St Johnstone captain Joe Shaughnessy admits he has been pleasantly surprised to see Steven MacLean play a leading role for Hearts.
Former Saint MacLean moved from McDiarmid Park to Tynecastle in the summer and was perhaps expected to be on the fringes of the first team at the age of 36 rather than be right in the mix for the Jam Tarts.
However, he has 10 appearances to his name already and has scored four times for Craig Levein’s side.
His latest goal came in the 4-2 win over Motherwell on Wednesday night that booked Hearts a Betfred Cup semi-final place against Celtic, the conquerors of the Perth team.
Now Macca will face up to his former club when Tommy Wright’s men head to Edinburgh tomorrow.
Having almost coped with the threat of the Hoops in their cup quarter-final – close but no cigar in a 1-0 home defeat on Wednesday – Shaughnessy is now looking forward to giving his old pal a hard time.
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Shaugnessy said of MacLean: “He has done well, hasn’t he?
“I didn’t think he would play as big a role as he has played so far this season.
“I trained and played with him for however many years and you know what to expect from Macca.
“I don’t imagine there will be much said between us before the game. I will just go, play against him and chat afterwards.
“Whoever it is who plays up front for Hearts it will be a good challenge.
“That is what you want. These are the games you want to be playing in.
“We had a good start to the season up to the weekend at Rangers (Saints lost 5-1).
“Then it was hard work against Celtic in the cup, as you would expect.
“They are always going to have most of the ball and work you hard defensively.
“I suppose it was a good warm-up in a way and hopefully now we can push on for Saturday.
“We need to get back to winning ways though. That’s the aim.”
Shaughnessy turned into a striker as Saints tried to save the cup-tie after Leigh Griffiths’ 84th-minute strike for Celtic.
He had a great chance in the dying seconds to take it to extra-time.
He said: “We were still in it at the end and were close, just not close enough.
“We probably rode our luck a little bit and our keeper Zander Clark made some good saves.
“I had a chance but I didn’t even know the goalie had come out.”