Hearts 0-0 Ross County: Jambos dominate but lack killer touch
Hearts are still waiting for their first win at the new Tynecastle Park after being held to a goalless draw by Ross County.
Despite enjoying all the pressure and firing countless efforts at the visitors' goal, the home team ended the afternoon harbouring a good deal of frustration.
The County goalkeeper Aaron McCarey was in inspired form to keep Hearts at bay in both halves. Some of his saves were slightly unorthodox but he nonetheless proved the difference between a point and no points for Owen Coyle's side.
Hearts, who reopened Tynecastle with a 1-1 draw against Partick Thistle last weekend, now have only two Premiership points from the last 15 and remain embroiled in a poor run of form.
The game began without working floodlights at the Roseburn end of Tynecastle Park. Ross County players complained to referee John Beaton but he was happy to start the match in the hope of a quick electrical repair. One lit up soon after kick-off but the other remained in darkness.
Hearts, with Cole Stockton, Jamie Walker and Harry Cochrane all back in the side, endured an early scare when Ross County's Alex Schalk rattled the post in the opening minutes. At the opposite end, Walker then rasped a shot which McCarey couldn't hold.
Walker looked the most threatening home player and later saw another couple of efforts fly narrowly wide. Then came Arnaud Djoum's header from Cochrane's corner, which should have hit the target. The intensity and sharpness in County's play was notable as Coyle puts his stamp on the Highlanders. However, Hearts were creating all the scoring opportunities.
The most glaring chance arrived on 27 minutes. Djoum's effort from 20-yards was parried by McCarey, leaving Goncalves with what seemed like a straightforward tap-in from eight yards. The Portuguese didn't connect firmly with the ball and McCarey saved his tame effort.
The goalkeeper fisted Cochrane's first-time strike away after an intelligent ball inside from David Milinkovic, who was playing wide right. Another delivery from the Frenchman found Stockton for a powerful header which landed, unfortunately for the striker, straight at McCarey.
County had an effort disallowed for offside towards the end of the first period after the lively Schalk found the net. They then lost their influential captain, Andrew Davies, to injury. Hearts centre-back Aaron Hughes also had his afternoon cut short during the break when he was replaced by Prince Buaben.
Still the hosts pressed forward in search of the elusive breakthrough. Walker tried an overhead attempt, then he fired a tantalising ball across goal, but the visitors were holding on. Goncalves began to cause problems on the left flank with his running, hold-up play and trickery on the ball.
A corner with ten minutes remaining again saw McCarey spring into action. He dived low to his right to stop Christophe Berra's netbound header, and also smothered Goncalves' follow-up attempt. The Portuguese then made way for Kyle Lafferty to come off the home substitutes' bench. He had been left out due to a virus.
County were happy to settle for a draw and that's how the remainder of the game played out, despite late efforts from Djoum and substitute Don Cowie.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): McLaughlin; Brandon, Hughes, Berra, M Smith; Cochrane, Djoum; Milinkovic, Walker, Goncalves; Stockton.
45: Buaben for Hughes
79: Cowie for Cochrane
82: Lafferty for Goncalves
Unused subs: Hamilton, Randall, Callachan, Keena.
Ross County (4-4-1-1): McCarey; Naismith, Fraser, Davies, Kelly; Gardyne, Draper, Routis, Keillor-Dunn; O'Brien; Schalk.
41: Lindsay for Davies
60: Dow for O'Brien
72: Curran for Schalk
Unused subs: Fox, McKay, Van der Weg, Eagles.
Referee: John Beaton.