A GOALLESS draw at Tynecastle saw Hearts claw back another point in their battle against relegation from the Scottish Premiership.
Second-bottom St Mirren do not play Aberdeen until Monday, meaning this point against Dundee United took the Edinburgh club to minus seven.
They remain eight points behind St Mirren - who visit Tynecastle next Saturday - but will have been encouraged by another spirited home display. Indeed, Hearts might have finished the victors had Dylan McGowan’s strike in the first half not been disallowed for an alleged push on the United goalkeeper Radoslaw Cierzniak.
United seized the initiative from kick-off and pressed into the home half, although the hosts broke forward quickly when the chance arose. Cierzniak dealt with speculative efforts from Jason Holt and David Smith before Stuart Armstrong shot over the Hearts crossbar.
John Rankin darted into the inside-left channel to drive a left-footed shot at Jamie MacDonald after 23 minutes. Although the goalkeeper spilled the ball, no United player was close enough to capitalise on a fine opportunity as MacDonald lay grounded.
Hearts began asserting themselves more towards the end of the first period. On 34 minutes, Cierzniak took to the air to push Jamie Hamill’s dangerous 25-yard strike over the bar. From the resultant corner, Danny Wilson headed over.
The hosts were denied an opening goal moments later when Cierzniak appeared to misjudge Callum Paterson’s long throw and McGowan converted at the back post. As the Australian ran off to celebrate, the assistant referee’s flag signalled a push on the goalkeeper. From first glance, there didn’t appear to be much of an infringement.
At the opposite end, the United full-back Keith Watson stung MacDonald’s palms with half-time looming. The whistle sounded with the home support sensing an injustice over their team’s disallowed goal.
The first meaningful effort after the restart came from United’s Nadir Ciftci, whose 20-yard drive was beaten away by MacDonald. The same player tried again on 65 minutes, only to be denied by Hamill’s crucial block almost on the goal line.
Ryan Stevenson returned from injury to take Holt’s place on 71 minutes in an effort to prise open the well-organised United defence.
The final stages of the game became end-to-end as both teams chased a winner. Play was often interrupted due to fouls aimed at breaking the rhythm of an opponent. In the end, neither side could secure three points and had to settle for one apiece.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; McGhee, McGowan, Wilson, McHattie; Hamill, Robinson (Tapping 46); Walker, Holt (Stevenson 71), Smith (B King 64); Paterson. Subs: Ridgers, McKay, Carrick, Oliver.
Dundee Utd (4-2-3-1): Cierzniak; Watson, Souttar, Dillon, Robertson; Paton, Rankin; Ciftci, Gauld (Mackay-Steven 67), Armstrong; Goodwillie. Subs: McCallum, Dow, Butcher, Graham, Wilson, Petrie.
Referee: Steven McLean.