McLaughlin keeps St Johnstone at bay as Hearts hold on for three points
Hearts were indebted to goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin as his dazzling display and David Milinkovic’s fifth goal of the campaign ensured the stubborn Jambos claimed a smash-and-grab Ladbrokes Premiership victory over 10-man St Johnstone.
The Serbia winger produced a fine finish early in the second half to claim a 1-0 win for the hosts, however the Perth Saints will rue Chris Kane rattling the crossbar in the first period and a flurry of fine stops from McLaughlin.
St Johnstone, who saw former Hibernian midfielder David Wotherspoon dismissed for two yellow cards in the space of seven minutes, also saw vociferous claims for a penalty waved away by referee Andrew Dallas after Christophe Berra appeared to handle the ball in the box.
The reverse sees St Johnstone’s losing streak in the Premiership extend to five matches, since defeating Rangers 3-1 at Ibrox in December.
The visitors were the first to seriously threaten when they were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal, with Wotherspoon’s curling effort forcing a fine low save from McLaughlin.
The Hearts number one was called into action again on the quarter-hour mark when Kane was sent scampering through on goal, only for McLaughlin to rush from his line to make a pivotal interception.
McLaughlin was the Hearts hero again when sloppy defending from on-loan Liverpool defender Connor Randall allowed Scott Tanser to fizz a low shot from the edge of the box, only for the experienced keeper to make a superb low stop before Kane fired the rebound into the side-netting.
The Jambos goalmouth was leading a charmed life as half-time approached, with Kane latching onto a Matthew Willock delivery and producing a stunning instinctive volley from the edge of the box which crashed against the bar.
To rub salt in the wounds of their failure to break the deadlock, St Johnstone had a strong claim for a spot-kick ignored when Berra appeared to block a Steven Anderson header with his arm.
Having been comfortably the better side in the first period, the visitors were hit with a sucker-punch just 39 seconds after the restart. Danny Amankwaa clipped a hopeful cross into the box towards Kyle Lafferty, who managed to force the ball into the path of Milinkovic for the winger to slot home from close range.
Rattled by falling behind, St Johnstone did not manage to regain their poise and dominance and were reduced to 10 men after 63 minutes when Wotherspoon, already on a booking, was shown a second yellow card for a clumsy foul on Joaquim Adao.
Blair Alston did his best to restore parity but saw his rasping shot saved by man of the match McLaughlin, before Lafferty wasted a late chance to add gloss to the scoreline, rippling the side-netting following a swift break.