Stephen Robinson’s first game as St Mirren boss ends in defeat to Hearts

Stephen Robinson File Photo
(Image credit: Richard Sellers)

Hearts returned to winning ways in the cinch Premiership with a 2-0 victory over 10-man St Mirren to ruin Stephen Robinson’s first game as Buddies boss.

Jim Goodwin’s successor watched as Saints midfielder Connor Ronan was shown a straight red card in the 23rd minute by referee Greg Aitken for a hefty tackle on Beni Baningime.

Robbie Neilson’s visitors, who went into the game with three successive defeats in the league, eventually took advantage of the extra man as substitute Ellis Simms, on loan from Everton, opened the scoring in the 64th minute before midfielder Cammy Devlin added a second three minutes later.

It was a welcome three points for the third-placed Jambos as the home side suffered a first defeat in nine, although former Motherwell boss Robinson will wonder what might have happened had his side kept 11 players on the pitch.

Looking for a return to form, Neilson brought Craig Gordon, Baningime, Ben Woodburn, Liam Boyce, Gary Mackay-Steven and Craig Halkett back into the side, the latter returning after a six-game absence with a hamstring injury.

By contrast, Robinson named the same St Mirren side which started at Livingston last week, defender Charles Dunne able to play after his red card in the 1-1 draw was downgraded to a yellow.

Robinson took the applause of the home fans before kick-off but Boyce had a couple of early headers saved by Saints goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.

The game took a twist midway through the first half when a challenge from Ronan, on loan from Wolves, left Jambos midfielder Baningime prostrate and Aitken produced his red card to the ire of the home supporters.

St Mirren forced a couple of corners to threaten really for the first time with Boyce having to make a decisive clearance amid a scramble and there was a penalty shout when striker Alex Greive went down in the box from a Woodburn challenge.

Aitken was unmoved as Buddies fans howled their displeasure which soon turned to relief when Boyce misjudged a Mackay-Steven cross just eight yards out.

Alnwick made a great save from Boyce in the 52nd minute when the forward was left with only the keeper to beat following a Barrie McKay cross and the subsequent melee as Hearts players tried to force the ball in ended in a goal kick.

Neilson then made a triple substitution with Alex Cochrane, Simms and Josh Ginnelly on for Mackay-Steven, Woodburn and Nathaniel Atkinson.

And, as the visitors pressed with renewed purpose, it was Simms, from a McKay cross, who eventually got the ball in the net at the second attempt after Alnwick had made an initial save.

Moments later, Boyce almost forced the ball past Alnwick from a couple of yards out but Hearts did get their second when Devlin slammed into the net from 16 yards after the St Mirren keeper was left on the ground after thwarting Ginnelly, resuming after getting treatment.

In the 75th minute Simms almost got his second with a shot which was tipped over the bar by Alnwick for a corner he collected with ease but the damage was done.

St Mirren, to their credit, kept battling away but the task was too onerous.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1