First team

Match Report: Kilmarnock 0-0 Hearts

27 April 2024

Hearts were held to a 0-0 draw by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday afternoon.


The men in maroon created plenty of opportunities across the 90 minutes, but a combination of Killie stopper Will Dennis and the woodwork prevented the Jambos from taking all three points.


Steven Naismith reverted to a back three for the trip to Ayrshire. Zander Clark replaced Craig Gordon in goal, Dexter Lembikisa came in at right wingback for the injured Nathaniel Atkinson, whereas Alex Cochrane replaced Alan Forrest on the opposite flank.


There has been little to separate these sides in their four previous meetings this season and another tight encounter was expected to unfold in Ayrshire.


Much like the Jambos, Derek McInnes' side have enjoyed a successful campaign themselves this season and it was the home side who had the games first opening.


Killie’s threats tend to come from crosses from wide areas, with Matty Kennedy and Danny Armstrong both dangerous on the flanks. It was the former who was enjoying himself in the early exchanges and his cross was headed over by Stuart Findlay inside the opening minute.


Up the other end, Hearts were looking to stretch the home side with runs in behind from Kenneth Vargas and Cammy Devlin, the latter appearing to have more freedom to play higher up the park.


It was the Costa-Rican who almost opened the scoring. A neat one-two with Lawrence Shankland saw the ball worked back into the path of Vargas and with Will Dennis, beaten, his effort crashed back off the crossbar.


The men in maroon were slowly starting to gain more control on proceedings as the first half reached the midway point.


Two quickfire chances arrived eight minutes before the interval. Firstly, Stephen Kingsley’s knock-back found Jorge Grant, who was denied by the feet of Will Dennis.


From the resulting corner, Grant was involved again, this time cutting the ball back for Cammy Devlin on the edge of the box, he looked to curl one through a crowd of bodies and with Dennis helpless, once again, the woodwork denied Hearts.


Hearts almost hit the front with the final chance of the half. Alex Cochrane picked up an advanced position down the left flank and his dangerous delivery was eventually headed over by Frankie Kent.


There was a blow for the Jambos in first half stoppage time as Beni Baningime was forced off, he was replaced by Macaulay Tait.


Half-time: Kilmarnock 0-0 Hearts


It hadn’t been a game full of opportunities, but Hearts continued to enjoy their fair share of possession and Grant again came close just before the hour mark.


Devlin did well to press and win possession back inside the Killie half and after Shankland picked out Grant, he curled an effort into the arms of Dennis.


The Jambos continued to find nice pockets of space to play in with Stephen Kingsley in particular driving forward on more than one occasion to start attacks.


Shankland was continuing to drop deep, with others running beyond him and that almost provided the opening goal after 63 minutes. A lovely ball through from the Hearts number nine found Grant, who had made a clever run in behind, but once again, Dennis kept Hearts out.


Killie were still dangerous up the other end and Kyle Vassell’s vicious drive from 25-yards was fortunately straight down the throat of Clark on 68 minutes.


Two minutes later, the men in maroon were back on the attack and again, Kingsley found himself in an advanced position, but after cutting inside he couldn’t generate enough curl on his effort from the edge of the box as it flew wide.


Both sides made changes as the game entered the final 15 minutes in search of a winning goal, with attacking threats like Kevin Van Veen, Alan Forrest and Barrie McKay all introduced.


With the final whistle looming, the home side managed to fashion one further chance when Van Veen cut the ball back for Marley Watkins, but his side foot effort was beaten away by Clark as both sides had to settle for a point.


Kilmarnock: Dennis, Wright, Mayo, Deas (Lyons 46), Vassell (Van Veen, 75), Kennedy, Armstrong (Watson, 75), Findlay, Donnelly, Watkins, Polworth (Mackay-Steven, 75)


Subs: O’Hara, Ndaba, McKenzie, Lyons, Watson, Murray, Cameron, Mackay-Stevenson, Van Veen


Hearts: Clark, Kent, Kingsley, Baningime (Tait, 45), Grant (McKay, 80), Shankland ©, Devlin (Denholm, 80), Rowles, Cochrane, Vargas (Forrest, 77), Lembikisa


Subs: Gordon, Oda, Forrest, McKay, Sibbick, Denholm, Tait, Fraser, Tagawa