Zander Clark proved to be St Johnstone’s “lucky charm” once again on Saturday with the keeper extending his winning run of league games to eight as Hearts were put to the sword.
However, there was nothing lucky about the big keeper’s performance as he produced a dominant display, denying the Jambos on several occasions with vital saves before Graham Cummins netted what proved to be the winner.
Clark was preferred to the more experienced Alan Mannus but the 24-year-old is keeping his feet firmly on the ground despite extending his winning run in the side.
He said: “It’s a good record to have but it’s not solely down to me. The boys in front of me make my job a lot easier. I don’t look into records, I just take each game as it comes.”
While Clark has a friendly rivalry with Mannus, he is still determined to make the No.1 shirt his own, saying: “Yes, that’s my aim, to go out, do as well as I can and at least give the manager a wee bit of a thought over whether to keep me in or not.
“If I play next week, I will have the same goal, to do as well as I can.”
Saints celebrated Cummins’ goal by holding aloft a Dave Mackay jersey in tribute to the club captain who announced his retirement last week and Clark paid his own compliment to the popular “Cuptie”.
He said: “Dave has done a lot for the club, he’s been great on and off the pitch. He’s been a massive help to myself and always helps the younger boys – but no-one knows his body better than Dave himself and he knows that it is time to call it quits.
“I wish him all the best. It is a big loss for the club but it is good to still have him around the place.
“I didn’t even know the other lads were doing that with the shirt. It was a nice touch to give him that recognition.”
Hearts made the better start and created a succession of chances with the first falling to Bjorn Johnsen in the ninth minute but his shot was easily saved by Clark.
The Jambos’ Tony Watt then had a shot blocked on the line by home defender Richard Foster before the visitors launched a break from inside their own half with Sam Nicholson squaring the ball to full-back Faycal Rherras. He looked certain to score but Clark pulled off a fantastic save to deny him.
The keeper came to the rescue once again in the 25th minute when Saints gifted possession to Jamie Walker and Clark produced another vital stop.
Just five minutes into the second half, Clark denied Hearts once again when he dived high to keep out a 22-yard Tony Watt free-kick.
However, it was Saints who took the lead in the 58th minute when a Liam Craig shot from the left was diverted into the goal from six yards by Cummins past the helpless Hearts keeper Jack Hamilton.
The Jambos stopper’s heart was in his mouth in the 70th minute when he came mighty close to fumbling a long-range Craig effort over his own line.
Seven minutes later, Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was sent to the stand by referee John Beaton for “sarcastic clapping”.
Hearts came close to equalising in the 89th minute when Callum Paterson smashed a header off Clark’s crossbar but Saints would not be denied and saw out the game to take all three points.
The keeper admitted he was delighted with the win and the clean sheet.
He added: “To get the goal was great. Then they had a couple of half chances that they missed and you start to get the feeling this is your day. We are delighted with a 1-0 win.
“The save in the first half was a breakaway from Hearts that caused us problems. There was a good ball across from Nicholson and I stood as long as I could.
“Walker tried to play it past me and I got my hand out. It’s pleasing to make saves but especially if you keep clean sheets and win.
“The other one I stood up as long as I could and made myself big.”