Heart of Midlothian dropped points at home to Ross County in the Scottish Premiership. Steven Naismith's men fell 2-0 behind in the second-half but responded to earn a point.

Kenneth Vargas got Hearts back in it before Lawrence Shankland rolled in the equaliser. But they couldn't complete the turnaround to win it.

Joel and James look back at all the action from Gorgie...

READ MORE: Steven Naismith explains Beni Baningime's Hearts absence from squad

Mixed feelings

On the one hand, you have Hearts coming from two goals behind to earn a point but at the same time, it was a game where the team really should be winning. It becomes even more frustrating when you consider the team could have strengthened their hold of third even further. Kilmarnock drew at home to Dundee, Aberdeen were well beaten at home by St Mirren and Hibs weren't playing.

The battling quality to not throw the towel in and get something out of the game is a great attribute to have but it somewhat dents the momentum the team have built in recent weeks with big wins over Celtic and Hibs.

It also raises question marks about the home form. While the away form is much improved it is now the sixth game at Tynecastle Park the team have failed to win. They have now dropped points to Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Ross County in Gorgie.

Hearts struggle to deal with County's shape

Ross County have largely played in a 3-5-2 system, both under Malky Mackay and now Derek Adams. They switched it up for their visit to Tynecastle Park. They lined up in a 4-4-2 formation which resembled 4-2-2-2. They outnumbered Hearts in the middle of the pitch and got plenty of joy with Josh Sims and Yann Dhanda in central areas which allowed their full-backs to push into high positions to maintain width.

With Simon Murray a constant threat in behind and Jordan White an out ball, plus a numerical advantage in midfield it was the Staggies who were by far the better team in the first half. Hearts in their 3-5-2 shape couldn't cope. There were large gaps that Calem Nieuwenhof couldn't plug and Ross County were effective at getting players behind the Hearts midfield. It was the visitors who were creating more and better chances. It was a combination of the linesman's flag, Zander Clark in inspired form and some poor finishing that kept the score at 0-0.

Naismith was forced to change shape moving Alex Cochrane into the middle of the pitch and going 4-4-2 but it had little impact. A double change at half-time to go with more attacking width in a 4-2-3-1 seemed to work as it stopped the County full-backs moving high. But County continued to pose a counter-attacking threat which they opened the scoring from. Going 2-0 behind saw the system chance once more, this time to what was essentially a 4-2-4 with Kenneth Vargas joining Shankland in attack and Forrest and Oda out wide. 

Baningime conspicuous by his absence 

It is no coincidence that in Hearts’ run of seven wins in nine league games, Beni Baningime started each and every one. In fact, barring the final 20 minutes in the 1-0 win over Livingston that served as the starting gun for the team’s upturn in form, he played every minute of every game. 

Naismith explained before the game that the midfielder was being rested against County to prevent burnout, and his presence was sorely missed. Calem Nieuwenhof started the game in the No.6 position in his team-mate’s stead, but the Australian does not have the same level of composure on the ball. Without Baningime quietly keeping things ticking over at the base of midfield, Hearts struggled to string passes together and look after the ball. 

County’s second goal was a thing of beauty – Yan Dhanda curled in a magnificent free kick from 25 yards that Zander Clark had no chance of stopping – but it was entirely preventable, too. Nieuwenhof received the ball short from Clark, but lost it too easily before he brought down his man and gave away a free kick, from which County doubled their lead.  

The security provided by Baningime and his unflappable nature on the ball sometimes flies under the radar – but the midfield’s performance against County showed just how important the former Everton man is to Naismith’s team. 

Hearts finally show response 

The first goal in any football match is always important, but they have been almost definitive in Hearts games this season. There have been a few occasions where the men in maroon have let a lead slip (the 2-1 defeat at Ibrox, the 2-2 draw with Hibs at Tynecastle, and the 2-1 loss at Pittodrie earlier this month spring to mind) but they have regularly struggled to haul themselves back into a game after falling behind. 

Naismith’s men had not rescued a single point from a losing position on the domestic front this term before the County game. If they fell behind, they stayed behind. But if there is one positive from the 2-2 draw with the Staggies, it is that Hearts managed to salvage a point after falling two goals behind. The nature of the performance and the final result will understandably frustrate supporters, but the team’s response is undoubtedly a silver lining – one that has been absent all too often this season.

Duo don't grasp the opportunity

Alex Lowry and Kyosuke Tagawa came into the starting XI - two of three changes from the team that started against Hibs - as Naismith sought to freshen up the attack. In short, neither took their opportunity.

The Japanese striker continues his hunt for his first league goal since joining in the summer. He got one good opportunity but he turned it wide of the far post. However, it was more his all-round game that was lacking. He failed to hold the ball up effectively, while he was too often caught on his heels and Hearts needed him to get involved. He didn't react quickly enough as the game progressed. He simply looked off the pace.

As for Lowry you couldn't accuse him of a lack of involvement. It's just when he was involved he didn't provide Hearts with the creative presence he has at times this season.