10 Feb Craig Levein praises Hearts for standing up to St Johnstone’s ‘bullying’ tactics
Craig Levein praised his Hearts side for standing up to St Johnstone’s roughhouse tactics as they muscled their way into the last eight of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The Jambos found themselves ahead inside seven minutes thanks to Kyle Lafferty’s opener.
On-loan Manchester United defender Demetri Mitchell then netted a scorching second after the break before Lafferty rounded off a comfortable 3-0 win with his second.
But while Levein was delighted with his side’s battling qualities, he was unhappy with some of the methods employed by Tommy Wright’s team.
A late Chris Kane lunge on Gorgie skipper Christophe Berra in particular was picked out by the Hearts manager, who said: “I thought it was naughty and it was late. They had about four or five of those.
“Years ago we succumbed to that type of bullying. Maybe that’s a bit strong a word but [teams] being physical and seeing if we’re mentally prepared to battle to win a match.
“But we’re a different team now. We’re not soft. If people put the ball on top of us we deal with it. We stand up to being challenged. St Johnstone found that out today.”
Lafferty rifled home seven minutes in after Joe Shaughnessy made the error of aiming a throw-in across the pitch with Murray Davidson under pressure from Arnaud Djoum.
His second goal after 58 minutes came after a neat exchange of passes with Michael Smith.
But the pick of Hearts’ bunch had come four minutes earlier when Mitchell finished off a swift counter attack with a stunning 20-yard strike which nestled in the top corner.
“Demi had been unlucky not to score for us before,” said Levein. “I was right behind it, it was beautiful to watch. As soon as it left his foot, it was going in the top corner.
“The biggest thing for me is the delight on his face when he scored. Football’s a great game when you see kids doing something like that and feeling good about themselves. It made me smile.”
But there was only frustration etched on Wright’s face as the 2014 winners threw away their Hampden dream.
“Ultimately when you give away two goals like we did you can’t win a football match,” said the Perth boss.
“We worked on throw-ins yesterday and the idea certainly wasn’t for Joe to throw it at Murray Davidson on a bobbly pitch.
“So we’ve gifted them the first goal. It’s the worst goal we’ve given away all year. I don’t know what Joe’s thought process is. There’s no explanation for it.
“In the second half there was nothing in it, we were on the attack. Scott Tanser or David Wotherspoon should put the ball in the box instead of dwelling on it.
“We lose the ball, they counter-attack and score a wonder goal and we’re 2-0 down. Overall we have just made far too many individual mistakes all season.”