Ground #: 40
Ground: McDiarmid Park
Competition: Scottish Premier League
Kick Off: 3pm
St Johnstone 1
This game was actually chosen as my blog was coming up to its 1st birthday (how time flies!) and a year ago, for The Travelling Fan’s first game I went to Hamilton to watch a Hearts away defeat. The same weekend this season had Hearts given another away game at a ground I hadn’t been to, so against my better judgement this game was part of a Hearts double in a week, with the big League Cup Semi-Final in mid-week, Hearts had a tough away game at St Johnstone to deal with first. So on Friday night, I was travelling up to Edinburgh when even by Hearts FC standards, a surreal and bizarre 2 hours broke. I received a text saying, “are you gutted about Csaba?”, (Csaba being Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo), uhoh, whats happened now!? Upon further investigation Laszlo had been sacked/left by mutual consent and I sat thinking on the train, whats the point going tomorrow? Even though I had already paid my £8 for the official supporters bus, I was tempted to pick another EoS game as Civil Service Strollers and Edinburgh University were both at home and would have probably have got far more enjoyment visiting them until news broke out that made the evening even more surreal….
Texting the author of fellow groundhopper blog – The 66 POW about the events, he informed me that ex Hearts legend Jim Jefferies had decided to return as Hearts boss. When I later found that out to be true, I was stunned by the lightning reaction of the Hearts’ board to bring in someone, and especially someone so important and well liked within the club already. When arriving in Edinburgh and reading the Edinburgh Evening News the next morning I was also surprised by the amount of fans who were delighted with the decision to get rid of Csaba – maybe a knee-jerk reaction after the 0-3 home defeat to Aberdeen, but a lot of fans would now come back and support the team and Jefferies. So a masterstroke of great timing as I had decided to go to the first game back under JJ and with a feeling that this could be Vlad’s last chance otherwise Division 1 was looking a likely destination for the team, such headlines as “IF JIM CANNY FIX, NAEBODY CAN” meant a good start was necessary, or at least a positive performance. As there as no way on earth I would drive to Perth, I got a seat on the Hearts supporters coach from Tynecastle that only cost £8 (the train was £9.60) and had a nice relaxing drive to Perth as I was well up for JJ’s first game in charge. (How fickle are football fans! ;) )
Perth is the county town in Perthshire and sits on the banks of the River Tay surrounded by picturesque countryside. Perth was a City and was known as the ‘The Fair City’ until the late 1990’s when the UK Government re-examined the definition of a city and Perth was one of 3 (the other two also in Scotland) to be declassified as a city. Major landmarks and highlights in Perth include some bridges and St John’s Kirk, a church that has had a colourful history since its settlement in the 12th Century. Perth was also well known for its whisky distilleries until they all up-sticks and left. (I’m struggling here on Perth!) The town’s football team, St Johnstone was named after the original name of Perth, St John (the Baptist)’s toon. Sounds the same! The club have floated about the SPL and Division 1 recently and were enjoying their 1st season back in the top flight of Scottish football after winning the SFL 1st Division last season. Only with one trophy to their name, the Scottish Challenge Cup in 2007 (the SFL equivalent of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy if you will) means a very limited amount of success had fallen to the Tayside club. They were having a decent season back in the SPL, however under manager Derek McInnes as they went into this game in 8th position, 6 points ahead of bottom place Falkirk.
The team play at McDiarmid Park on the outskirts of Perth and have played there since 1989 (so the ground is the same age is me!) as their old ground Muirton Park was bought by Asda who then got the team to move to a brand new stadium on the Western edge of the city at no cost to them. The land the ground sits on was donated by local farmer Bruce McDiarmid who insisted that no money was paid to him for the land and the club should take it as a “gift to Perth”. The ground therefore is one of the first “out of town” grounds that now so many teams have moved to. Upon first arrival into the large carpark at the ground it was an impressive looking ground, especially considering my last SPL game had been at the laughably shit New Douglas Park in Hamilton. Hearts had been told that due to the expected large amount of away fans to descend upon Perth, both the North Stand and Ormond Stand, which both are behind either goal. In the end, only the North Stand was open for Jambos which provided a decent view of the pitch and the scoreboard as I got used to seeing “HEARTS 0” for the duration of the game. Home fans were in the two stands which ran down the sides of the pitch being the Main Stand and East Stand as there wasn’t a particularly big attendance in the 10k plus ground.
JJ had picked a fairly decent side going with a 4-4-2 formation much to the delight of the travelling Hearts fans with Christian Nade and Gary Glen starting up front. However after a decent 15 minutes where Hearts didn’t create much but still had the majority of the play, that all disappeared rather quickly when St Johnstone began to take control of the play, dominated by ex Hibs man Filipe Morais who’s forward runs and crosses were causing our defence all sorts of problems. It didn’t help that youngster Jason Thomson who is a natural right-back was getting caught out playing left-back time and time again as he was covering for the injured Lee Wallace. Despite all this pressure that the Saints exerted I can only remember one clear chance which fell to Steven Milne who skied his header well over the bar. For the neutral (and all the other 4,752 mugs in the ground), that half of football was awful as I really cannot add much more detail to what happened. I was delighted therefore to be in the company of Rob Waite, the writer of The 66 POW as we both kept each other company from wanting to gauge our eyes out after watching that crap. It had to improve in the 2nd half, surely.
As the 2nd half kicked off, I wasn’t in my seat as I had made the foolish mistake of coming to the game only on a Greggs Sausage Roll (and a little one at that) so as I stood in the pie queue, the game re-kicked off as Hearts (I was told) made a decent effort as Gary Glen just fired over the bar and Christian Nade missed a good header. As I got to the front of the queue I was feeling quite relieved that I hadn’t missed much action until the silence and then loud cheers from the home end confirmed that St Johnstone had gone 1-0 up. As I didn’t see it and refuse to watch the ‘highlights’ of this game, I’ll have to quote the BBC Sport match report to detail the goal:
“The decisive goal arrived on 51 minutes when Danny Grainger's low left-wing cross was turned in by Deuchar, the striker's first SPL goal for almost two years.”
When I sat down in my seat with a luke-warm Steak Pie and wondered if the piece of pastry was worth getting after missing the goal, Hearts still continued to stumble around the pitch as JJ brought on Andrew Driver back from injury to try and bring some creativity, or the very least some effort into the awful performance so far. St Johnstone though had a good penalty claim turned down and should have gone 2-0 up when Cillian Sheridan hit the post after a good breakaway move from the Saints. Hearts did create something resembling chances late on though, firstly Driver whipped in a great cross that Danny Grainger did well to turn behind with Gordon Smith lurking about. Before in the very last move of the game, Christian Nade was fed (no pun intended) the ball and he darted past the Saints left back (honestly) and his low cross was waiting to be turned in by Smith but a last ditch block from Gary Irvine before some frantic defending got the ball cleared and before Hearts could take the throw-in, the final whistle blew. A deserved defeat and JJ must be wondering why on earth he’s taken this job on.
Another away game and another away Hearts defeat for me then as although I was fairly happy to get to ground #40, another Hearts defeat left me wondering if this was really all worth it. I felt for Rob as he had travelled all the way from Lincolnshire (I think) for this game! Although it was good to hear someone with a more English accent than myself ;). Hearts had a Semi-Final in the week to deal with and as JJ himself said “he didn’t know what certain players could do and had to ask staff if they could play in certain positions”, we’ll just have to accept this game as a write-off and look forward to JJ actually getting a chance to work with the team and get his ideas across. Hearts’ Top 6 place looks unlikely this season, but there is still time, and more importantly games to save it.
(If you want to read Rob Waite’s thoughts on this game and generally bookmark his very good blog then the link to this game is: http://the66pow.blogspot.com/2010/01/st-johnstone-v-heart-of-midlothian.html Its a good blog, but needs more Lady Gaga in his music sections. ;) )
- Match: 3/10 (poor for neutrals, woeful for Jambos)
- Value for money: 4/10 (£20!? erm, no)
- Ground: 6/10 (fairly decent ground by SPL standards)
- Atmosphere: 5/10 (quiet in general)
- Food: 4/10 (the Steak Pie was ok, but loses marks for taking so long to serve)
- Programme: 6/10 (decent, albeit thin)
- Referee: Euan Norris – 7/10 (did well)