Pars and Hearts play out goalless draw
Hearts dropped yet more points in the Scottish Championship as they played out a 0-0 draw away at East End Park against Dunfermline. Jake Gray reports.
Dunfermline were looking to find their way back into a play-off spot following a disastrous midweek hammering at the hands of their Fife rivals, Raith Rovers. Hearts came into this one hoping to extend their lead at the top of the Championship, following a 2-3 defeat to Queen of the South last time out.
Vytas Gaspuitis made his first start for the Pars as he returned from Lithuanian international duties. Declan McManus came in, replacing on-loan Jambo Craig Wighton, while Dom Thomas and Iain Wilson also returned to the starting 11.
For Hearts, new signing Shay Logan made his first start since coming in from Aberdeen. Craig Gordon returned in goals after his time away with Scotland, while Euan Henderson and Peter Haring also came into the side.
Neither side were quick out the blocks, creating little in the way of chances in the opening 10 minutes of the match. The first chance fell to the home side in the 12th minute. Thomas whipped a free-kick in from the left and Haring sliced the ball back towards his own goal, forcing Gordon into making his first save of the match.
Just moments later, Hearts forced Owain Fon-Williams into his first save. Aaron McEneff picked the ball up on the left-hand side of the box and fired his shot at goal, but it wasn’t enough to trouble the Dunfermline keeper.
The best chance of the first half fell to Crystal Palace loanee, Scott Banks, after Declan McManus played an inch perfect through ball to provide the youngster with a clear shot at goal, but the onrushing Gordon did enough to put him off and Banks put his effort wide.
Both teams looked livelier towards the end of the second half, but a flurry of chances at either end of the pitch came to nothing and it remained scoreless at half time.
The Pars almost found a breakthrough shortly after the interval when Gaspuitis rattled the crossbar from a Thomas corner.
With both teams looking like they may find an opener, it was Hearts’ turn to come close. Andy Irving whipped in a corner from the right and Haring came ever so close to connecting with the ball from within the six-yard box, but the ball flashed across goal and out for a goal kick.
Liam Boyce was limited to few glimpses at goal; however, he must’ve thought he had opened the scoring for the Jambos when he got on the end of a Gary Mackay-Steven cross, but his header was saved brilliantly by Fon-Williams.
The visitors looked the more likely to take all three points, and in the 80th minute substitute Steven Naismith almost helped his side earn just that. The 34-year-old turned a Boyce cross towards goal, but the ball cannoned off the chest of Fon-Williams, who gratefully pounced on the loose ball.
Gordon has undoubtably won his side a lot of points this season, and in injury time he ensured his side returned to Gorgie with a point. Ewan Henderson did well to win the Pars a free kick on the left and Thomas delivered a cross that was met by the head of Euan Murray, who was denied by an outstanding save from Gordon.
Post Match Comments
Dunfermline manager Stevie Crawford was happy with his side’s performance following a 5-1 defeat against Raith Rovers on Tuesday:
“I thought it was the best team we could’ve faced after Tuesday night. I’m delighted with the reaction of the players. To go out and play against the team that’s probably going to win the league and keep a clean sheet and look dangerous on the counterattack is a positive reaction.
“The important thing is we’ve took a point today and we end up in the play-offs again. I believe in this group; our objective was to get in the play-offs, and we’ve got ourselves back in there.”
On the other hand, Hearts manager Robbie Neilson was disappointed that his side failed to come away with all three points:
“We always want to come and win games. Today we played against a team who were stuffy and made it really difficult for us to play. Our objective from the beginning of the season was to win the league, we’ve taken a small step today, but I’d have liked to have taken a bigger one.
“Dunfermline started the game looking to take a point, they tried to hit us on the counterattack and made it very difficult for us to get a flow in the game. Although we had a lot of good possession and we got into good areas, the final moment wasn’t quite there today.”
Hearts will now look ahead to their Friday night fixture against Alloa at Tynecastle, while the Pars will be hoping to get back to winning ways as they head to Somerset Park to take on Ayr United.