Football: McPherson's header keeps Hearts beating

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The Independent Online

St Johnstone 1 Heart of Midlothian 2

Hearts overcame a spirited challenge from First Division St Johnstone to advance to the semi-finals of the Tennents Scottish Cup at McDiarmid Park last night.

Goals by Alan Lawrence and Dave McPherson broke the resistance of the Saints after George O'Boyle had equalised for the home side early in the second half.

Saints, bidding to reach the last four of the Scottish Cup for the first time in five years, had welcomed back their inspirational French goalkeeper Gilles Rousset after his replacement Craig Nelson had conceded four goals in the defeat by Celtic at Parkhead.

Also boosted by the return of leading scorer John Robertson, Saints made a lively start and in the first minute O'Boyle fired the ball into the side netting after a low cross from Roddy Grant.

Hearts, though, went close in the seventh minute when John Colquhoun's flick found Neil Pointon but his dipping left-foot volley went wide.

In the 12th minute Saints winger Leigh Jenkinson became the first booking by the referee, Jim McCluskey, for an apparent stamping incident on the Hearts defender Gary Locke.

Saints' Jim Weir had to go off for treatment but returned after almost five minutes on the sidelines.

The home side came desperately close to breaking the deadlock in the 38th minute when a fine move saw Grant release Jenkinson down the left and his inviting cross needed only the correct connection from O'Boyle, but the striker's effort went into the side net instead.

Jenkinson, the former Coventry City winger, created another chance two minutes later when he again crossed from the left and this time Attila Sekerlioglu was off target with a header at the near post.

But it was Hearts who grabbed the first goal with two minutes of first- half injury time played.

Colquhoun and Robertson combined to allow Gary Mackay to cross from the left and Lawrence volleyed high into the net from inside the six-yard box.

Saints replaced Weir with Gary Farquhar after half-time and five minutes after the interval the substitute made an impact as his cross from the left was swept into the net by O'Boyle to make it 1-1.

It was possibly no more than Paul Sturrock's side deserved after their first-half display, but the equality lasted only six minutes as Hearts made it 2-1 in the 56th minute.

They won a free-kick on the right of the area and when Steve Fulton flighted in the cross defender McPherson was there to head home.

St Johnstone: Main; McQuillan, Preston, Sekerlioglu, Weir (Farquhar, h-t), McGowne, Griffen, O'Neil, Grant, O'Boyle, Jenkinson. Substitutes not used: Twaddle.

Heart of Midlothian: Rousset; Locke, Ritchie, McPherson, Mackay (Johnston, 67), Bruno, Lawrence, Colquhoun, Robertson (Millar, 67), Fulton, Pointon. Substitute not used: McManus.

Referee: J McCluskey (Stewarton).

Results, page 27