Ross County 1-1 Hearts: Kyle Lafferty scores again as Jambos take a point

Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal in front of around 700 Hearts fans in Dingwall
Kyle Lafferty celebrates his goal in front of around 700 Hearts fans in Dingwall
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Kyle Lafferty's 15th goal of the season wasn't enough to earn Hearts victory in Dingwall as Jason Naismith prised a point for Ross County.

The Northern Ireland striker opened the scoring in this Premiership encounter early in the second half, but full-back Naismith secured a draw 14 minutes from time. Both teams had cancelled each other out in the opening 45 minutes with chances at a premium before the game became more open after the break.

The draw means Hearts have now lost just one of their last 16 matches, while the Highlanders have now taken four points from their last two fixtures.

Without the injured Steven Naismith, Hearts began looking to extend their impressive recent run of form having lost just one of their last 15 fixtures. County ended a 13-game winless streak with a 4-1 victory at Dundee last week and were desperate to build momentum in their fight against relegation in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

Visiting midfielder Joaquim Adao had the first meaningful shot of the afternoon, a low 25-yard effort on 12 minutes which forced Scott Fox into a smart save low to his right. ​Hearts were then forced into a change when Arnaud Djoum fell innocuously after chesting the ball down in midfield. He was stretchered off and replaced by teenager Andy Irving.

The first-half fare left much to be desired despite the live television broadcast. Creativity was conspicuous by its absence and County struggled to break through the Hearts defence. When they did, John Souttar invariably threw himself in front of the ball - as he did Jim O'Brien's 44th-minute shot. Alex Schalk then saw a lofted effort land on the top the Hearts net.

Souttar - whose brother Harry was in the County defence - was in action at the other end early in the second half when. He met Don Cowie's corner at the back post, although Fox produced a vital save amongst a crowd of bodies.

The Edinburgh club looked more purposeful and forced their way in front on 53 minutes. Cowie was brought down by Liam Fontaine as he ran in behind the County defence. That presented Lafferty with a set-piece opportunity which he fully exploited.

An arcing strike from 25 yards by the Northern Irishman flew beyond the wall and into the bottom corner of the net past Fox's flailing dive. He then set off to celebrate with assistant coach Austin MacPhee and other colleagues in the technical area.

The hosts introduced Greg Tansey for his debut before wasting a glorious chance to equalise. Chris Routis' right-sided cross landed with the impressive Davis Keillor-Dunn and the back post. However, as the ball sat up, the unmarked youngster hurriedly sent his shot over the Hearts crossbar when it looked impossible not to hit the target.

Ross County's final pass was letting them down until Schalk carved the opening for the equaliser on 76 minutes. Naismith controlled the forward's pass and dispatched an accurate low drive across the diving Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and into the far corner of the net.

That seemed to unsettle those from the Capital and McLaughlin had to be alive to stop Routis' flick from Tansey's cross landing in his net in the final minutes. There were a couple of further moments of consternation for Hearts - substitute Ryan Dow's shot was blocked before an offside flag - and they were grateful to hear the final whistle at the end.

Ross County (4-4-2): Fox; Naismith, Souttar, Fontaine, Fraser; O'Brien (Dow 82), Routis, Kait (Tansey 59), Keillor-Dunn; Ngog (Curran 75), Schalk.

Unused subs: McCarey, Effiong, McKay, Melbourne.

Hearts (4-1-4-1): McLaughlin; M Smith, Souttar, Berra, Mitchell; Adao; Cowie (McDonald 82), Callachan, Djoum (Irving 25), Milinkovic (Henderson 68); Lafferty.

Unused subs: Hamilton, Hughes, Randall, Buaben.

Referee: Craig Thomson.

Attendance: 4936.