New signing and new forward line for Hearts but familiar issues show against Kilmarnock

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Result at Tynecastle suits Killie more than the hosts

Kilmarnock’s diligent and determined defending helped earn a justified point at Tynecastle Park as Hearts were held to a goalless draw by their visitors. The Edinburgh club returned from a midweek European assignment in Norway looking for a second successive Premiership victory but seldom troubled their guests during the 90 minutes.

In many ways, Hearts’ display was similar to those against St Johnstone and Rosenborg in their last two games. They toiled to create scoring chances for long spells, with movement and panache in the final third needing work. Kilmarnock were well-organised by manager Derek McInnes and their rigid back line gave nothing away.

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Recent recruits Frankie Kent, Kyosuke Tagawa and Alex Lowry made their competitive home debuts for Hearts. Calem Nieuwenhof, Michael McGovern and newest arrival Kenneth Vargas began as substitutes, the Costa Rican having received his UK work permit.

Hearts’ European opponents Rosenborg remained inactive this weekend as Norway’s Eliteserien allowed them to reschedule their fixture against Brann to provide a break between Conference League qualifying ties. Having lost 2-1 in Trondheim, those in maroon knew this fixture was an opportunity to rebuild confidence and momentum for the Norwegians arriving in Gorgie for Thursday’s return leg of the Europa Conference League third qualifying round.

The hosts began with Tagawa at centre-forward, Lawrence Shankland behind him, Lowry wide left and Yutaro Oda right. They enjoyed a good deal of possession in the opening period but Kilmarnock looked more threatening when they did venture forward. Tagawa attempted an ambitious overhead effort but didn’t connect in an otherwise quiet first 45 minutes. Hearts needed to supply his compatriot, Oda, to let him run at pace at the Kilmarnock left wing-back Corrie Ndaba more often. That was an obvious attacking outlet.

The visitors fashioned the first half’s best opening on 43 minutes. Matt Kennedy’s cross from the left was headed down and goalwards by Kyle Magennis, resulting in a vital save low to his right by the Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark to prevent a certain goal. Creativity and movement through midfield and attack needed to improve if Hearts were to progress in this game. Their build-up was too often slow and ponderous, but defensively they looked strong.

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Kilmarnock’s Danny Armstrong headed wide from David Watson’s lofted cross after the break as the untidy theme continued. Defender Stuart Findlay then sent a rising 25-yard attempt narrowly off target. Again, the Ayrshire side looked the more dangerous but there wasn’t exactly a plethora of scoring opportunities entering the final 10 minutes.

Kenneth Vargas made his Hearts debut against Kilmarnock. Pic: SNSKenneth Vargas made his Hearts debut against Kilmarnock. Pic: SNS
Kenneth Vargas made his Hearts debut against Kilmarnock. Pic: SNS

Vargas, Liam Boyce and Alan Forrest injected fresh legs into Hearts’ forward line as they pushed for a late and decisive intervention before a huge European tie in midweek. There was no little endeavour on show, however frustration in the stands mirrored that on the field for the home team as the final whistle sounded. Kilmarnock left with a deserved point and could be content with their efforts in the Capital.

Hearts (4-2-3-1): Clark; Atkinson (Sibbick 78), Kent, Rowles, Kingsley; Devlin (Denholm 68), Haring; Oda (Forrest 78), Shankland, Lowry (Boyce 59); Tagawa (Vargas 68).

Kilmarnock (3-4-3): Dennis; Mayo, Deas Findlay; Lyons, Watson, Magennis (McKenzie 89), Ndaba; Armstrong (Donnelly 90), Watkins (Vassell 73), Kennedy.

Referee: David Dickinson.

Attendance: 18,455.

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