Hearts edge past St Johnstone in opening day

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Hearts celebrated their return to the Ladbrokes Premiership by coming out on the right side of a 4-3 scoreline against St Johnstone.

Sam Nicholson scored the decisive goal at Tynecastle after the visitors dragged themselves level from trailing 3-1.

New signing Juanma Delgado got off to the perfect start after netting four minutes into his league debut before Jamie Walker doubled the hosts' lead after the break.


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Simon Lappin pulled one back but Hearts restored their two-goal cushion through Callum Paterson.

Saints refused to give in and scored twice in three minutes through John Sutton and Graham Cummins, but there was more drama to come as Nicholson grabbed the winner in the 80th minute.

The Hearts fans were already in good mood after owner Ann Budge unfurled the Championship title flag just before kick-off, and the feel good factor was enhanced when new signing Delgado gave the Premiership newcomers the lead inside four minutes.

The Spaniard pounced on a costly slip by former Hearts defender Brad McKay and squeezed the ball past Saints keeper Alan Mannus.

The Perth side were dealt another blow in the 20th minute when captain Chris Millar was forced off injured, with Scott Brown his replacement.

But it was Saints who threatened in the 28th minute. Joe Shaughnessy's long throw into the area caused all sort of problems as first Liam Craig and then Lappin unsuccessfully managed to find the net.

St Johnstone finished the half the stronger and Nicholson was in the right place at the right time a minute before the break to clear a Sutton looping header off the line after the striker met Lappin's delivery.

Delgado should have doubled Hearts' lead three minutes after the restart but the forward dragged his shot wide after showing his upper body strength to hold off McKay on the edge of the box to create space for a shot.

But the former Kalloni player played his part in Hearts' second in the 52nd minute. Delgado teed up Nicholson in the box and the winger earned a penalty after being tripped by keeper Mannus, who picked up a yellow card.

Osman Sow's spot-kick was saved but the alert Walker raced in on the rebound and lifted the ball high into the net.

Saints dragged themselves back into the contest four minutes later, however, when Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander made a mess of his attempt to get his hands on Shaughnessy's long throw, leaving Lappin with an easy tap-in at the back post.

But Hearts restored their two-goal advantage in the 62nd minute when Paterson raced on to Walker's return pass in the box and slipped a shot past Mannus from 10 yards.

Saints kept plugging away and Sutton pulled one back in the 75th minute after heading in David Wotherspoon's cross before the visitors then levelled four minutes later when substitute Cummins stuck out an instinctive boot at Brown's deflected shot.

There was one final twist, however, as the Gorgie outfit retook the lead in the 80th minute when Nicholson turned in a teasing Paterson cross from six yards.

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