McGOWNE STRIKE EARNS KILLIE A POINT
By Nic Evans
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Despite dominating the first period, which included a missed penalty, Killie fell behind to a counter-attacking goal, Andy Kirk slotting in Steven Boyack's cross in the 50th minute.
However, Kilmarnock were back on level terms just three minutes later, defender Kevin McGowne curling in a beauty of a free-kick from 25 yards.
Indeed Killie will be wondering how they did not go onto win the game, as Finnish keeper Antii Niemi (pictured) was in superb form for the visitors, whilst the woodwork kept out Cristophe Cocard's effort from a great low cross from Antonio Calderon.
It was Kilmarnock that took the game to their visitors, and they could have gone in front as early as the fourth minute when Calderon's long-range effort was brilliantly tipped over by Niemi.
Hearts always looked dangerous on the break and in the 12th minute, Stephane Adam launched a highly-effective charge, receiving the ball off Colin Cameron and getting to the edge of the box before his floated cross failed to find any of the on-rushing strikers.
Justice was seen to be done eight minutes later as Steven Pressley was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box, if anything the ball seemed to go off his chest onto the top of his arm.
When Cocard stepped up to take the spot-kick his powerful shot cannoned off the inside of the post and hit Niemi's back.
The keeper quickly turned around to stop the ball rolling over the line, much to the relief of Pressley and his team-mates.
It was Niemi again to the rescue of Hearts in the 23rd minute, a mistake by Andy Webster, allowing the ball to go under his feet, let Andy McClaren in but his shot was parried around the post by the Finn for a corner.
Although there had been a bright start, the game petered out in the first half with Killie in the ascendancy.
Just five minutes into the second period and this had been turned on its head by a move involving Adam and Boyack, easily finished by Kirk which gave Hearts the lead.
An unsavoury incident which led up to the Killie equaliser saw Alan Mahood upended on the edge of the box.
In clearing the ball, Lee Makel appeared to stamp on Mahood although no further action was taken on the former Blackburn and Newcastle player.
After the wall was pulled back the required distance, Niemi seemed to have left himself exposed, but this is to take nothing away from McGowne's superb strike that the keeper watched curl away from him and into the top corner of the net.
Kilmarnock will feel they could and perhaps should have gone onto win the game, Cocard stealing in at the back post to hit the ball into the ground in the 57th minute only for Niemi again to tip it around the upright.
The 65th minute provided the home side with their best chance, Calderon got free on the left and whipped in a wicked low cross that Cocard slid onto the post from an acute angle.
With time winding down, both sides made a couple of substitutions, but neither team could conjure up a winner and the game ended in parity.