A point earned away from home is rarely a cause for soul-searching but Hearts really need to take a good look at themselves after this insipid display. Bloodless and witless, they were lucky in as much as their opponents were only marginally better.
Hearts have now won only three of 17 away matches against top-tier opposition this season and there was no shortage of evidence here as to why that might be the case.
Manager Ian Cathro kept faith with the same team which overcame Dundee at Tynecastle last weekend but neither team impressed during opening exchanges which could best be described as tentative.
Esmael Goncalves appealed for a penalty after quarter of an hour when he went down following a challenge from Kristoffer Ajer but the on-loan Celt appeared to have won the ball cleanly.
This was a lacklustre fare; indeed, it took 29 minutes before there was a noteworthy attempt on goal, a dipping half-volley from the edge of the penalty area from Sean Longstaff which cleared Jack Hamilton’s crossbar.
Hearts, though, offered nothing. There was plenty of sterile possession but no end product. Goncalves was not so much feeding off scraps as on hunger strike.
Neither side recorded an effort on target during a drab opening 45 minutes, which must have had BT Sport executives reconsidering their idea to offer exclusive coverage of the Scottish game.
The home side were the more enterprising of the two (which is not saying a great deal) and Callum Roberts cut in from the right flank to fire a shot into the side netting three minutes after the restart.
Iain Wilson sent a 20-yarder wide of Hamilton’s right-hand post immediately afterwards. Hearts replaced Prince Buaben, once again deputising in the centre of defence, with Rory Currie as they switched to something resembling a 4-3-3. Lee McCulloch’s (pictured) men continued to press and Kris Boyd got on the end of a Luke Hendrie cross but sent his header yards wide. Boyd ought to have broken the deadlock in the 58th minute when Gary Dicker cleverly cushioned a header into the striker’s path only for him to blaze over the bar from 12 yards. Hearts could point to the fact that they registered the first effort on target in the 68th minute, although Goncalves’ looping header from Liam Smith’s deep cross never looked like troubling goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
Arnaud Djoum then shot straight into the Englishman’s arms from 25 yards. The visitors, in truth, did not bring much to the party. This was an antiseptic display, which failed to quicken the pulse of the dwindling band of travelling supporters.
Assistant-manager Austin McPhee passed a succession of notes to his players but either his handwriting is poor or he needs a new game plan because they failed to improve his side’s performance. In fact, following their brief revival, Hearts sunk back into the torpor which had engulfed them from the kick-off. Fortunately for them, the hosts were so bereft of inspiration that their own failings were not exploited.
Boyd almost won it at the death, however. Currie brought down Ajer 20 yards out and the striker’s free-kick went under the wall but wide of the far post. Hearts moved a point closer to St Johnstone but, in this form, there is little likelihood of catching them.