05 August 2023

Frankie McAvoy pleased with ‘rusty’ Hearts win at St Johnstone

05 August 2023

Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy praised his players after they overcame first-half rustiness to secure an impressive 2-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on the cinch Premiership’s opening day.

In a close game that began after a short delay with a VAR power failure, Yutaro Oda eventually gave Hearts the lead with 15 minutes to go with a superb low strike and Lawrence Shankland sealed the win deep into stoppage time with a tap-in after unselfish play from Liam Boyce.

McAvoy – who was given the job in June on a full-time basis, alongside technical director Steven Naismith – also admitted relief as the Tynecastle side started the season with a victory ahead of Thursday’s Europa Conference League qualifier against Rosenborg.

He said: “I’m probably relieved for myself and the background team but delighted for the players and the supporters who I thought were fantastic.

“They came out in big numbers so delighted we’ve managed to get the three points and keep a clean sheet.

“The VAR breaking down before the game started probably didn’t help us much and it allowed them to settle a bit and put pressure on us.

“We know we were a bit rusty. St Johnstone have had more competitive games.

“You can have pre-season games like we’ve had but it’s not the real stuff. We knew that we just needed to be at it today and we felt as the game went on we got a wee bit better.”

Hearts gave competitive debuts to new signings Frankie Kent and Calem Nieuwenhof from the start, while Kyosuke Tagawa and Alex Lowry made debuts from the bench.

Lowry signed on loan from Rangers just yesterday and he was singled out for praise by McAvoy, who was pleased with the impact of his substitutes.

He added: “We’re delighted with the impact the subs made in the game and you can see the quality they’ve added. That’s great for the squad because we need strength in depth and we need them being really competitive.

“You can see that (Alex) Lowry’s got a bit of quality. We knew that. He’s coming from a massive club in Rangers as well. We’re delighted that he wanted to come here which was pleasing.

“He had a lot of options on the table and he chose to come here which is credit to him. He had the chance to go down south but he felt like we play in the right manner.”

St Johnstone boss Steven MacLean, meanwhile, was pleased with the reaction from his players after last week’s humiliating 4-0 defeat to Stirling Albion.

Despite not getting anything from the game, Saints competed for large periods and could have taken the lead through Liam Gordon and Graham Carey before Hearts’ breakthrough.

MacLean said: “I thought our performance was a lot better. We worked very hard for each other. We’re going to be a work in progress.

“Liam Gordon had a great chance and we had another couple of opportunities as well and you’ve got to take your chances against the better teams in the league – any games in fact.

“In terms of attitude, performance and work-rate, I’m happy with them.

“I think when you look at it, it’s one long ball into the box and we don’t win the first contact and the boy scores.

“That’s the difference today. If you look at Hearts’ bench, what they had to bring on and the difference from ours.

“I’m happy with my squad and I’m happy with my team today. We’ll get better going forward, we’ll bring in some more bodies and we will improve.”

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