THE shyest man in Scottish football came out of his shell to produce an unexpected piece of brilliance that settled an otherwise dull physical encounter at Tynecastle.
Hearts 1-0 Dunfermline
August 31, 2003
Dennis Wyness, who had failed to score in his first three games for Hearts, justified manager Craig Levein’s faith in him by firing the Gorgie team two points clear of the pack in third place.
The shock value of his strike was high, because the player seemed to be edging closer and closer to trading places with substitute Graeme Weir, and perhaps even foregoing his membership of the starting line-up. That he should produce a goal from a mazy 40-yard run was all the more astounding because he had been in a similar position two minutes previously and launched a sloppy ball towards Mark de Vries that drifted harmlessly out of play.
The man who scored for fun in the First Division with Inverness picked up a salvaged ball from the ever-diligent Neil MacFarlane and strode quickly past one challenge, slipped the ball through the legs of the sprawling Andrius Skerla and then held his nerve to send Derek Stillie the wrong way.
There was a marked change in the nature of the game after Wyness’s moment of inspiration. It never became a classic, but it might have attained proper elements of drama if Stevie Crawford had not looked so rusty when Sean Kilgannon’s strong square header found him at the far post with the clock ticking down. His eventual shot was more of a poke, and Tepi Moilanen would have saved it in his sleep.
Young Weir did eventually replace Wyness, but not to the kind of ovation that would have greeted the switch at 0-0. The scamp fed Steven Boyack down the right in a quick counter attack that Weir almost completed when Boyack produced a fine cross from the corner flag. The striker angled his run too sharply and jumped just under the ball six yards out.
Hearts, renowned for being strong at home under Levein, had scored six goals without reply in their games at Tynecastle prior to the Pars’ arrival. There was nothing submissive about Dunfermline, however. Andy Tod won most of his aerial battles with De Vries in a back line that operated rhythmically apart from occasional blase back passes. Despite an authoritative control of possession, Hearts only once made Stillie stretch himself. The save was an accomplished one, Stillie leaping to his right to meet a fine 12-yard header from Scott Severin as MacFarlane chipped a ball in from the right.
Crawford had been denied from eight yards by Robbie Neilson as he effected a promising early turn, but his performance descended into a moody strop. Similarly, Craig Brewster’s reaction to the lack of quality service was to bury himself in sniffy petulance.
Hearts: Moilanen, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Maybury, MacFarlane, Severin, Stamp, Hamill, De Vries, Wyness.