Heart of Midlothian made it two away wins in a week with a 1-0 victory over Ross County in Dingwall, following on from the 2-1 success at Kilmarnock in the Viaplay Cup semi-final.

It was a familiar story in the first half for Hearts, a lot of possession but not many chances. The big moment came in the second half after Steven Naismith had made attacking changes, bringing Alex Lowry and Alan Forrest off the bench. Those two combined with the former setting up the latter for what proved to be the winner.

It left the 1,600 or so Hearts fans delighted and pushed the club into fourth in the Scottish Premiership table.

READ MORE: Denholm's Hearts journey: From playing for Grandma's petrol money to top of the world

System change

For just the second time this season, Steven Naismith opted for a back three. The first was in Thessaloniki, the most recent in Dingwall. The instant reaction was that the tweak was in response to County's front two which included Jordan White, an effective and awkward target man with the mobile Alex Samuel. The back line of Toby Sibbick, Frankie Kent and Kye Rowles kept the County front line under wraps, not giving them a sniff in the first half. The Staggies were direct but there was always cover to sweep up any loose balls. It saw Malky Mackay replace both forwards at half-time with Eamonn Brophy and Simon Murray coming on. It was a really positive defensive display. Sibbick and Rowles were comfortable while Kent continued the good start to his Hearts career with a faultless display, reading the game so well and then bringing a composure in possession.

Further ahead there was a tweak to what many expected the formation to be. Rather than Jorge Grant playing ahead of Calem Nieuwenhof and Aidan Denholm, he was alongside Denholm, in front of the Aussie. It ensured Grant got more space to get on the ball and move up the pitch and support. Twice he got chances at the edge of the box but failed to get clean contact on either. If anything the team lacked another creative or forward option, whether that was as part of the midfield or in the wide area.

READ MORE: The evolution of Cammy Devlin: From midfield dictator to Hearts' all-action man

Bench impact

As happened on Tuesday as Hearts progressed to the Viaplay Cup semi-final, Naismith's substitutions played a key role. On that evening it was Odel Offiah and Alex Lowry. On this occasion it was Lowry and Alan Forrest. The game had opened up as County started to come out of their shape, out of their shell. It was the perfect time for more attack-minded options with Naismith reluctant to change the shape due to the success of the defence. Despite all the injuries, it is encouraging to be able to turn around and see someone of the quality of Lowry, capable of unlocking defence, and the energy of Forrest, who will put in a shift, as he did in place of Offiah on the right. Hearts had little space in the final third in the first half but Lowry found some in the half space, able to turn and spin the perfect cross to meet the out to in run of Forrest. The connection may not be what he meant but his header dropped perfectly past Ross Laidlaw.

Denholm's big day

The day after signing a new three-year deal, Aidan Denholm was handed his first start since the loss at Dundee in August. The midfielder had mentioned a possible loan deal in January if it would help his development and bring him game time. Yet, here he was back in the midfield but in a slightly different role. The one thing you will get with Denholm is a great attitude and endeavour. That was seen when he flung himself in front of a Yann Dhanda shot, while in attack he read some slack County play to lead a positive attack but his decision to shoot was perhaps the wrong one with three passing options. A big issue once again was the domination of possession but the team lacked those big moments in the final third, something which is not a recognised part of the 19-year-old's game. With the match meandering it was no surprise to see Alex Lowry replace him in the second half to add more creative qualities. 

Momentum builder

Naismith called on the team to build momentum and consistency after the win over Kilmarnock. A defeat in Dingwall or poor performance would have been a frustration after midweek's success. A victory would continue to help turn the mood music, especially ahead of an Edinburgh derby. Thankfully for Hearts, it was the latter. Was it a glittering performance? No, the first half was similar to what had gone before but there were positive signs. There was a quicker start, there were chances created, mainly in the second half, and defensively the team didn't get turned easily, the way they have previously. More than that, winning games builds confidence. It keeps the mood very high around the dressing room, in training and the team will go into the derby with a spring in their step. It will be a happy week, starting with a look at the league table. The team are up to fourth, just two points behind third-place Rangers.

READ MORE: Steven Naismith on when Cammy Devlin will return and tactical changes - Q&A

Blunt County fail to get going

This was a well-earned three points for Hearts but Naismith's men were also given a helping hand by coming up against a particularly toothless Ross County team. The hosts had only mustered three shots on goal by half-time, resulting in Malky Mackay hauling off his strike partnership of Alex Samuel and Jordan White at the break and replacing them with Simon Murray and Eamonn Brophy. Unfortunately for the Staggies, though, the result was the same: they simply couldn't fashion clear-cut opportunities. 

It wasn't until second-half stoppage time that Zander Clark's goal was truly threatened, when Connor Randall connected with Jack Baldwin's cushioned header. The County midfielder drove his shot into the ground and the ball bounced harmlessly over the bar to ensure his team left empty-handed - and the lack of creativity on offer will surely concern Mackay and his coaching staff. Of the nine shots that Ross County attempted over the 90 minutes, only one was on target. When all was said and done, they had barely laid a glove on their opponents.