Kilmarnock held at home in Hearts stalemate to start post-split fixtures

Kilmarnock had the woodwork to thank as they got their post-split fixtures underway with a 0-0 draw at home to Hearts.

The stalemate ensured the Rugby Park side's remarkable run of just one league defeat since their return from the winter break continued - but they can count themselves lucky as the visitors rattled the bar twice in the first half.

Both teams looked to go on the offensive but chances created in the early stages were few and far between. But it was the home side who looked the greater threat with Stuart Findlay heading over under pressure on two minutes while a sturdy defensive effort saw the away side nod the ball clear of danger on several occasions as Killie peppered the box with crosses.

Matty Kennedy looked to open the scoring on 17 minutes when he was afforded space to cut in from the left flank but could only curl wide, while at the other end Will Dennis had to be alert to race from goal and punch the ball clear as Cammy Devlin looked to latch onto a clever lobbed pass behind the Killie defence.

Hearts cut open the defence moments later with a neat passing move in and around the box eventually seeing Lawrence Shankland tee up the unmarked Kenneth Vargas unable to take advantage as his angled drive cannoned back off the crossbar.

They would hit the bar for a second time on 38 minutes when, moments after Dennis had produced a terrific save with his legs to deny Jorge Grant from close range, Cammy Devlin curled a wonderful effort from the edge of the box that clipped the corner of crossbar and post.

Having been overrun somewhat in the centre of the park during the first half, Derek McInnes elected for a tactical change at the break by replacing left-back Robbie Deas for central midfielder Brad Lyons.

Despite that, it was still the Tynecastle club who created the better of the chances with Dennis again in fine form. The on loan Bournemouth keeper produced a smart double save to deny Grant just after the hour mark. He got down low to get his hands on the first attempt before diverting the rebound wide for a corner when the Hearts man looked set to open the scoring.

The hosts offered little with Kyle Vassell's neat turn and strike from distance that stung the hands of Zander Clark being their best effort.

Both teams went searching for a late winner but lacked the cutting edge to find a pivotal goal with Clark at his best to deny Marley Watkins from close range in the game's final moments.

Kilmarnock: Dennis; Mayo, Findlay, Wright (Ndaba 82), Deas (Lyons 45); Armstrong (Mackay-Steven 77), Polworth (Watson 77), Donnelly, Kennedy; Vassell (Van Veen 77), Watkins. Subs not used: O'Hara, McKenzie, Murray, Cameron.

Hearts: Clark; Rowles, Kent, Kingsley; Lembikisa, Devlin (Denholm 82), Grant (McKay 82), Baningime (Tait 45), Cochrane; Shankland, Vargas (Forrest 74). Subs not used: Gordon, Oda, Sibbick, Fraser, Tagawa.

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