Ross County 0-0 Heart of Midlothian
Wednesday 22nd January 2020, KO 19:45 | Ladbrokes Premiership | Global Energy Stadium
Hearts and Ross County played out a goalless draw tonight at the Global Energy Stadium.
The Jambos threw everything at their Highland opponents in the second half, but couldn’t find all three points although they did reduce the gap to four points at the bottom of the league.
Daniel Stendel made four changes to the side that defeat Airdrie on Saturday, with Sean Clare missing out due to suspension and injuries to Aaron Hickey and Michael Smith. Donis Avdijaj came in for his debut, while Ben Garuccio made his first start of the season.
The hosts began the match strongly and the Jambos had Joel Pereira to thank when Billy McKay got in behind the Hearts defence following an Iain Vigurs pass, but the Portuguese stopper pushed the ball away.
County looked dangerous on the break and only a super block from Clevid Dikamona prevented them from taking the lead, when Josh Mullin found space down the right flank and cut it back for Blair Spittal only to see Dikamona fly in to deflect the ball away.
Mullin then looked to get a chance of his own when another break saw McKay burst down the wing but his cut back was brilliantly deflected away by John Souttar as County ramped up the pressure. However, at that point, the action stopped as the rest of the half played out in uneventful circumstances.
Into the second half, Hearts looked more up for the match. Conor Washington and Steven Naismith linked up nicely, and after a neat one-two, Naismith found space in the box but could only slice it over. A minute later, Hearts had an absolutely glorious chance to lead.
Naismith broke into the area, drew the keeper and squared it for Avdijaj, but at the vital moment, the Kosovan slipped with the goal gaping. Naismith kept the move alive, and tried to find Washington but the ball rebounded off him and into the arms of keeper Baxter.
At this point, the gaffer introduced Uche Ikpeazu and Euan Henderson for Dikamona and Avdijaj, and Ikpeazu had an immediate impact when he sent Henderson through in the area, his cut back to Washington was behind the striker, however.
Andy Irving then set up Ollie Bozanic for another brilliant chance when he chipped a ball over the top, and the Australian controlled the ball nicely but hooked the ball over the bar when he probably should have put the laces through it.
It was all Hearts now, and Garuccio was next to try his luck when Ikpeazu was felled in the box, the ball then broke to Naismith and he played the ball back to the Australian full-back but he curled a right footed effort wide.
County then nearly hit Hearts on a sucker punch, when the ball was worked from left to right into the area for Lee Erwin, but again Pereira stood up well to it and pushed the ball away.
Despite moving to what looked like a 4-1-5 formation with the introduction of Jamie Walker, and a series of corners that bounced around dangerously, Hearts couldn’t break the deadlock and ultimately had to take the point going into Sunday’s clash with Rangers.
Ross County: Baxter, Fraser, Kelly, Erwin, Mckay (Shaw, 74'), Vigurs, Mullin, Watson, Spittal (Paton, 75'), Tillson (Spence, 90'), Donaldson. Subs: Laidlaw, Foster, Chalmers, Cowie.
Hearts: Pereira, Souttar, Bozanic (Walker, 80'), Washington, Naismith, Garuccio, Halkett, Moore, Dikamona (Ikpeazu, 61'), Irving, Avdijaj (Henderson, 61'). Subs: Zlamal, White, MacLean, Damour.
Referee: Gavin Duncan