Scottish Premiership
Ross CountyRoss County2HeartsHeart of Midlothian2

Ross County 2-2 Hearts: Kingsley's fine free-kick maintains visitors unbeaten start

By Nick McPheatBBC Scotland
Liam Boyce goal v County
Liam Boyce's early opener for Hearts set the tone for a brilliant game

Stephen Kingsley's superb second-half free-kick ensured Hearts maintained their unbeaten Scottish Premiership start as Ross County still search for a first league win under Malky Mackay.

Liam Boyce gave the visitors an early lead against his former club, but Blair Spittal cancelled out the finish two minutes later in Dingwall.

In a pulsating first half, Spittal added a second just before the break.

But Kingsley's fine strike earned Hearts a draw in a top-flight thriller.

Robbie Neilson's men pushed for a winner, but the point means his side remain third - level on points with Hibernian, who are in top spot, and Rangers, who have played a game fewer, in second.

As for County, the result keeps the Highlanders in 11th.

With both managers naming attack-minded sides, the hope was we would be in for a treat. What followed did not disappoint.

Craig Gordon got away with one early when Ross Callachan failed to capitalise on the Hearts keeper's poor clearance, and the County midfielder was made to pay when straight up the other end Gary Mackay-Steven slipped in Boyce whose deflected finish opened the scoring.

But the hosts responded instantly, as Jordan White's impressive hold-up play resulted in the striker laying off Spittal to steer a low shot from the edge of the area into the far corner.

Another three or four first-half goals would not have flattered Hearts. Barrie McKay had two close-range efforts blocked and Armand Gnanduillet forced Ashley Maynard-Brewer into two fine saves.

County could have argued the same, with White mistiming a golden opportunity and Callachan seeing a sliding effort at the back post sail just over.

However, unlike Hearts, County would take one of their other first-half chances as Regan Charles-Cook worked his way to the byeline and slid a ball across to Spittal who finished from close range via a big deflection.

The Highlanders could have added to their lead shortly after the interval when Callachan could only put a back-post effort the wrong side of the post.

But they would find themselves level soon after when Kingsley curled a brilliant free-kick into the top-left corner.

Hearts pushed for a winner, with Boyce heading just wide and Jamie Walker forcing Maynard-Brewer into a another fine save.

Yet, it was County who came closest to snatching the three points when substitute Joseph Hungbo's shot was cleared off the line by John Souttar and White could not divert the rebound on target.

Man of the match - Ashley Maynard-Brewer

Ashley Maynard-Brewer
The County keeper could do nothing about the two goals he conceded and had a fine debut on the whole, making a string of eye-catching saves that proved valuable in the end

What did we learn?

Neilson named an attacking side, and if his team were more clinical in the first half it would have been a justified decision.

But in a defensive sense it hampered the visitors. The introduction of Cammy Devlin gave Hearts far more control, and perhaps if the midfielder started the Tynecastle side might be going back to Edinburgh with three points.

Mackay said last week after defeat at Celtic he is seeing signs his team is getting to where he wants them to be, and on the basis of their showing against Hearts it is hard to argue with that.

The County boss will be chasing that first win, but considering the fixtures they have had to contend with in their opening six games, three points is not the worst return as they head into a more favourable run of games.

What did they say?

Ross County manager Malky Mackay: "I'm really pleased we went toe-to-toe with one of the best sides in the league. The opening six fixtures have been exceptionally tough. I'm delighted with the way the group is coming together.

"The goals we scored were of excellent quality and overall I've got to be really pleased with my team. It's a brand new group of players that are still moulding."

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson: "In possession we were outstanding at times. We moved the ball quickly and got into some fantastic areas. The big disappointment is the sloppiness of the two goals we conceded. We didn't defend them properly.

"First half we created six or seven clear-cut chances and we end up going in 2-1 down. Two weeks in a row we've played against keepers that have been given the man of the match award."

What's next?

County travel to Fir Park next Saturday (15:00 BST) to face Motherwell, while Hearts kick off at home to Livingston at the same time.

Player of the match

Maynard-BrewerAshley Maynard-Brewer

with an average of 7.19

Ross County

  1. Squad number31Player nameMaynard-Brewer
    Average rating

    7.19

  2. Squad number6Player namePaton
    Average rating

    7.15

  3. Squad number7Player nameSpittal
    Average rating

    7.04

  4. Squad number5Player nameBaldwin
    Average rating

    6.77

  5. Squad number24Player namePaton
    Average rating

    6.58

  6. Squad number16Player nameIacovitti
    Average rating

    6.46

  7. Squad number22Player nameTillson
    Average rating

    6.27

  8. Squad number8Player nameCallachan
    Average rating

    6.25

  9. Squad number18Player nameBurroughs
    Average rating

    5.73

  10. Squad number23Player nameHungbo
    Average rating

    5.63

  11. Squad number11Player nameRobertson
    Average rating

    5.58

  12. Squad number15Player nameWatson
    Average rating

    5.31

  13. Squad number17Player nameCharles-Cook
    Average rating

    5.28

  14. Squad number26Player nameWhite
    Average rating

    4.85

Heart of Midlothian

  1. Squad number10Player nameBoyce
    Average rating

    6.65

  2. Squad number14Player nameDevlin
    Average rating

    6.41

  3. Squad number3Player nameKingsley
    Average rating

    6.36

  4. Squad number9Player nameWoodburn
    Average rating

    6.32

  5. Squad number1Player nameGordon
    Average rating

    6.25

  6. Squad number7Player nameWalker
    Average rating

    6.18

  7. Squad number21Player nameGnanduillet
    Average rating

    6.02

  8. Squad number15Player nameMoore
    Average rating

    5.99

  9. Squad number4Player nameSouttar
    Average rating

    5.96

  10. Squad number6Player nameBaningime
    Average rating

    5.94

  11. Squad number18Player nameMcKay
    Average rating

    5.91

  12. Squad number11Player nameMackay-Steven
    Average rating

    5.85

  13. Squad number19Player nameHalkett
    Average rating

    5.60

Line-ups

Ross County

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 31Maynard-Brewer
  • 5BaldwinBooked at 73mins
  • 16Iacovitti
  • 6Paton
  • 18Burroughs
  • 7SpittalSubstituted forRobertsonat 56'minutes
  • 22Tillson
  • 24PatonBooked at 64mins
  • 8CallachanSubstituted forWatsonat 83'minutes
  • 26White
  • 17Charles-CookSubstituted forHungboat 89'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Laidlaw
  • 4Cancola
  • 9Samuel
  • 10Samuel
  • 11Robertson
  • 15Watson
  • 23Hungbo

Hearts

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 1Gordon
  • 15Moore
  • 19Halkett
  • 4Souttar
  • 18McKay
  • 9WoodburnBooked at 42minsSubstituted forWalkerat 65'minutes
  • 6Baningime
  • 3Kingsley
  • 11Mackay-StevenSubstituted forDevlinat 56'minutes
  • 10Boyce
  • 21Gnanduillet

Substitutes

  • 5Haring
  • 7Walker
  • 8McEneff
  • 13Stewart
  • 14Devlin
  • 16Halliday
  • 17Cochrane
Referee:
David Dickinson
Attendance:
3,802

Match Stats

Home TeamRoss CountyAway TeamHearts
Possession
Home37%
Away63%
Shots
Home9
Away17
Shots on Target
Home5
Away5
Corners
Home3
Away9
Fouls
Home16
Away10

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Ross County 2, Heart of Midlothian 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Ross County 2, Heart of Midlothian 2.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Jordan White (Ross County) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

  4. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Joseph Hungbo (Ross County) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jordan White.

  5. Post update

    Offside, Heart of Midlothian. Armand Gnanduillet tries a through ball, but Jamie Walker is caught offside.

  6. Post update

    Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Ben Paton.

  7. Post update

    Foul by Cameron Devlin (Heart of Midlothian).

  8. Post update

    Alex Robertson (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Substitution

    Substitution, Ross County. Joseph Hungbo replaces Regan Charles-Cook.

  10. Post update

    Attempt missed. John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Taylor Moore.

  11. Post update

    Attempt saved. Jack Burroughs (Ross County) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Keith Watson with a cross.

  12. Post update

    Attempt missed. Keith Watson (Ross County) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Alex Iacovitti with a headed pass following a corner.

  13. Post update

    Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Taylor Moore.

  14. Post update

    Jamie Walker (Heart of Midlothian) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  15. Post update

    Foul by Jack Burroughs (Ross County).

  16. Post update

    Foul by Jamie Walker (Heart of Midlothian).

  17. Post update

    Harrison Paton (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  18. Substitution

    Substitution, Ross County. Keith Watson replaces Ross Callachan.

  19. Post update

    Attempt missed. Craig Halkett (Heart of Midlothian) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Barrie McKay with a cross following a corner.

  20. Post update

    Corner, Heart of Midlothian. Conceded by Regan Charles-Cook.

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Hibernian6330126612
2Rangers5401104612
3Hearts633095412
4Motherwell531185310
5Celtic5302163139
6Aberdeen62226608
7Dundee Utd521224-27
8St Johnstone613234-16
9St Mirren6042512-74
10Dundee5032411-73
11Ross County6033513-83
12Livingston501429-71
View full Scottish Premiership table

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