CRAIG LEVEIN, the Hearts manager, described Arnaud Djoum’s sickening injury blow as far worse than the disappointment at dropping two points in Dingwall.

The Cameroon international will miss up to eight months of this season and next after collapsing unchallenged with a snapped Achilles tendon during the first half of yesterday’s 1-1 draw.

A gutted Levein cursed the 28-year-old’s ill-fortune after suffering his third – and by far the lengthiest – lay-off this season. Influential Djoum had already missed two months in the autumn with medial ligament damage and then a month in December and January with a calf problem.

“I’m disappointed to draw – but doubly disappointed because Arnaud Djoum has snapped his Achilles tendon and he’ll be out for seven or eight months,” Levein said.

“He’s had a terrible time of it. We’ve had two cruciate injuries this year and two Achilles tendons – it’s been unusual, but these things happen.

“Arnaud is a really important player for us who was just getting back to his best. Dropping two points is something that happens occasionally but this is more disappointing as we’ll be without him the remainder of this season and the start of next.”

It was no classic in the Highland sunshine, but County finished the day with tails up, pressing for a winner after Jason Naismith’s fine finish wiped out a tremendous Kyle Lafferty free-kick opener.

The Highlanders went with the same starting eleven that broke a 13-game run without a win with victory at Dundee a fortnight ago.

Hearts, defending a run of just one defeat in 15 matches, were without Scotland striker Steven Naismith as well as young Harry Cochrane and Rory Currie.

It proved a sedate start, but with 12 minutes gone, Joaquim Adao threatened with a low strike from distance pushed around the post by keeper Scott Fox.

Hearts had Djoum stretchered off after 25 minutes and County ended the half on the front foot, with a couple of late chances.

It was Hearts, though, who came tearing out of the traps early in the second period.

A Don Cowie corner, four minutes after the re-start, swerved all the way through to the back of the six-yard box where it was met by John Souttar.

Only a superb reaction save from Scott Fox kept the ball out.

But Fox proved powerless to prevent the opener four minutes later. Harry Souttar rashly left a high punt forward and, as it bounced onwards, defensive partner Liam Fontaine was booked for cynically pulling back Kyle Lafferty.

Lafferty lined up the free-kick 30 yards out and with a wonderful, fierce right foot strike beat Fox inside the left hand post for his 15th goal of the season.

Just after the hour, County worked a fine move but blew the chance as Davis Keillor-Dunn fired over the bar from 12 yards.

County have lamented poor luck at times this season, but there was a touch of good fortune in creation of the 76th minute equaliser.

There was nothing fortunate about the finish, though, as a Cowie challenge on Schalk saw the ball spin to the right side of the box.

Naismith tore in and executed a tremendous right-foot finish into the far corner from a 15-yard angle.

Hearts clung on and County manager Owen Coyle is convinced his team can do the same in the Premiership.

“A point was the minimum we deserved. But the good thing for us was the terrific reaction to going behind against a side that has lost once in 16 games,” Coyle said. “We really put them to the test and scored a wonderful goal – and should have added to it.

“That’s two good performances back-to-back and we certainly look as if we’re well over that terrible run. We look now like a team capable of going and winning the points we need to move the club to safety.”