Inverness CT 0-0 Heart of Midlothian
Hearts held Inverness CT to a 0-0 draw in the highlands on Saturday.
Both teams had chances to grab all three points, but the Jambos will be the happier side after displaying some impressive last-ditch defending and productive counter-attacks.
Injuries and suspensions played their part in Hearts' starting line-up, with Gary Locke handing a full debut to Paul McCallum, Ryan Stevenson coming in for the injured David Smith and Jordan McGhee replacing the suspended Kevin McHattie.
It was Stevenson who almost made an instant impact. He was fed inside by Dale Carrick before curling a 20 yard shot goalwards, but Dean Brill backtracked enough to tip the ball over the bar.
The home side nearly took the lead in the 15th minute on two separate occasions. First, David Raven's over-hit cross sailed over Jamie MacDonald's head and back off the crossbar. From the rebound, MacDonald took the sting out of James Vincent's ball back across goal and with Billy McKay ready to pounce in the six yard box, Danny Wilson made a crucial block and cleared the ball to safety.
The Hearts no. 1 was on hand again to deny Caley Thistle six minutes later. Marley Watkins tore down the left hand side and planted a cross onto the head of Greg Tansey inside the box, but MacDonald sprung to his left to pluck the ball out of the air.
MacDonald kept the Jambos in the match with another great save on the half hour mark. Watkins threaded a pass through to Billy McKay who tried his luck from an acute angle, but MacDonald stood his ground and blocked at the near post.
McGhee got in on the action a few minutes later as Caley began to line-up shots on goal. Billy McKay was provider this time as he found Watkins in space inside the box, and although his shot beat MacDonald it didn't beat McGhee who flung himself in front of the ball to block over the bar.
The hosts' relentless pressure continued when they hit the crossbar twice in a matter of seconds, through a Vincent header and a Billy McKay hook over-the-shoulder.
With two minutes to go until half time, Inverness hit the woodwork for the fourth time. McGhee's headed clearance was met by Tansey, and his rifled shot from inside the box cannoned back off MacDonald's right-hand post and out to safety.
Though Inverness started brightly in the second half, it was a moment of magic from Hearts that almost broke the deadlock. A cute backheel from Carrick found Hamill, and his rocket 40 yard shot flew just wide of Brill's right-hand post.
Hearts made more of an attacking impression in the second 45, defending doggedly at times but also threatening their hosts' box. That dogged defending saw the men in maroon clear their lines well in 66th minute, and though the ball broke to Tansey, who hit a low drive from 35 yards, it was smartly stopped by MacDonald after he got down to cover at his right-hand post.
Just when it looked like Inverness were set to bombard the Hearts goal, the Jambos went up the park and created their best chance of the half. Sam Nicholson took off down the left and crossed into the box for Billy King, who teed up Jamie Hamill but he blasted his effort over the bar from 18 yards.
The Jambos could've snatched a win in the last minute when McCallum powered down a header from Nicholson's cross, but Graeme Shinnie cleared just in front of the Caley goal-line.
In the end, both teams settled for a share of the spoils and Hearts will head down the A9 with a precious point in the bag.
Inverness CT: Brill; Raven, Warren, Meekings, Shinnie; Draper, Vincent (Foran, 73'), Doran, Watkins; Tansey, McKay. Subs: Esson, Ross, Devine, Tremarco, Williams, Polworth.
Hearts: MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, Wilson, McGhee; Stevenson, Hamill, Robinson, Nicholson, Carrick (King, 73'), McCallum. Subs: Ridgers, Beith, Holt, Oliver.
Referee: Craig Thomson
Top man: Jamie MacDonald