Hearts manager Robbie Neilson praised the “outstanding” Barrie McKay after the former Rangers winger made his first start in a 2-2 draw with Ross County.
McKay earned a promotion after making his debut off the bench against Hibernian last weekend and the 26-year-old was handed an unexpected 90 minutes of action in Dingwall.
Stephen Kingsley was the Hearts hero after his excellent free-kick rescued a point after Blair Spittal’s double had cancelled out Liam Boyce’s early opener.
But Neilson took plenty of encouragement from the impact made by McKay, who left Swansea in the summer, and debutant Cammy Devlin, who made an impact from midfield after coming on in the 56th minute.
“I was delighted with them,” Neilson told Hearts TV. “We spoke to Barrie before the game and thought we’d get 60-70 (minutes). But he was playing that well we thought, if we take him off we are losing a really attacking threat.
“I thought he was outstanding. The chances he created, the movement, was top quality.”
Hearts missed the chance to move top of the cinch Premiership after spurning some good chances and finding home debutant Ashley Maynard-Brewer in good form in the County goal.
Boyce netted a deflected opener in the ninth minute but Spittal struck from 22 yards two minutes after an exchange of passes with Jordan White.
And the County skipper slotted home off John Souttar seconds before the break after good wing play from Regan Charles-Cook.
Neilson said: “In possession I thought we were really good. We had loads of possession, moved it well, got into some brilliant areas for our wide players and strikers.
“First half we had six or seven clear-cut chances and ended up coming in 2-1 down.
“In possession was good, I’m just disappointed with the goals we lost. Direct balls, we knew what was going to happen and didn’t deal with it properly.
“It’s Scottish football at times, when you play against teams they won’t play through the middle, they will turn you and they will get up on it.
“There will be days it will fall for them, days when it doesn’t fall for them. Today was one of those days when it fell for Ross County twice and they managed to score.”
County boss Malky Mackay was largely satisfied after their third draw from a difficult start to the season, but they came close to their first win when Souttar cleared off the line from Joseph Hungbo in stoppage time.
“Hearts are a terrific team and you can see the size of their squad,” Mackay told RCFCTV. “Interestingly, they changed their shape and we coped with that and caused them problems.
“It was always going to be tough and there was always going to be a period when they were coming at us.
“But despite the amount of attacks and crosses they had in the second half, we still had the nous to go up the park and on another day we should win that with the last chance.
“We created chances of our own during the game and I’ve got to be really happy about the quality of our goals.”
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