A FIRST-HALF penalty consigned Hearts to a frustrating defeat at Rugby Park in the SPL this afternoon.
Kilmarnock: Kelly (25, pen)
The Edinburgh side dominated possession against Kilmarnock but passed up a string of chances after Liam Kelly had slotted home from the spot.
Killie keeper Cammy Bell was in fine form to deny Hearts, who now head to Ross County on league business this Saturday.
Hearts manager John McGlynn again went with two up front, starting with Gordon Smith and John Sutton in attack after the victory over Dundee United at the weekend.
Young hitman Smith is keen to impress when given the chance and took only a couple of minutes to combine with his strike partner and tee up Andrew Driver for a shot.
Although his effort went high over the bar, it signalled Hearts’ attacking intent from the off.
Killie broke forward with just over 20 minutes on the clock and when Cillian Sheridan whipped the ball in from the right it looked as though they would break the deadlock, only for Ryan McGowan to produce a brilliant challenge in the box just as James Dayton was about to pull the trigger.
Ryan Stevenson netted twice last week and tried his luck from range at Rugby Park. His shot didn’t have too much power in it but it seemed to catch Cammy Bell out, the keeper managing to scramble across his goal to fingertip it away and Sutton’s chase with Michael Nelson to reach the loose ball just a yard or two out ended with the referee blowing for a foul in favour of the home side.
Killie were awarded a spot kick in 25 minutes when Andy Webster brought Dayton down inside the box after a surging run.
Up stepped Liam Kelly and he showed a cool head to send Jamie MacDonald the wrong way, the keeper diving to his left and the Killie player slotting the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Hearts themselves had the ball in the back of the net before half-time – and it was a peach of a finish from Smith – but the referee blew just as it thundered beyond Bell, judging a jump from Sutton in the build-up
to have been a foul on Mohamadou Sissoko.
Despite the scoreline, Hearts were certainly creating chances and Smith looked the most likely to be the man to score, a header from him could only have been a matter of inches away just before the break.
There were no changes at half-time but Hearts again came close.
This time they were only denied by a brilliant one-handed save from Bell, the goalie rising to his left to push Driver’s curling effort over the bar for a corner.
Then it was Taouil’s turn, McGowan’s cross from the right being knocked into his path and again Bell was called upon, making himself tall and blocking with both hands outstretched in front of him.
One of the best chances of the match fell to sub Callum Paterson when a long ball out of defence set him free but again Bell was more than equal to him, standing up well and managing to block the shot.
In the dying minutes Marius Zaliukas was booked for pulling down Paul Heffernan and from the free kick, just outside the area, Sheridan was unfortunate to see his bending effort go just the wrong side of MacDonald’s post.
Hearts threw MacDonald up front as time ticked away but there was nothing the keeper could do to rescue a point for the Tynecastle club.
10 Dayton (McKenzie - 82’ )
15 Perez (Johnson - 37’ )
14 Heffernan (O’Leary - 90’ )
Heart of Midlothian
05 Barr (Novikovas - 70’ )
10 Taouil (Robinson - 85’ )
12 Smith (Paterson - 63’ )