This one wasn’t quite as dull as the goalless scoreline suggests. Both teams played decent football and Hearts in particular enjoyed a strong second half without managing to find that elusive breakthrough.
Liam Boyce found himself with the best two scoring chances of the afternoon in the second period. The County goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw stopped the first and the striker sent the second past the post. In total, Hearts had ten shots blocked as the visiting defence stood firm.
Both clubs are in the Premiership’s top six and Hearts are already assured of third place, while County remain fifth as they cling to the league’s last European berth. That quest was helped to an extent by the point gained in Edinburgh as sixth-placed Motherwell lost at Dundee United.
County brought in David Cancola for Harry Paton in midfield, while Hearts reinstated Ben Woodburn instead of the injured Aaron McEneff following last week’s win at Tannadice.
The visitors struck the afternoon’s first meaningful attempt at goal as former Tynecastle loanee Connor Randall dispatched a 22-yard shot which forced Craig Gordon into a fine save low to his right.
A round of applause complete with twirling scarves took place after 20 minutes to mark Scott Wilson’s final match as Tynecastle Park’s PA announcer. He admitted being “mortified” at the attention but responded by clapping all four stands as he prepared to relinquish the role after 20 years.
Back on the field, there was little between these two teams. County saw a goal disallowed when Jordan White was flagged offside from Blair Spittal’s low cross, a disputed decision which outraged the big striker.
Hearts delivered several inviting crosses during the first 45 minutes – three of them from advancing right-back Nathaniel Atkinson – without anyone fastening on to one. Atkinson was enjoying an excellent performance both defensively and in attack.
His cutback to Josh Ginnelly early in the second half that finished in the Gorgie Road Stand following a wayward finish from the Englishman. At the opposite end, Gordon needed to use his left leg to repel a shot from another former Hearts man, Ross Callachan.
Play began swaying from one end to the other as the game opened up. Hearts aimed to exploit the extra space and constructed a sweeping attack from inside their own half on 76 minutes.
Peter Haring fed Barrie McKay, who sprinted through the Ross County midfield and slipped a pass to Boyce. Laidlaw emerged for a one-on-one and managed to block the Northern Irishman’s shot when a goal looked likely.
That was the first clear chance to win the game. The second, from substitute Andy Halliday’s through ball in the 90th minute, saw Boyce side-foot his attempt wide of Laidlaw’s left post. With that, both teams had to settle for a point.
Hearts (4-1-4-1): Gordon; Atkinson, Moore, Sibbick, Cochrane; Haring; Ginnelly, Woodburn (Halliday 69), McKay, Mackay-Steven (Simms 69); Boyce.
Ross County (4-2-3-1): Laidlaw; Randall, Watson, Iacovitti, Vokins; Cancola, Tillson; Spittal, Callachan (Samuel 78), Charles-Cook (Hungbo 78); White (Paton 89).
Referee: Steven McLean.