Shankland strikes again as Hearts secure victory against St Johnstone

The Hearts captain scored the only goal at McDiarmid Park.

Lawrence Shankland strikes again as Hearts secure victory against St Johnstone SNS Group

Lawrence Shankland scored his 50th goal for Hearts as the rampant Edinburgh side tightened their grip on third spot in the cinch Premiership with a 1-0 win away to St Johnstone.

The Jambos captain struck for the 22nd time this season early in the second half to settle a tightly-contested affair at McDiarmid Park and secure a sixth consecutive victory in all competitions.

Hearts have now won 12 of their last 15 league matches since the start of November and remain 12 points clear of nearest challengers Kilmarnock.

Saints boss Craig Levein – a two-time former Jambos manager – made one alteration to the side that won 1-0 at Ross County on Saturday as Oludare Olufunwa replaced David Keltjens.

There were three changes to the Hearts team that started the 3-2 victory at Dundee, with Toby Sibbick, Jorge Grant and Yutaro Oda making way for Stephen Kingsley, Kenneth Vargas and on-loan Charlton midfielder Scott Fraser, who made his debut as a substitute at the weekend.

Hearts controlled possession in the early exchanges but struggled to get a clear sight of goal. Stephen Kingsley had their first notable attempt in the 25th minute after Frankie Kent headed Fraser’s cross down to the edge of the six-yard box but his firm, angled strike was blocked by Dimitar Mitov.

Saints started to grow into the game as the half wore on and they had an opportunity in the 39th minute when Alex Cochrane’s headed clearance dropped to Benjamin Kimpioka just inside the box, but the Swedish striker was unable to get the ball fully under control and sliced his effort wide.

Hearts threatened in the last minute of the half but Vargas headed wide after getting on the end of Dexter Lembikisa’s cross from the right at the back post.

Saints made a change for the start of the second half as Sven Sprangler replaced fellow midfielder Fran Franczak.

Connor Smith, who left Hearts in January to join the Perth side, tried his luck with a shot from distance in the 47th minute but it was easily held by Zander Clark.

A minute later Jambos winger Alan Forrest went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when he curled a low 12-yard shot just past the far post from the left side of the box.

The breakthrough came for the visitors in the 55th minute when Saints defender Andrew Considine misjudged Kent’s long ball up the centre of the pitch and Shankland – alert to the opportunity – flicked the ball beyond Ryan McGowan to get himself free in the box before calmly slotting past Mitov from around 12 yards.

It was the Scotland striker’s 50th goal since joining Hearts from Belgian club Beerschot in the summer of 2022.

Saints – who remain 10th in the table – had two good chances to equalise in the closing stages through Nicky Clark and Adama Sidibeh, but Steven Naismith’s on-form side held firm.

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