirming that the Hearts players had been paid on time this month. "We haven't got a great record here so a point in Perth is not the worst."

Sutton scored Hearts' first goal and set up their second, both with his head. Andy Driver created the opener, sending in an enticing free-kick from the right and Sutton rose to head the ball past Alan Mannus. The pair reversed roles for Hearts' second seven minutes before half-time. Ryan McGowan's long thrown-in was nodded on by Sutton and there was Driver at the back post to thrash a shot past the goalkeeper. In between those two goals St Johnstone managed one of their own, barely a minute after Hearts had gone in front. Marius Zaliukas didn't deal with Gary Miller's cross and Rowan Vine couldn't miss.

Darren Barr was replaced by Dylan McGowan for the start of the second half, although Barr could possibly have been sent off for an altercation with Patrick Cregg late in the opening period. He took exception to his former Falkirk team-mate's heavy tackle and seemed to push Cregg in retaliation. Referee Willie Collum allowed the Hearts player to receive treatment then flourished a yellow card in his face. The St Johnstone supporters felt it should have been red but Lomas, perhaps wary of again being called in front of the Hampden authorities, did not share their opinion.

"It was a strong challenge between two players," he added. "Looked to me like much ado about nothing."

St Johnstone drew level on the hour mark for a second time. Murray Davidson was the creator, fizzing over a low cross to the back post where Steven MacLean emerged to calmly usher it across the line. St Johnstone were the dominant force by this point and only some brave goalkeeping from Jamie MacDonald, diving at the feet of substitute Gregory Tade, and alert defending by Ryan McGowan, prevented the home side from finding a winner.

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