Kilmarnock 2-2 Hearts: Defiant Jambos fightback earns a point from 2-0 down
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Derek McInnes’ side were 2-0 ahead thanks to second-half strike from Chris Stokes and Kyle Lafferty, but Stephen Humphrys scored before Nathaniel Atkinson’s exquisite stoppage-time volley sparked huge relief among travelling fans.
The result and defiance shown by Hearts was badly needed amid a run of only three wins in 12 games as they now prepare for Thursday’s Europa Conference League trip to Fiorentina.
It was an uncharacteristic slip by Craig Gordon in the visitors’ goal which allowed Lafferty to put Kilmarnock 2-0 ahead on the hour mark. He lost his footing and the Northern Irishman pounced just a few yards out, but Humphrys’ composed finish and Atkinson’s volley earned a point.
Last time Kilmarnock hosted Hearts they found themselves 3-0 ahead inside 16 minutes back in 2019. The away line-up was without recognised centre-backs this time but those in maroon created the game’s first chance on 90 seconds.
From Lawrence Shankland’s teasing low delivery across the face of a gaping goal, Barrie McKay contrived to shoot high into the stand.
Kilmarnock winger Danny Armstrong headed Jordan Jones’ back-post cross narrowly wide of target as the open start to this game continued. The hosts pressed aggressively in the final third, suspecting they could force errors in the opposition’s makeshift rearguard.
They should have gone ahead when Armstrong rolled a pass into the penalty area to the unmarked Blair Alston on 27 minutes. His attempt lacked power and Gordon saved. Alex Cochrane then blocked from Alan Power.
Jones sent a dipping drive just wide of Gordon’s left post before the interval. Although those from Edinburgh had enjoyed a fair amount of first-half possession, it was the locals who had fashioned more scoring opportunities in the incessant Ayrshire rain.
A minute into the second period they took one. Stokes met Armstrong’s corner in the air, his header rebounded off Orestis Kiomourtzoglou and the centre-back’s left-footed second attempt squeezed over the goal line desite Gordon’s best efforts.
It was a goal which illustrated the lack of physical presence in the Hearts defence, with Craig Halkett injured and Lewis Neilson and Toby Sibbick listed as substitutes.
As the home support celebrated, Hearts knew they required a more incisive approach in attack. Killie struck again before they could produce one. Gordon slipped on the wet synthetic surface as Andy Halliday’s backpass arrived at his feet. Before the keeper could steady himself, Lafferty prodded the loose ball into the net.
The two-goal deficit was quickly halved on 61 minutes. Robert Snodgrass sent a loping forward ball towards Humphrys on the run, and he dribbled past the Kilmarnock goalkeeper Zach Hemming to convert from a tight angle. That offered Hearts a much-needed lifeline.
Gordon thwarted substitute Oli Shaw in a one-against-one and, with only seconds remaining, Atkinson found himself 18 yards out to return a headed clearance with a superb left-footed strike to level the game.
Kilmarnock (4-2-3-1): Hemming; Mayo, Taylor, Stokes (Wright 78), Chrisene; Power, Alston (Alebiosu 87); Armstrong, McKenzie (Lyons 87), Jones (Doidge 66); Lafferty (Shaw 66).
Hearts (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Atkinson, Kingsley, Cochrane, Halliday (Neilson 87); Kiomourtzoglou (Grant 70), Snodgrass; Humphrys, Forrest, McKay; Shankland.
Referee: Matthew MacDermid.