Hearts secure Europa League spot with a goalless draw
HEARTS and Inverness played out a dire goalless draw that was enough to book the Jambos' place in next season's Europa League.
The point put Robbie Neilson's side 16 clear of fourth-placed Motherwell, crowning an impressive first season back in the top flight. Of the brief chances either side had, Hearts had the better of them but neither side displayed any real urgency, or forced too many saves. For Inverness, the draw brings them a point closer to Dundee and Partick Thistle above them but is not enough to shift them out of ninth place.
Caley Thistle named an unchanged side from the one that beat Dundee United 2-0 last Saturday. Hearts, meanwhile, made three changes from the team that lost 2-1 to Aberdeen four days ago. Prince Buaben, Sam Nicholson and Igor Rossi came out for Dario Zanatta, Miguel Pallardo and Juwon Oshaniwa.
Neither side had much to play for in the Highlands, with Inverness effectively clear of relegation trouble and Hearts facing an uphill struggle to catch second-placed Aberdeen. A turgid opening spell of the game reflected the lack of meaning to the game, with the only real talking point being Ross Draper's heavy challenge that left Pallardo limping.
Referee Don Robertson was probably the busiest man of the first half, carding three players in a five-minute spell. Jamie Walker was booked for diving after claiming Carl Tremarco brought him down, while shortly after both Iain Vigurs and Arnaud Djoum saw yellow for clashing in the middle of the park.
The first chance of a tepid opening period came from an unlikely source, as Josh Meekings was granted the freedom of the Caledonian Stadium to stride forward. He took aim from 30 yards and it looked like it was fizzing towards goal, until Neil Alexander got a fingertip on it. Callum Paterson responded with an effort of his own just before the break that Owain Fon Williams parried but the sides went in at the break level.
Hearts started the second-half with more intensity and Zanatta came inches away from getting a touch on Juanma's cross, which rolled across the face of Fon Williams' goal. But it did not last through the remainder of the game as neither side looked capable of scoring.
Substitute Abiola Dauda blasted one into the stands with 20 minutes to go and after being teed up well by Djoum, saw a one-on-one chance blocked by Fon Williams, but neither side was capable of producing enough quality to claim the three points.
Inverness CT: Fon Williams, Meekings, Warren, Devine, Tremarco, Draper, Tansey, Vigurs, Polworth, Storey (Danny Williams 76), Mbuyi-Mutombo (Vincent 46); Subs Not Used: Esson, Ryan Williams, Foran, Horner, Hughes; Booked: Vigurs.
Hearts: Alexander, Souttar, Ozturk, Augustyn, Oshaniwa (Nicholson 81), Zanatta (Dauda 65), Pallardo (Paterson 38), Kitchen, Djoum, Delgado, Walker; Subs Not Used: Hamilton, Reilly, McGhee, Liam Smith; Booked: Walker, Djoum, Augustyn.
Ref: D Robertson (Scotland).