27 Feb MacDonald the hero as Kilmarnock cling on
Jamie MacDonald saved Kyle Lafferty’s stoppage-time penalty to deny his former club Hearts victory over Kilmarnock.
Eamonn Brophy had given Kilmarnock an early lead before former Rugby Park forward Steven Naismith netted his first goal for Hearts in the 27th minute and ultimately earned his side a 1-1 draw.
Jon McLaughlin made a brilliant last-minute stop to deny Jordan Jones before Hearts went up the field and won a penalty when Youssouf Mulumbu tripped Lafferty as he ran into the box.
But MacDonald got down to his left to hold Lafferty’s spot-kick before making another save from the same player.
The result kept Hearts two points above Killie in fifth place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, with the visitors extending their lead over Motherwell to two points with one game in hand.
Hearts had Aaron Hughes alongside Christophe Berra in central defence after John Souttar dropped out with a tight hamstring and they were caught out by Mulumbu’s up-and-under inside three minutes.
Berra got his head to the ball but not enough power to get it back to McLaughlin, and Brophy showed good strength to hold off the Scotland defender and fire underneath the advancing goalkeeper.
Brophy was up front without Kris Boyd, who was also nursing a hamstring problem, and he continued to cause problems as Killie enjoyed the better of the first quarter.
Hearts had to wait 25 minutes for their first sight of goal when MacDonald saved Lafferty’s long-range strike and Brophy came closer moments later after running on to Allan Power’s through-ball in the right channel. McLaughlin managed to divert his powerful strike off target.
Hearts were soon level. Killie right-back Stephen O’Donnell appeared to slip before David Milinkovic’s cross bounced behind him and Naismith stooped to head into the near corner.
Rory McKenzie came close from long range for the visitors and Berra denied Jordan Jones with a last-ditch tackle but Hearts got on top in the closing stages of the half. Killie needed an excellent goal-line clearance from Greg Taylor – via a post – to prevent Lafferty netting from six yards.
The start of the second half proved less eventful, not helped by a heavier flurry of snow which started to affect the run of the ball along the grass.
Naismith missed the best chance of a period of dominance for Hearts when he sent a free header wide from 12 yards after getting on the end of Don Cowie’s free-kick.
McLaughlin made three saves from substitute Lee Erwin before getting his fingertip to Jones’ header following a McKenzie cross, before the Hearts keeper was upstaged by his opposite number.