An Iain Vigurs goal a minute into injury time saved a point for Ross County against in-form Hearts at a cold and windy Global Energy Stadium in Dingwall today.
The game which was the only SPL fixture of the weekend took place on a pitch which wasn’t in a great condition with one side of the ground looking more like a desert than a grass football pitch.
Ross County had taken an early lead in the first half through Rocco Quinn, but goals from Michael Ngoo and Jamie Walker looked to have secured all three points for Hearts before a late effort from Iain Vigurs meant both sides finished with a point a piece.
This game was originally meant to take place at the end of last year; however it was called off with less than an hour to go before kick-off.
The Staggies had the first chance of the game on six minutes when Scott Boyd headed over from a great in-swinging corner from Ross County captain Richard Brittain.
Hearts replied almost instantly when Mark Brown was forced into a save when young Jambo Billy King fired away a low strike from only a couple of yards out however Brown did well in diving low to save the ball.
The Jambos had a brilliant chance to take the lead on ten minutes when Jason Holt played through a fantastic through ball to Jamie Stevenson who was unlucky to see his low strike hit the side netting.
Ross County took the lead on 20 minutes with ex-Celtic midfielder Rocco Quinn putting the Highlanders in front when his shot from just outside was deflected off a number of bodies before nestling in the Hearts goal.
The Jam Tarts went in search of an equaliser and nearly found one when Stevenson again found himself clear on the County goal after a great through ball from Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas, however Stevenson could only swipe at the ball and his effort ended up going just wide of Browns goal.
But Hearts were not to be denied and they eventually got the equaliser their play deserved on 31 minutes through Liverpool loanee Michael Ngoo.
The Scouser managed to outmuscle both Grant Munro and Scott Boyd before slotting the ball past Brown from 10 yards out.
Ross County nearly got another goal before half time; however Vigurs long distance effort was tipped over the bar by Hearts keeper Jamie MacDonald.
Into the second half and County youngster Alex Cooper misses a great chance to put the Highlanders in front as his stinging shot from just outside the box curls wide of MacDonald’s goal.
With an hour gone, Hearts took the lead as Jamie Walker scored his first ever senior goal for the Edinburgh side. It was another Hearts youngster who set up Walker as Fraser Mullen put in a terrific whipping cross to Walker whose diving header powered the ball into the far bottom corner past a diving Mark Brown.
Hearts then nearly extended their lead but were denied by the diving hands of Mark Brown. The keeper was called into action when Ngoo laid up Stevenson whose shot was looking deemed for the bottom corner before Brown got his hands to it.
Paul Lawson then with twenty minutes to go looked to have got County back on level terms when he had a shot from just outside the box however MacDonald managed to save the defenders effort.
On 85 minutes Scotland international Andy Webster was presented with the perfect opportunity to secure all three points for Hearts however his shot from just inside the box was tipped just over the bar by Brown.
Webster would live to regret not burying that chance as Ross County finally found their equaliser a minute into injury time with Iain Vigurs scoring the important goal.
Richard Brittain had initially threaded the ball through to German striker Steffen Wohlfarth whose initial effort was only palmed into the path of Vigurs who made no mistake in chipping the ball into the back of the net to give the Staggies a share of the spoils.
Ross County now sit in tenth on 29 points from 24 games while Hearts are a point ahead of Ross County in eighth place. Next up for Ross County is a trip to Dens Park on Friday night to face basement battlers Dundee in the SPL while Hearts will also travel to the city of discovery next Saturday as they take on Dundee United at Tannadice.
After the game Ross County manager Derek Adams spoke of County intention on catching the teams above them: “Yeah we got what we deserved today. I thought we played very well in the first half and deserved to be one nil up. It’s another good point for us, it helps us to move up our points total. Just delighted with the performance and getting the point. We are trying to catch the likes of Hibs and Aberdeen and we are a point closer today and we still have a game in hand over both sides so we are doing exceptionally well.”
Hearts manager John McGlynn was happy with the team’s performance but believed they should have left the Highlands with all three points: “Yeah totally a great result, we kept going right to the end which you should do and they put us under pressure towards the end. I felt we merited all three points. Disappointed to lose two points but I have to be very positive with another good performance from us. We played some great football and lost the goal against the run of play and we had a great chance to go in front before that.”
Ross County: Mark Brown, Grant Munro, Scott Boyd, Paul Lawson, Richard Brittain, Iain Vigurs, Rocco Quinn, Sam Morrow (Steffan Wohlfarth), Evangelos Oikonomou, Alex Cooper (Gary Glen), Mihael Kocacevic.
Subs not used: Michael Fraser, Stuart Kettlewell, Andre Hainault, Archie MacPhee, Tony Dingwall.
Hearts: Jamie MacDonald, Danny Wilson, Andrew Webster, Ryan Stevenson, Jamie Walker (Arvydas Novikovas ), Jason Holt (Darren Barr), Michael Ngoo, Marius Zaliukas, Callum Tapping (Dylan McGowan), Fraser Mullen, Billy King.
Subs not used: Mark Ridgers, John Sutton, Medhi Taouil, Andrew Driver.
Referee: Stephen Finnie