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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Jim Jefferies 2nd <-auth Stephen Halliday auth-> Crawford Allan
----- John Paul Potter
4 of 007 David Templeton 63 ;Kevin Kyle pen 82L SPL A
Sudden impact from David Templeton keeps Hearts in title contention

Published Date: 30 December 2010
St Mirren 0

Hearts 2

Templeton (63), Kyle (82 pen)

HEARTS ended 2010 on a high note last night and will approach their first engagement of 2011 on Saturday brimming with confidence after extending their current unbeaten run to eight matches with a hard-earned but ultimately fully-merited success in Paisley.

David Templeton put Jim Jefferies' side ahead in the second half, just as the manager was preparing to substitute the previously ineffective youngster, before Kevin Kyle converted a late penalty kick as St Mirren finished the evening with ten men following the dismissal of John Potter.

Hearts' grip on third place in the SPL remains firm and on present form they cannot be discounted from a title race which now sees them just six points off the top of the table.They will certainly go into the New Year's Day derby at home to Hibs as hot favourites to extend their hot streak at the expense of their struggling city rivals.

Despite having Lee Wallace at his disposal for the first time since he sustained a serious knee injury on Scotland duty three months ago, Hearts manager Jim Jefferies decided to retain Ruben Palazuelos at left back in a defence which has been operating well during his side's recent impressive run of results.

They found themselves forced onto the back foot in the early stages of a scrappy first half as St Mirren's central striker Michael Higdon made his presence felt. He used his aerial and physical prowess to create the first opening of the night with a flick-on for Paul McGowan who was filling a slightly withdrawn role behind him. The on-loan Celtic player's run caught the visitors a little flat-footed and he was unfortunate to see a well struck volley fly narrowly off target.

Higdon caused problems once more when he forced Ismael Bouzid into conceding a free-kick just outside the penalty area.

The defensive wall blocked Higdon's first effort before he sent the rebound just wide of Jamie MacDonald's right hand post.

Hearts responded with a spell of sustained pressure which brought them a series of corners, Kyle coming closest to making one of them count when he saw a low shot deflected wide.

MacDonald, deputising for Marian Kello who was sidelined with a back injury which is not expected to keep him out of Saturday's derby against Hibs, was called into serious action for the first time in the 15th minute when he raced from his line to make a smart save at the feet of McGowan who was racing onto a long through ball from John Potter.

McGowan had looked as lively and inventive as anyone on view and it was a blow for St Mirren when he was forced to depart after just 24 minutes, being replaced by Craig Dargo.

The direct approach from the home side continued to trouble Hearts, however, and MacDonald had to be alert once more to step off his line and narrow his angles sufficiently to block a close range shot from Steven Thomson.

Neither side could claim with any conviction to have done enough to merit a half-time lead but Hearts came closest yet to grabbing it just a minute before the interval. Calum Elliot cut in from the left and was unlucky to see his right foot shot clip the outside of Gallacher's right hand post. The effort also appeared to take a deflection off a defender en route, but referee Calum Murray turned down Elliot's appeal for a corner.

St Mirren's failure to deal with a long ball from Ismael Bouzid saw another shooting opportunity fall to Black who was again unable to keep his effort from distance on target. Higdon headed a Thomson corner wide as the home side responded and Sean Lynch should then have done better than slice a shot over from 20 yards when, under no pressure, a poor attempted clearance from Bouzid fell at the midfielder's feet.

Hearts were fortunate not to fall behind in the 59th minute, Dargo contriving to scoop a shot over the crossbar from no more than four yards out after the visitors failed to deal with a corner kick.

Jefferies was less than impressed by what he was witnessing when MacDonald was forced into a save by Higdon's header. But just as the Hearts manager was preparing to withdraw Templeton, a decision which few could have queried given the minimal impact of the young winger up until then, he made the 63rd-minute breakthrough.

Showing great control as he pulled the ball out of the air some 30 yards out, Templeton burst towards the St Mirren penalty area. The ball seemed to have run away from him at one point, but he recovered his poise before smashing a terrific right foot shot high beyond Gallacher into the net.

Hearts almost doubled their advantage two minutes later, Ryan Stevenson denied by a fine double save from Gallacher.But St Mirren's hopes of a recovery were effectively ended eight minutes from time when they were reduced to ten men in the process of falling 2-0 behind.

Despite the protests of home captain Potter, there seemed little doubt referee Murray called it right when he showed him a straight red for fouling Templeton inside the penalty area as the winger raced through on goal. Kyle stepped forward to make his now-customary fine job from the spot, sending Gallacher the wrong way to seal the points for Hearts.

St Mirren: Gallacher, McAusland (Mooy 79), Potter, McGregor; Van Zanten, Lynch, Thomson, Cregg (Barron 85), Travner; McGowan (Dargo 24), Higdon. Subs not used: Samson, McLean, Lamont, McQuade.

Hearts: MacDonald, Jonsson, Bouzid, Zaliukas, Palazuelos; Black, Mrowiec; Elliot (Obua 79), Stevenson, Templeton (Novikovas 85); Kyle. Subsnot used: Balogh, Wallace, Barr, Glen, C.Thomson.

Referee: C Allan

Attendance: 4,599

Taken from the Scotsman

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