Jefferies looking for the hat-trick of wins please
Hearts boss Jim Jefferies is determined to record a third win of the week against St Johnstone to add to the wins over Hibs and Celtic. Jefferies could not be happier about both 2-0 wins but, with the recent 3-0 loss at home to Killie also on his mind, he is not about to become complacent against a struggling Saints side. Jefferies said: "Results wise and some of the performances, it certainly has been a good week, but we want to finish it off. The week's not complete yet until we play on Saturday, so it would be nice if we can follow it up with a performance. That's what we've got to guard against, because we've won two tough, important matches, thinking everything is just going to be a formality on Saturday. This game's got a habit and you can't take anything for granted. We've got to do what we did in the two games and hopefully it will be good enough and it will finish off a great week.''
It has been a good week for Hearts off the pitch too. An equity scheme arranged by Vladimir Romanov has wiped £10million worth of debt wiped out and the confirmation of Marius Zaliukas' contract extension, the Lithuania international defender and Hearts captain signing a three-year deal to stay at Tynecastle following a long contract impasse. Jefferies went on: "It was all tied up yesterday, but it had all been agreed verbally. It was just a case of no last-minute hitches and I'm really pleased that it's gone through because he is the captain and he is an important player for us - he's been outstanding."
Winger Suso Santana will miss today's game as he is undergoing surgery this morning to repair cartilage damage, while Jason Thomson is a doubt with an ankle problem. Lee Wallace (knee) and Andrew Driver (thigh) are two to three weeks away from full training, with David Obua (groin) still out.
St Johnstone manager Derek McInnes is confident that if his side tighten up at the back that the good times can return to the Perth side. McInnes goes into the game against Hearts on the back of his worst spell as a manager following four consecutive defeats. Saints have conceded 13 goals in that run and not scored for three games, but two of the encounters came against Celtic and the other opponents were third-placed Motherwell and a Kilmarnock team in the middle of a goal spree. McInnes is refusing to panic and will urge his players to grind out a result against Hearts, if McDiarmid Park survives a 9.30am pitch inspection. McInnes said: "We have been fortunate in the last few seasons that there has been a lot of good. These players have done very, very well. Football is full of ups and downs. We had two sore ones against Celtic and then met a couple of teams who were in form. We have been playing a part in our own downfall by not taking opportunities. The biggest thing for draining confidence is losing cheap goals, we have been doing that for the last two or three games. (But) it can turn very, very quickly. A month ago we were very resolute, our results were picking up and we weren't losing. It can go quickly the other way. The best way to get confidence is to get results. Regardless of how we play, results can restore that confidence. Performances can come later.''
McInnes will be without Chris Millar (groin) and Dave Mackay (thigh), but he is hopeful Murray Davidson can overcome an ankle knock and Jamie Adams could make his debut if his registration is confirmed by the SPL following his recall from a loan spell at Dundee. Hearts have not beaten St Johnstone since the Perth side returned to the SPL but McInnes believes they are facing a different prospect on Saturday, evidenced by their victories over Hibs and Celtic in the past six days. The Saints manager said: "I felt with Jim being there you would see that improvement. He has good players and he added one or two that have brought something to the team. We got a decent point on the opening day and we had two good wins against them last season but this Hearts team are better, more physical and they are buoyed by their recent wins. We always seem to be meeting teams who have hit form.''