'We got the three points'

Five words which would been uttered by many amongst the Heart of Midlothian support as they made their way out of Tynecastle Park on Saturday, hurrying to the pub, the car or the house for warmth. Those five words amounted to the main positive from the 1-0 win over St Johnstone in the Scottish Premiership.

It was a tough and tense afternoon with Saints rejuvenated under Craig Levein and Andy Kirk. A side which will cause teams problems going forward. But in the immediate aftermath of the game it was, admittedly, difficult to find too many positives. We explored the frustration felt by the Tynecastle Park crowd in the post-match instant analysis and covered the issue the midfield set-up faced, even if there was plenty of logic in its selection, as well as Alan Forrest's difficult afternoon up against the powerful Luke Robinson.

The victory gave Hearts their third league win in succession. Every fan reading this will no doubt have been made aware that it was the first time the team had put three league wins together since December 2021 into January 2022. Zander Clark made a fantastic reaction stop in the first half, days after criticism over his role in the third goal conceded by Scotland in the 3-3 draw for Norway. It was a save which would have done him the world of good. Then there was Lawrence Shankland's 11th goal of the season as he moved even closer to that 50 mark in the maroon and white. All positives.

Scratching below the surface presents a key positive when looking at the bigger picture in terms of what the fans have endured previously and looking ahead to the fixtures in the coming days and weeks. Saturday was a game the team would have struggled with earlier in the season. A game where there is every chance the team would have dropped points. Such opposition, such games have posed real problems in the past. So much of the ball but in the end nothing to show for it. Saturday was different.

READ MORE: Penalty decisions, Hearts consistency, breaking down stubborn defences - Naismith Q&A

Against St Johnstone Hearts had 60 per cent of possession. Nothing new there. They had 18 attempts at goal and an xG of 1.31. 

Now, let's look at how that compares to games against Kilmarnock, Dundee, Motherwell and St Mirren where the team dropped points.

Kilmarnock - Possession: 64. Attempts: 8. xG: 0.35

Dundee - Possession: 65. Attempts: 10. xG: 0.80

Motherwell - Possession: 68. Attempts: 18. xG: 1.08

St Mirren - Possession: 70. Attempts: 11. xG: 1.13

Hearts eked out a win having not played well. But it was a deserved win. The performance against St Johnstone was far from free flowing and the defensive trio saw far too much of the ball but opportunities were carved out and the team, especially in the first half, were a threat from set pieces. That wasn't the case earlier in the campaign when the team faced a low defensive line. This Hearts team, with an in-form Lawrence Shankland, are now looking like they will score even if patience is required, as was the case on Saturday and previously against Livingston.

READ MORE: Craig Levein reveals reception disappointment as he asks Boyce and Shankland question

The next steps in the progression of the team are to add more excitement to performances to engage the Hearts crowd and win such games as Saturday more comfortably. Getting ahead in games early on, especially at Tynecastle Park, is imperative as it forces opponents to come out of their more rigid shape and structure. If Alex Cochrane had managed to find a way past Dimitar Mitov when Hearts carved St Johnstone open the dynamic of the game changes on the field and in the stands and the team may have gone on to score three goals for the first time in the league this season.

Now it would be disrespectful to the Hearts support to suggest everything is great. Improvement is still required and watching games like Saturday on a regular basis is far from a thrilling prospect but the team is improving. And next week's trip to Rugby Park to face Kilmarnock presents another excellent opportunity. Not only to record four successive league wins for the first time since the start of the 2018/19 season but to move into third, at least for 24 hours, as St Mirren travel to Ibrox to face Rangers on Sunday, while Aberdeen and Hibs play each other on the same day.

Then comes Rangers at Tynecastle and a trip to Pittodrie. As the weather gets colder, the season is slowly but surely beginning to heat up.

If we are talking positives, perhaps the biggest from Saturday afternoon came off the park as Big Hearts, with the aid of the Gorgie Ultras, were collecting gifts and toys to support Forth One's Cash for Kids appeal as well as cash donations.

Hearts fans showed their generosity with an abundance of donations which, as Big Hearts tweeted, "will help make a difference to thousands of children this Christmas".

To donate or support the cause, click HERE.