Remembering the time a Stephane Adam-inspired Hearts netted 7 (S-E-V-E-N) against Dunfermline at Tynecastle

Stephane Adam celebrates with Hearts team-mate Colin Cameron. Picture: SNSStephane Adam celebrates with Hearts team-mate Colin Cameron. Picture: SNS
Stephane Adam celebrates with Hearts team-mate Colin Cameron. Picture: SNS
Hearts 7, Dunfermline 1. Saturday, February 24, 2001.

Football grounds are venues of ever-evolving cacophony. There isn’t really anything that won’t be heard within stadia inside 90 minutes of action, whether it’s clapping, booing, jeering, cheering, abuse, encouragement, harmonious singing or music blasted out of crackly PA systems. And yet, it’s rare to hear audible gasping. And when it does occur, it is rarely ever good.

One such incident occurred towards the end of this match, which ranks among the most famous games to have taken place at Tynecastle over the last 30 years not to involve Hibs or the Old Firm.

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Hearts had, with only minimal exaggeration, absolutely destroyed Dunfermline Athletic. Seven goals had already been scored by the hosts, one from the visitors, before the match even entered the final 20 minutes.

But just seconds after playing a role in setting up the seventh and final goal for Robert Tomaschek, French striker Stephane Adam charged toward the Dunfermline box, as he had all afternoon, but this time he seized up. Almost frozen in time with every set of eyes in the stadium on him, Adam gripped at his thigh and hit the deck as a collective gasp could be heard all around him.

In the moment it took the shine off what was a joyous day for the home support. The 2000/01 season wasn’t much to write home about other than a change of manager, with Craig Levein replacing Jim Jefferies in the Tynecastle hotseat. Hearts huffed and puffed their way to fifth place, taking a couple of skelpings at Celtic and Hibs along the way. In fairness, they were without Adam for the majority of campaign. The legend, who scored the winning goal in the 1998 Scottish Cup final (in case anyone needed reminding), had injured his thigh the previous spring and played only one match in ten months. This game showed everyone what the team had been missing.

Having return two games prior, he, Andy Kirk and Colin Cameron would act as a rip-roaring triumvirate that tore Dunfermline apart. Their movement was sensational from start to finish, with each of the trio bagging a double in the game.

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It started in just the fifth minute. Adam stole in between two defenders, after Tomaschek had flicked on a Robbie Neilson, throw to hammer the ball into the roof of the net. He almost nabbed the second as well, but Pars goalkeeper Marco Ruitenbeek just got enough on the forward’s effort to slow it down, requiring Kirk to blast it over the line from centimetres away.

It was at this point in the match where Jimmy Calderwood made a curious decision. The opposing manager withdrew two defenders and put on two forwards instead. An understandable tactic in a tight game as time ticks away, but this was 24 minutes in. It was an unusual move, though it had worked for the Dunfermline boss previously; safe to say, it didn’t on this occasion.

Cameron grabbed his first after running on to a through ball from Neilson. Then Adam made it 4-0 on 38 minutes. Easily the pick of the bunch, he produced a stinging volley from a Stephen Boyack cross that powered past Ruitenbeek.

Having failed to collect the bouncing ball in the lead up to Cameron’s first, the away custodian made another error to present the Hearts captain with the fifth goal just a minute after half-time. Again, Adam was involved, firing a low shot that Ruitenbeek could only palm directly into the path of Cameron to tap home.

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Jason Dair reminded everyone that Dunfermline were still playing in this match when he side-footed home an amusingly early consolation on 50 minutes. The away fans, determined to celebrate something, jumped about wildly behind the goal and had the good humour to chant “we want two!” at various points across the rest of the “contest”.

Kirk had Hearts purring again after he executed a lovely one-two with Tomaschek before forcing his shot beyond the keeper at the front post. The aforementioned Slovakian facilitator then got in on the act himself, charging through the defence and coolly dispatching for the eighth and final goal of the game.

They may have scored seven, but they could easily have had more. Andy Kirk fluffed his touch in a potential one-on-one before suffering a miss-of-the-season contender later in the match. The Northern Irishman, all alone at the far post, hooked his finish wide from four yards with nothing but net in front of him. Tomaschek would also hit the bar, while loanee Kieran McAnespie cracked the post. In fairness to the visitors, Antti Niemi reminded everyone of his brilliance with a pair of cracking saves at the other end, denying Stevie Crawford and Andrius Skerla in the second period.

McAnespie’s effort was the only chance of note after Adam’s injury, which had naturally sucked the air of the place a little. Levein would say after the match he’d rather have won 1-0 and kept Adam injury free. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be as bad as first feared. Instead of missing the best part of a year once again, Adam would be out only for the next two months. He returned to play the final few matches in the run-in and featured 21 times the following season, which would be the last of his career. His final goal came almost exactly 12 months later as he scored an injury-time equaliser – against Dunfermline at East End Park.

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