Hearts boss Robbie Neilson savoured “a really important” victory over St Johnstone as his side set themselves up nicely for their double-header against Celtic.
The Jambos recovered from their recent 2-0 defeat at Motherwell to record an ultimately comfortable 3-0 win at home to St Johnstone that kept them five points clear of in-form city rivals Hibernian.
With the Jambos about to face table-topping Celtic in the league on Wednesday and then again in the Scottish Cup next Saturday, Neilson knew they needed a morale-boosting result against the Saints.
“I think it was really important,” he said. “We go Celtic back-to-back, which is always difficult. Today was important but any game at Tynecastle you are expected to win, as we will be next Saturday.
“St Johnstone are really well organised and they press really well. They always have a threat when Stevie May is up front. Connor McLennan has got pace, and Graham Carey has a great left foot as well so you have to be careful.
“What pleased me with the players was a couple of times we gave the ball away but we kept passing it through (the lines) and eventually got ourselves there.”
Neilson praised Josh Ginnelly who returned from suspension to score a double against Saints before Jorge Grant sealed the win.
“We miss his pace, his energy (when he’s not in the team),” said Neilson. “I think that understanding he has with Lawrence Shankland as well, it allows Shankland to drop in because Ginnelly will threaten in behind. The two of them worked really well together.”
St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson did not feel the scoreline gave an accurate reflection of his team’s performance.
“I thought it was an even game until they scored to the third,” said Davidson. “It sounds daft saying it after a 3-0, but I always felt we were in it and creating chances.
“We had the courage to keep playing, we attacked and tried to get at them, so that opened us up a bit.
“Hearts took their chances when they came along and when we got ours we didn’t take them, so that was a lesson for us and probably shows us where we are.
“We started well, were on the front foot in the second half and then got hit with a sucker punch.
“I have come here and seen us play worse but get results, as a player, assistant and a manager.
“We tried to do the right things, we put them under pressure and were tactically good. But Hearts have good players who can open you up and we have to do better on the defensive side.”