St Johnstone..............1


(After extra time)

JOHN Robertson may be out of favour with manager Jim Jefferies but the striker entrenched himself deeper in the affections of the Hearts support by ensuring their place in tonight's draw for the quarter-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup.

The veteran came on and showed that he has lost none of his predatory instincts by scoring a superb goal which killed off the challenge of St Johnstone in extra time at McDiarmid Park.

The first division side deserved to be on level terms after 90, pulsating minutes. But the tide turned when English striker Darren Beckford steered in a low cross from Neil McCann in 105 minutes.

Then, two minutes later, Robertson wheeled past a defender then unleashed an unstoppable drive into the far corner of the net for a dramatic victory. However, in the dying minutes, Robertson was stretchered off after an off-the-ball incident with substitute Stewart McCluskey.

It was apparent in the early stages that Hearts, despite making four changes, were still affected by their heavy defeat at Aberdeen last time out.

St Johnstone, drawing confidence from their unbeaten start to the season, took command but could not conjure up a serious threat.

Former Scotland Under-21 midfield player Colin Cameron brought much-needed composure to the Edinburgh side by delivering the all-important opening goal.

In 16 minutes, Italian Pasquale Bruno had time and space to pick out Neil McCann with a good cross and the winger was able to out-jump the Saints defence and flick on for Cameron to explode a first-time drive beyond keeper Alan Main.

Just two minutes later, Cameron should have put Hearts on the road to the quarter-finals. This time, though, he missed an easier scoring opportunity when with only Main to beat, he elected to drive the ball in when a lob looked the obvious option.

Thereafter, Hearts dominated and should have added to their lead as Saints rode their luck with some desperate defending. That was highlighted in 24 minutes when a cross from Neil Pointon found Cameron. His shot looked certain to elude Main but it struck defender Jim Weir and then hit a post before being cleared.

Saints were rarely able to threaten and when they did the figure of Frenchman, Gilles Rousset, was never tested. Saints promising young midfield player Phil Scott had a chance to equalise but shot straight at Rousset then Northern Ireland striker George O'Boyle deftly turned Dave McPherson only to blaze the ball high over the bar.

Hearts came close again to increasing their lead when Colquhoun tested Main with a 25-yarder which he turned over the bar.

In a toughly-contested first-half, Saints Austrian player Attilla Sekerlioglu and Cameron were booked.

After the break, Main could only punch out McCann's corner and the ball fell straight to Beckford, who steered the ball wide when well placed. Reprieved, Saints immediately raced upfield to snatch the equaliser.

A Preston cross from the left was helped on by Sekerlioglu and O'Boyle raced in to bullet a header beyond Rousset to stun the Edinburgh supporters.

That goal brought the Perth side's best spell of the game. However, their comeback was undermined when Weir and Sekerlioglu were forced out through injuries with half an hour still to be played.

This meant their manager, Paul Sturrock, having to throw youngsters McCluskey and Gary Farquhar into the fast and furious action. But his faith was repayed with the pair playing their part in a hectic finish.

ST JOHNSTONE - Main, McQuillan, Preston, Sekerlioglu, Weir, Griffin, Scott, O'Neil, Grant, O'Boyle, Tosh. Substitutes - McCluskey, Farquhar, Donaldson.

HEARTS - Rosset, Mackay, Ritchie, Weir, McPherson, Bruno, McCann, Colquhoun, Beckford, Cameron, Pointon. Substitutes - Frail, Fulton, Robertson.

Referee - J McCluskey (Stewarton).