REPORTS of Hearts’ resurgence would appear to have been greatly exaggerated. On the back of victories over Rangers and Hibernian and a draw with Motherwell, there was a feeling that Daniel Stendel’s men might have turned the corner in their ongoing fight against relegation.

That optimism, though, evaporated here on a wet night in Paisley as St Mirren claimed their first home league victory of 2020 to leave Hearts rooted to the bottom of table, four points shy of 11th placed Hamilton Accies. They have eight games remaining to save their skins.

“I said to the players that wasn’t a (knock-out) decision but it was a big punch for us,” said Stendel. “I can say I will never give up and I expected the same from my players. But we cannot play like this.

“It doesn’t matter if we win or lose – we can’t play without a fight given our position in the league.”


In contrast this was a much-needed and well-deserved shot in the arm for Jim Goodwin’s men who climb above Hamilton and Ross County into ninth spot.

They only needed one goal and it arrived early in the second half from a familiar source. Jon Obika never looks entirely convincing whenever he bustles his way through on goal but the big striker again did what was required of him as he propelled his team into the lead.

Ross Wallace’s raking ball from inside his own half was perfect and Obika held off the challenge of Clevid Dikamona to bundle in his 12th goal of the season.

“It’s a significant win as if we’d lost the game we’d have gone to the bottom of the table,” said Goodwin.

“The fact we have won it and managed to jump a few places in the league gives everyone around the club a lift psychologically. Our supporters, staff, directors and players, we all get a lift.”

It wasn’t all good news for St Mirren. They lost Conor McCarthy to a hamstring injury after half an hour before Cammy MacPherson and Ilkay Durmus also limped off in the second half. An already threadbare squad could now be stretched to its limits.


St Mirren created a couple of near things in the early stages but nothing to greatly trouble Bobby Zlamal; a Durmus cross skidded along the goalkeeper’s crossbar, Calum Waters saw a rasper of a volley blocked while Obika was inches away from latching on to Wallace’s free kick.

They thought they had finally found a way through five minutes before the interval. MacPherson could not have caught Alex Jakubiak’s cross any cleaner and there was an audible gasp of disbelief around the ground as Zlamal arced his body to keep it out.

Hearts were mopping up just about everything their hosts could throw at them but offering next to nothing as an attacking force. A low dribbler from full-back Aaron Hickey that Vaclav Hladky could have thrown his cap on was the closest they came to a goal as they continually launched it long to no avail. It was a curious tactic and the large travelling support let Stendel know what they thought about it.

Obika’s goal belatedly forced Hearts into life as if they had only just appreciated the urgency of the situation.

There was finally some briskness about their play as they started to put balls into the St Mirren box in a desperate attempt to fashion an equaliser that wouldn’t come. When one Michael Smith centre bounced off Conor Washington and fell out of reach for Lewis Moore, it summed up Hearts’ night. Maybe their season overall too.