HEARTS are anchored rock-bottom of the Premiership after their 1-0 collapse against St Mirren in Paisley last night where Jon Obika thumped in his 12th goal of the season.
The powerhouse frontman raced through a hesitant defence onto a brilliant through pass from former Scotland international Ross Wallace to claim the strike that moved Jim Goodwin’s side six points clear of their toiling Tynecastle rivals.
Daniel Stendel’s team are now four points adrift of Hamilton Accies with games against Livingston, Ross County and Aberdeen to come before the split.
The home outfit lost Conor McCarthy to injury around the half-hour mark, forcing midfielder Sam Foley back into central defence as Jamie McGrath came on.
The Edinburgh visitors’ only shot on target was a feeble long-range effort from Aaron Hickey and they were booed off at half-time by many in the sold-out away stand.
THE LOSER…shell-shocked Daniel Stendel after the latest loss.
THE WINNER…Jon Obika slides the ball past Bobby Zlamal.
For the second successive game, striker Liam Boyce replaced midfielder Sean Clare at the interval and Hearts restarted the second period on the front foot.
But they were caught out when the experienced Wallace sent the ball over the top. Obika ran on to it, held off the centre-backs and slid the ball beyond the stranded Bobby Zlamal in the 48th minute.
Afterwards, victorious gaffer Jim Goodwin, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “Sometimes managers get credit for tactics, formations or changes they make during the game, but I can take no credit for that.
“It’s a big night for the club, the biggest game of the season. It was massive we didn’t lose. In my own head, I wanted to make sure we kept the gap at three, at least, so I didn’t think we needed to go gung-ho,
“it was more of a must-win for Hearts. But the fact we extended the gap to six points is a huge relief.”
Dejected Stendel added: “From the first minute, we’re not ready for this game. St Mirren played as we expected and we didn’t have everybody ready to take the fight and win this duel. That was the biggest disappointment.
“The goal we conceded was more our fault than a great chance and it decided the game.
“There are no reasons for a performance like this.”