DUNFERMLINE’S wretched record at Tynecastle continued as Hearts returned to winning ways with an easy 3-0 win in front of new Scotland manager, Walter Smith.
Smith might have been interested in the performance of Paul Hartley and while Hearts’ top scorer – newly shorn of his beard for the occasion – did himself no harm with a steady game topped off with a second-half penalty, Smith would surely also have been impressed by young Joe Hamill and Dennis Wyness.
“I’m delighted with the performance,” said Hearts’ head coach John Robertson. “We passed the ball really well, created chances and should probably have scored a few more.”
Almost 15 years had elapsed since Dunfermline recorded a win at Tynecastle and a lengthy injury list certainly didn’t augur well for the Fife visitors with Greg Shields, Derek Young, Simon Donnelly and Billy Mehmet all ruled out.
Hearts were unchanged after at narrow defeat at Ibrox last time out, so Robbie Neilson continued to deputise for the suspended Alan Maybury at right-back.
Sensing that nerves might play a part against an experienced Pars side, Hearts pushed forward straight from the kick-off and Wyness tested goalkeeper Derek Stillie within the opening minute. Mark de Vries did well to chest the ball into his path, and Wyness fired in a shot headed for the top corner until Stillie tipped over.
It was all Hearts at this stage but five minutes later Dunfermline broke away and almost opened the scoring. Tom Butler switched the ball from left to right and Stephen Bradley’s cross picked out the run of Barry Nicholson from midfield, and his glancing header almost dropped into the net with goalkeeper Craig Gordon seemingly beaten.
It was the wake-up call that Hearts needed and they promptly reasserted their dominance by scoring. It seemed only a matter of time before the home side opened their account, and the first goal duly arrived when Hamill did ever so well to get past Greg Ross and his teasing cross was gratefully headed in by Wyness at the back post.
Hearts doubled their lead within a minute of the re-start. Ramon Pereira got on the end of De Vries’ clever through ball, and from an acute angle he lashed a ferocious shot into the roof of the net.
Ten minutes later the game was effectively over when Ross was tempted into a late challenge on Wyness. Paul Hartley coolly converted the spot-kick for his ninth goal of the season.
With just under half an hour left, Hamill came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Phil Stamp, but the ex-Middlesbrough player pulled up with an ankle injury and was stretchered off. By then Hearts had used all their substitutes, but even with ten men they were able to hold out comfortably.