Head coach Ian Cathro rued Hearts’ inability to hurt Kilmarnock in the final third as a goalless draw at Rugby Park last night did little to aid their prospects of pipping St Johnstone to fourth place in the Premiership.
The Tynecastle side were resolute defensively as they stopped a run of four consecutive away defeats. But despite enjoying plenty possession, they rarely cut their hosts open and struggled to create clear chances.
Their inability to conjure a winner means they are four points behind Saints, who have a game in hand against Aberdeen today, in the battle for Europa League qualification.
“We had good control and possession at the start, but it didn’t go anywhere,” said the head coach. “We needed to speed that up and get more value in our possession and that in turns into attacks and causing them problems. The fact we didn’t do that is why it wasn’t a spectacle. We made some changes quite early in the second but so did Kilmarnock and they came out with more aggression. The game at that point became quicker, more Scottish, more aggressive, more second balls and it swung a bit their way. We came here to win, so we’re disappointed. We’re frustrated because we could have played quicker and been better in certain situations.”
St Johnstone can move seven points clear of Hearts if they beat the Dons in Perth today. Although disappointed by their failure to put pressure on the Saints, Cathro was pleased with the resilience shown by his team as they recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time in his four-month reign.
“We have to just keep focusing on ourselves until it reaches a point where the gap is small enough for us to talk about putting pressure on people. Everybody knows we’ve not been on a good run. There’s a wee bit of vulnerability and low confidence. We saw some of that towards the end of the Dundee game and also towards the end here. But the positive is that we’ve got through both those situations and not conceded any goals. That’s important for the group, but the feeling is disappointment.”
Kilmarnock manager Lee McCulloch was content to take a point after a poor first-half display from his side. “The way we started the game wasn’t good enough,” he said. “The first 40 minutes was the worst we’ve played since I’ve been interim manager. We had a bit of a go in the first half and the character the boys showed in the second half was brilliant. I’m pleased with the point.”