DUNFERMLINE would be forgiven for believing tomorrow’s match with Hearts represents their best chance of a win at Tynecastle in over two decades.
The Edinburgh club are engulfed in turmoil, with wages unpaid and a dressing room suffering from increasing tension and rock-bottom morale. Consequently, they have recorded just one victory in their past seven games.
Not since February 1990, when goals from George O’Boyle and Ross Jack secured a 2-0 win, have Dunfermline emerged victorious from Tynecastle. The encore to that success has been rather long-awaited in Fife.
Jim McIntyre, the current manager at East End Park, doesn’t do stats, however. Nor does he indulge the law of averages and he doesn’t buy into theories that Hearts might lack motivation due to off-the-field issues. He cites last week’s diligent performance at Celtic Park as evidence of Hearts’ on-field resolve.
If Dunfermline are to end a Gorgie hoodoo spanning close on 22 years by winning tomorrow’s encounter, they will need to produce a strong and disciplined display, according to McIntyre.
“I’m not one for superstitions or stats to be honest. I believe each game is different and I treat it on its own merits. We’ve not discussed the last time we won at Tynecastle,” he said.
“Hearts were very unlucky at Parkhead last week, so that tells me that their spirit is good despite the problems they are facing. It must be really difficult for themselves, their coaches and their manager to deal with, but it says a lot for them that they were unfortunate not to get a result away at Celtic.
“I don’t think they’ll be vulnerable. I think, once players cross the line, they just get on with it and play the game that’s in front of them. Obviously it’s not a great state of affairs at the minute for Hearts, but once the whistle blows tomorrow they will simply go and play. St Johnstone have been to Tynecastle and won recently and that’s what we’ll be trying to do; we’ll be trying to get the three points. What’s going on at Hearts isn’t any of my business – I’m just focusing on Dunfermline.
“We have several injury worries for tomorrow. A couple of players might have half a chance, but I’m not going to speak about them in case they don’t make it. Things aren’t crystal clear yet with a couple of guys so I don’t want to tempt fate in case they break down.”
McIntyre bristles at the mention of his team’s league placing going into this weekend’s fixture. Aberdeen’s midweek victory at McDiarmid Park leaves Dunfermline and Hibs joint bottom of the SPL on 14 points, but there is no cause for despondency at East End Park.
“There were three teams bottom of the league at the start of the week, now there are two,” said McIntyre, who is concerned by Dunfermline’s defending and penchant for conceding soft goals since being promoted.
Three weeks ago, he watched his team surrender a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 at home to Aberdeen with defender Alex Keddie scoring an own goal nine minutes from full-time. Then, in the following fixture, the same player unwittingly converted into his own net in Dunfermline’s 2-1 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox.
To say the manager is frustrated would be a major understatement. “We’ve acquitted ourselves well in a lot of the games so far this season,” he explained. “I’d say there have only been two games where we haven’t turned up. What we have done is make mistakes. Then we’ve found to our cost that, in this league, you get punished. I’ve been pleased in terms of how we’ve competed. The league is very, very tight and two wins can take us up to the middle of the table. That’s the way we’re approaching every game – try to win it and don’t make any mistakes.”
Hearts were relatively encouraged after suffering a narrow defeat away to Celtic last Saturday. Likewise, Dunfermline’s last outing – a fortnight ago as a result of last week’s game against Kilmarnock being postponed – was in Glasgow where they were unfortunate to lose 2-1 to Rangers. “Any time you go to Parkhead or Ibrox, you need to weather storms,” said McIntyre. “We did that against Rangers in the first half. Scoring the goal gave us a boost and we played not too badly after that. We should have scored right at the death because we had a really good chance.
“You need to take the confidence from those performances and try to turn it into three points. The be all and end all is getting a win. St Johnstone beat Hearts recently at Tynecastle, but every game is different. We’ll approach tomorrow as we always do and we hope the players produce for us.”
In short, McIntyre anticipates the proverbial awkward encounter in Edinburgh.
Tynecastle hasn’t exactly been kind to his club for quite some time.
He expects nothing different tomorrow, but a positive outlook is one admirable trait that Dunfermline’s manager refuses to discard.