St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright didn’t want to be too critical of his team and rightly so.
Never a shrinking violet when something needs to be said, Wright decided not to have a real go at Saints after they let Hearts dominate them and win 2-0 at Tynecastle on Saturday.
Whereas Jam Tarts boss Craig Levein fired a “rubbish” accusation at poor David Vanecek after the home defeat to Dundee, Wright chose a more nuanced approach.
However, he did still manage to point out that his men “didn’t compete” at Tynecastle and he was spot on.
While goalkeeper Zander Clark battled bravely to try to extend his on-the-road clean sheet record for another week and the three central defenders tried to make that formation work, the Perth men failed miserably to pose any kind of threat up front.
It was performance bereft of any serious pressure at one end and Wright was left pretty deflated while keen to acknowledge past achievements.
The St Johnstone boss said: “I can’t be too critical of them because of the run we were on.
“However, they know this performance wasn’t good enough to win a football match.
“I think probably for the first 10 minutes we were OK.
“However, it’s happened twice here now that we have been lethargic and second to everything.
“You have to compete to win football games and we didn’t compete.
“We had no press and, while Hearts were good, we made it far too easy for them.
“It probably wasn’t until 70 minutes that we started to pass it a bit better.
“When Danny Swanson came on he had a bit about him in terms of wanting to take responsibility and get on the ball.
“We didn’t compete enough, didn’t show enough energy and people weren’t prepared to run in behind and make things difficult for Hearts.
“There was a lack of people wanting to take responsibility.
“So it was a disappointing afternoon.
“Hopefully, we will have learned from it and move on.”
After a remarkable run that saw them not lose a goal on the road since way back on September 29 at the same stadium to the same opponents, they fell to a strike from Marcus Godinho on 52 minutes before sub Callumn Morrison grabbed a late second.
The result also pushed the home team ahead of the Perth club in the Premiership table, with Saints dropping down to a still decent sixth spot.
The visitors had made a tactical switch from the midweek win over Livingston. The move to a back three saw defender Liam Gordon come in and midfielder David Wotherspoon drop to the bench.
There were some interesting changes made by Hearts, with Czech striker Vanecek on the bench after apologising to Levein for his lack of fitness in the game against Dundee. In his place came Steven Naismith, who was back from suspension. There was also a first start since October for former Dundee United defender John Souttar following a hip injury.
There a golden chance for the home side on 11 minutes when the ball reached Godinho at the far post but Perth keeper Clark did brilliantly to push the header over from close range.
Clark was the hero again on 34 minutes when he stuck out a foot to deflect a low shot from the free-running Jake Mulraney on to the post. It was a brilliant chance for the hosts.
Four minutes before the break, Hearts’ Ollie Bozanic fired a freekick at the Saints goal from just outside the box and he claimed, unsuccessfully, for handball against Richard Foster when his shot was blocked.
The second half burst into life just three minutes in when Hearts’ frontman Sean Clare watched his curling shot strike the inside of the far post and bounce back out to safety. It was a real let-off for Wright’s men.
Despite some dogged defending, Saints – cheered on by 665 away fans – fell behind on minutes on 52 minutes.
It was a scrappy first goal for his team for Godinho, who stabbed the ball under Clark after he was found by a lovely chip from comeback man Souttar.
The visitors brought on creative pair Swanson and Michael O’Halloran as they changed to four at the back and went looking for a leveller.
Liam Craig blasted over the bar from 25 yards for St Johnstone on 69 minutes, while boss Wright made his last substitution by bringing on Callum Hendry for Tony Watt up front.
However, Clare was next to threaten for Hearts but he could only shoot straight at Clark.
Sub Morrison, who had come on for Mulraney on 81 minutes, made sure of the three points with a sweet, angled strike for Hearts in stoppage-time.
So 2-0 it finished and well done to the travelling Saints for shutting out their rivals for so long. They now have to try to start another run at Celtic Park on Wednesday night.