Stendel debut ends in defeat as Hearts edged out by St Johnstone

Daniel Stendel endured a miserable start to his Hearts reign as Callum Hendry’s header earned St Johnstone a 1-0 win at Tynecastle.

The substitute converted a near-post corner in the 74th minute to lift Saints off the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership and move them three points above Hearts.

A 1-0 defeat by St Johnstone had proved the end of Craig Levein’s second spell in charge in October, and his replacement learned more about the scale of the task facing him as Hearts struggled to find an attacking rhythm.

Stendel hoped to harness the power of the Tynecastle atmosphere but the home fans had little to shout about and again vented their frustration as their team failed to add to their solitary home league win.

The German started with a new-look 4-4-2 formation and made three personnel changes, with goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal and striker Aidan Keena handed starts and Aaron Hickey returning from injury.

Stedndel had promised fans passion and attacking intent and Hearts won an early corner before Glenn Whelan had a long-range strike saved.

But they quickly lost impetus and Saints passed up the best chance of the first half after the Hearts central defence was caught out by a long ball. Michael O’Halloran got ahead of Zlamal but hesitated with the ball at his feet and Hickey got back to clear off the line before the goalkeeper recovered to stop Matty Kennedy’s follow-up.

Hearts’ attempts to get the ball forward quickly were pretty basic and their front two were struggling to get on the end of the long balls.

They managed to put together a couple of decent passing moves down the left in the first half which ended with Sean Clare missing his kick and then Zander Clark pushing Jamie Walker’s effort past the post.

O’Halloran sliced a decent chance wide after a corner and Steven MacLean was well wide for the home side after being set up by Walker just before the break.

Stendel tweaked his formation at half-time as attacking midfielder Ryotaro Meshino replaced Keena.

However, Saints enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, with O’Halloran and Murray Davidson shooting wide from 20 yards, and Stendel reverted to a two-man strikeforce in the 66th minute when Uche Ikpeazu came on for Clare, whose withdrawal was cheered by the home fans.

Hearts threatened from several set-pieces before Zlamal rescued them with an extraordinary stop to deny Hendry from O’Halloran’s low cross.

But it proved a temporary reprieve. Hendry, who had replaced Stevie May, stole a yard on his marker to meet the resulting corner from Kennedy and headed inside the near post.

The hosts threatened with a few decent crosses as they hunted an equaliser but the home fans grew even more frustrated with some misplaced passes as the visitors held on for a second consecutive clean sheet.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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