IT was always going to take more than the appointment of a new manager to salvage Hearts’ season. Daniel Stendel is finally in post but the size of the rebuilding job awaiting him was laid bare here as his new charges lost meekly to a St Johnstone side who claimed a first away victory in the league in 2019.

Stendel would have been aware of his squad’s limitations beforehand but even he was taken aback by the poverty of this performance. They created only one chance of note – a Jamie Walker first-half shot that was saved – and shipped a poor goal from a corner late in the match to deny themselves even the consolation of a point and a clean sheet.

Celtic visit Tynecastle on Wednesday evening and Hearts will need to perform substantially better than they showed here if they are avoid being on the wrong end of a heavy defeat.

Stendel, of course, has only had four days to work with his new players and will need a lot more time before he can shape the side to his liking. On this evidence, though, he has his work cut out.

“I think we all expected more today,” said the former Barnsley manager. “I can see the players want to play better. But they have lost that feeling and it’s very difficult to change that in one day.

“In the last third they need to be calm. It was too hectic in some situations. I learned a lot. We need to work a lot harder that is for sure.

“We need more confidence in everything we do. Every player was looking to play the ball long and safe. That’s not what we want and I know they can play better. We are all disappointed but I hope on Wednesday we can show more.”

It may take until the January window before Stendel can perform the surgery on the squad that it so badly requires. Christophe Berra conceded that every player was fighting for their future.

“There will be changes in January,” said the captain. “He'll fancy his type of players. He might fancy some of us, others he might not.

“I'm sure he'll want to bring in a few that he feels the team will benefit from. The players are on trial in every game. No-one's place is cemented, no matter who you are. You have to produce the goods.”

Stendel was afforded a warm welcome as he emerged down the tunnel before kick-off. The PA system boomed out the theme from Auf Wiedersehen Pet and some fans held up a German flag.

Tynecastle, though, has been a fairly poisonous place at times of late, with the crowd never slow to get on their own players’ backs once things start to go awry.

Stendel had asked them to put that behind them to back the team but old habits die hard. Within 10 minutes a mishit Olly Bozanic cross sent groans echoing around the ground. The manager called on them to show greater patience.

“I know the situation isn’t easy but I hope the fans give the players more chance to change things,” added Stendel.

“Very early you had the feeling the fans were not satisfied with the game or with single players. I was also not satisfied with the game but we can only change things when we work together.

“We need the support from the stands and we need the fans but in this situation we need a little bit more patience and understanding.”

St Johnstone were ultimately well worth their win, growing in confidence the longer the match wore on.

They made the breakthrough after 74 minutes. Bobby Zlamal made an incredible save to push over Callum Hendry’s close-range shot but Hearts’ respite was brief.

From the resultant corner, Hendry was left unattended to glance a header beyond the goalkeeper for the only goal of the game.

St Johnstone fans have learned to travel in hope rather than expectation this year and they earned their reward for that loyalty here, celebrating joyously come full-time.

“It was a perfect day,” said manager Tommy Wright. “Our goalkeeper was not overworked and our defenders do what they should do - head it, kick it and defend really well.

“I don’t think anyone can begrudge us the win because Hearts haven’t created a clear-cut chance.”

St Johnstone ought to have also scored in the first half. The Hearts defence switched off at a long ball, completely unaware that Michael O’Halloran was racing on to it.

The forward put the ball through goalkeeper Bobby Zlamal’s legs but then took too long to get his shot away, allowing Aaron Hickey to get back and block it. Hendry, though, made sure that miss didn’t matter come the end as St Johnstone savoured a long-awaited win.