St Mirren 3-2 Hearts

By Keir MurrayBBC Scotland at Hampden Park
Highlights - St Mirren 3-2 Hearts

St Mirren lifted their first major silverware in more than a quarter of a century as they came from behind to beat Hearts in a thrilling Scottish League Cup final.

Ryan Stevenson's deflected shot put Hearts ahead in 10 minutes and a John Sutton header and Mehdi Taouil shot should have added to their lead.

But Esmael Goncalves and Steven Thompson struck either side of half-time to stun Gary Locke's side.

Conor Newton rounded off a sweet move with a thunderous strike for Saints' third and though Stevenson added a late second in a frantic closing period, the Buddies clung on.

This was the Paisley's side's first success in the tournament and will go a long way to erasing painful memories of losing to nine-man Rangers in the 2010 final.

St Mirren showed early nerves, with Hearts forcing a series of rushed clearances but the teams were, in truth, still at the getting-to-know-you stage when Stevenson sent the fans from Edinburgh into raptures with the opening goal.

Marc MacAusland and Jim Goodwin took turns to crunch into tackles to stop the maroon advance but the latter's challenge screwed to the unmarked Stevenson, who kept his head as two St Mirren players raced back in vain to support left-back Paul Dummett.

The Hearts midfielder's shot deflected off the Englishman and spun past the helpless Craig Samson.

Gary Teale offered respite down the wing as St Mirren sought a leveller, with Kevin McHattie often relying on Danny Wilson as covering centre-back to limit the threat of an incursion into goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald's box.

St Mirren skipper Jim Goodwin lifts the League Cup
St Mirren skipper Jim Goodwin lifts the League Cup after an entertaining final

Yet with 21 minutes on the clock Hearts could, and probably should, have doubled their lead. Jamie Walker sped down the left wing and sent in a curling cross reminiscent of John Robertson in his prime at Nottingham Forest.

Sutton rushed to meet it and headed the ball against the post from a tight angle.

MacDonald made his first save of the match soon after, a regular gathering of a tame Goncalves shot from 25 yards, and did well to claw away a John McGinn inswinging corner in 32 minutes.

Between those incidents Hearts again came close to a second goal. Playmaker Mehdi Taouil waltzed past three static Saints and shot across goal with even the telescopic legs of Michael Ngoo unable to stab it home.

Any Hearts fans fearing those missed chances would haunt them would have been in need of an exorcism when St Mirren equalised.

Teale was already running at full pelt when Thompson played a killer pass down the inside-right channel.

Frozen Hearts looked for offside, Teale looked for Goncalves, and his pass across the area allowed the Portuguese to side-foot home with confidence.

How that invigorated St Mirren. After the interval they moved into the lead with their first attack, Dummett crossing for Thompson who lashed the ball past MacDonald from 12 yards for a cup final goal for his boyhood heroes.

Taouil's trickery looked like Hearts' most likely route to pulling level. The Buddies defence was mesmerised as the little Moroccan tip-toed his way through them on the right and smashed a cross that could have gone anywhere when it deflected off Ngoo.

Interview - St Mirren boss Danny Lennon

It produced a good save and a corner rather than a goal and Ngoo powered a header a yard over from the set-piece.

For all Hearts' first-half superiority they could have been all but killed off with half an hour to go had Dylan McGowan not blocked a Thompson strike, with Paul McGowan firing the rebound wide.

Ngoo and Walker were the main instigators of an attempted fightback as they tried to pierce the Saints defence but the next goal came at the other end, producing a raucous response among the 17,000 Buddies fans and a moment of delirium for their manager Danny Lennon.

On-loan Newcastle midfielder Newton worked a one-two with Goncalves on the edge of the box and smashed the return ball early from 16 yards to deny MacDonald the chance to narrow the angle.

Arvydas Novikovas had come on for Walker before Saints' third, with Jason Holt replacing Darren Barr as Locke tried to freshen up his team for the closing stages.

But with Taouil also subbed it was McHattie and Stevenson who rose to the challenge to try to drag Hearts level.

The former won two challenges outside the St Mirren box and stung the palms of Samson with a controlled drive, then Stevenson stole in at the back post to shoot but his effort skimmed off the crossbar.

He was not to be denied for long, though, as he set up a nail-biting final four minutes with an angled shot that lacked power but somehow crept past the slow-to-react Samson and into the bottom corner.

The keeper redeemed himself when he denied the same player a minute from time at his near post and St Mirren hung on to spark wild celebrations among their nerve-shredded fans.


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