HEARTS and Hibernian both spurned the chance to topple Rangers as cinch Premiership leaders this afternoon when the first Edinburgh derby of the new season finished goalless at Tynecastle.

The capital rivals were both undefeated after four matches and had the opportunity to leapfrog the Ibrox club, who beat St Johnstone 2-1 at McDiarmid Park yesterday to go top, with a victory.

However, keepers Craig Gordon and Matt Macey were in inspired form between the sticks; both men pulled off a string of excellent saves to ensure their sides picked up a point apiece.

Kevin Nisbet had shrugged off a thigh injury and played for Scotland against Moldova and Austria during the international break.

However, he was unable to make a proper connection with a Chris Cadden delivery in the seventh minute. It was the first of a fair few near things in a frenetic first 45 minutes.

Beni Baningme, the former Everton kid who joined Hearts this summer after spending loan spells at Derby County and Wigan Athletic, dealt with the relentless pace and feverish intensity of play well despite it being his first experience of the fixture.

The Congolese-English midfielder helped create Hearts’ first scoring opportunity when he won the ball just outside the Hibs area and supplied Gary Mackay-Steven. The winger teed up Ben Woodburn and the Liverpool loanee fired just over.

A Joe Newell delivery struck the top of the Hearts crossbar in the 17th minute, but Gordon, who had played for the national team in all three of their Qatar 2022 qualifiers, seemed unconcerned with the danger it posed.    

Stephen Kingsley, brought back into the Hearts side at left centre back as Andy Halliday dropped to the bench, picked out Liam Boyce from wide on the left, but the striker, on a four game scoring streak, failed to get his header on target.

Macey, the Hibs goalkeeper, was equal to an ambitious long-range effort from Mackay-Steven shortly after that. But it was his opposite number Gordon who ensured the score was level at half-time. He denied Martin Boyle twice to keep Hearts level.

His second save showed why he is back in the starting line-up for his country. Boyle shrugged aside the close attentions of Baningme and rifled a dipping shot at the bottom left corner. The keeper got the slightest of touches to his attempt and diverted it past his right post.  

The first booking of the match came two minutes after the second-half got underway when referee Nick Walsh ruled that Alex Cochrane had fouled Cadden in his own half. Newell was shown a yellow card soon after for holding Mackay-Steven.

Kyle Magennis should have put Hibs in front on the hour mark when he intercepted an underhit pass from John Souttar to his fellow centre half Craig Halkett just outside the Hearts penalty box. He jinked forward and fired straight at Gordon.

The home side responded to that near thing immediately. Woodburn played a defence-splitting pass to the feet of Mackay-Steven and only an outstanding reaction save from Macey prevented the wide man from breaking the deadlock.

The former Arsenal player came to his team’s rescue just moments later when the same player tried his luck from 20 yards out. Both goalies were in fine form. They certainly needed to be.  

Robbie Neilson put on Josh Ginnelly for Mackay-Steven and handed debuts to Taylor Moore and Barrie McKay, who came on for Michael Smith and Woodburn respectively, in an attempt to give Hearts a lift.

Former Rangers winger McKay immediately picked out Ginnelly with a diagonal ball into the Hibs penalty box. The midfielder got a downward header on target, but Macey was perfectly positioned to keep it out.

But Gordon produced arguably the save of the match with 12 minutes remaining when Nisbet cut the ball back to Magennis. The 38-year-old was at full stretch as he pushed the midfielder’s goal-bound shot out for a corner kick.