Hearts were held 0-0 at home by Ross County this afternoon.
The Jambos dominated for the majority of the game and created chances, but the elusive winning goal proved too much against a stubborn Staggies side that finished the game with ten men.
Robbie Neilson made two changes to the side that lost at St Johnstone last week, with Arnaud Djoum coming in for Jamie Walker while Conor Sammon replaced Bjorn Johnsen.
Hearts were first to threaten with an incisive breakaway on ten minutes, with Sammon winning possession and bursting down the entire length of the park to middle for Tony Watt, who dug the ball out from underneath his feet to pull off a shot, only to see it tipped over the bar by Scott Fox.
Callum Paterson was next up. Rising to connect with Don Cowie’s 15th minute corner ahead of Andrew Davies but he headed straight at Fox.
An incredible passage of play almost both teams take the lead inside 15 seconds. A dangerous Ross County free kick into the box saw Davies’ header crash off the bar and bounce the right side of the line before Hearts broke straight up the park through Sam Nicholson, who crossed for Watt to knock back for Sammon and his low drive was brilliantly palmed away by Fox, and Marcus Fraser got to the follow up ahead of Watt to clear the danger.
Fox was on hand to deny Hearts again in the 26th minutes. Igor Rossi connected with Cowie’s corner to bullet a header goalwards but the County ‘keeper got down well to make the stop.
Hearts were winning the aerial battles in the visitors’ box and on the half-hour mark Watt curled a header inches wide of Fox’s right-hand post after meeting Perry Kitchen’s cross. Moments earlier the Jambos had been forced into an early substitution with Alim Ozturk replacing the injured John Souttar.
The men in maroon then passed up a golden opportunity to take the lead. Watt threaded through Sammon who went one-on-one with Fox, but the ‘keeper came out on top with a smart block with his legs.
By the 37th minute Hearts were bombarding the Ross County goal. Nicholson showed great determination to win the ball back and feed it inside to Cowie who, from the edge of the box, knocked back for Djoum to strike but his effort was deflected just wide.
Hearts picked up where they left off in the second half, only this time they were denied by the woodwork. Watt broke free and carried the ball to the edge of the Ross County box before slipping in Nicholson on the right, but his first time rocket shot clipped the outside of the post on its way wide.
The game then became scrappy with neither side troubling the other’s goal. The closest anyone went was Faycal Rherras with a long-range curling effort but it cleared the target without troubling Fox.
Watt curled a set piece over the crossbar in the 82nd minute as time began to run out for the Jambos to find that elusive goal.
The cause was helped a minute later when Ross County’s Ian McShane was shown a second yellow for a brutal foul on Rherras on the touchline.
That goal proved a bridge too far however and Hearts will be disappointed they couldn’t put a game they dominated so much of to bed.
Hearts: Hamilton, Paterson, Souttar (Ozturk, 30'), Rossi, Rherras, Nicholson, Kitchen, Djoum, Cowie (Walker, 68'), Watt, Sammon (Johnsen, 79'). Subs: Noring, Nowak, Buaben, Muirhead.
Ross County: Fox, Fraser, Routis, Gardyne, Woods, Boyce (Curran, 64'), Davies (McEveley, 79'), Franks (Dingwall, 46'), McShane, Van Der Weg, Quinn. Subs: McCarey, Cikos, Chow, Morrison.
Referee: Alan Muir
Top Man: Perry Kitchen