WINNING trophies whilst in administration is a rare feat. Livingston managed it, beating Hibs in the 2004 League Cup final.
Hearts lifted a far less significant piece of silverware by beating Dunfermline on Saturday as captain-for-the-day Jamie Hamill collected the Supporters Direct Scotland Fans’ Cup.
It wasn’t really much to shout about, but that didn’t prevent the travelling support raising the roof at East End Park. Summer 2013 has been the most arduous in Hearts’ history, yet fans turned up in huge numbers to back their team in Fife. The official number given for the away support was 2591, although there looked to be more than that in a crowd of 4538.
The proceeds of this friendly match are to be split evenly, with both Dunfermline and Hearts in administration and financially ravaged. As such, kick-off was delayed ten minutes to allow the mass of visiting fans to enter the ground.
Goals by Brad McKay and a Hamill penalty put Hearts 2-0 ahead early on, and Ryan Thomson reduced the deficit during a much-improved second half by the hosts. At full-time, Hamill raised the cup aloft to tumultuous cheers and admitted the occasion provided some light relief for all connected with Tynecastle.
“It was my first captaincy and I’ve got a wee trophy,” he laughed. “The boys stitched me up because everybody was to go up with me to collect it. Then I was left looking like a plonker going up myself.
“It was good for the fans and I think it lifted their spirits given it’s only our second pre-season game. They stayed right to the end and that was magnificent. It was a massive turnout and it was good to see the Dunfermline supporters there as well. Obviously, it was more important our fans came out and it was a magnificent support.
“Our fans back the club every time they are asked and long may it continue. We have young boys who are just coming into the game in the dressing room and playing in front of that kind of support is going to do us justice, hopefully.”
Several Riccarton academy graduates shone during a first half dominated by Hearts, none more so than David Smith and McKay. Dunfermline rallied after the interval as Thomson and Andy Geggan stood out. Hearts were rocked on several occasions and looked like they may concede an equaliser to a home team just as young and inexperienced as them. However, they managed to hold out.
“The gaffer keeps saying these boys aren’t kids any more because they’ve all played in the first team,” said Hamill. “When you train with the first team every day, it’s good to get out and make their mark. Everybody is capable of stepping in to the first team or they wouldn’t be in the position they are.
“I think everything is starting to look better for us. We’ve had meetings at training and got updates and we’re really looking forward to getting the season started now. It’s been a long summer. Hopefully we can put things right on the park for the supporters who have backed us.”
Starting the campaign 15 points behind everyone else looks a daunting task, but Hamill believes Hearts can preserve their top-flight status. “I think it is salvageable. Fifteen points is a big ask, but it’s a challenge we are all looking forward to,” he continued. “
“It is really important to start the season well, whether you’re minus 15 or not. We want to make the points up quickly, rather than getting to Christmas and still trailing. We have boys in the changing room who are capable of getting the 15 points back.”
Ryan Stevenson dragged the game’s first shot wide on three minutes following a tidy one-two with Dale Carrick. Ryan Wallace then shot tamely at Jamie MacDonald before the Hearts goalkeeper produced a terrific left-handed save from Geggan’s pinpoint header.
It was a competitive start and resulted in Hearts moving ahead in the ninth minute. From Smith’s corner, McKay headed powerfully into the net. The Dunfermline goalkeeper Michal Hrivnak got a hand to the ball, but could not keep it out.
The advantage doubled ten minutes later when Chris Kane was judged to have fouled Smith inside the penalty area. Despite a vehement protest from the hosts’ holding midfielder, Hamill netted proficiently.
Wallace again stung MacDonald’s palms towards the end of the first period and ought to have scored when the ball rebounded from the goalkeeper. However, half-time arrived with Hearts looking comfortable.
Dylan McGowan struck the crossbar from Smith’s free kick early in the second period. From then on, Dunfermline began asserting themselves and pressing forward as their guests completely lost momentum. The pressure yielded a goal on 64 minutes when Thomson collected Geggan’s through ball and angled it low into the net beyond Mark Ridgers, who had replaced MacDonald during the interval.
Thomson also had a header palmed off the goal line by Ridgers as Dunfermline continued to attack in search of an equaliser. Hearts introduced Gary Naysmith, who has been training at Riccarton and was officially listed as a trialist for the match. The 34-year-old steadied the defence somewhat and allowed the visitors to see out their win.
Dunfermline (4-2-3-1): Hrivnak, Millen (Williamson 84), Young, Potter (Martin 65), Whittle (Drummond 84); Husband (Byrne 46), Kane (Ferguson 52); Falkingham, Geggan (Spence 78), Wallace (Smith 46 (Buchan 71)); Thomson (El Bakhtaoui 78). Subs: Goodfellow.
Hearts (4-3-3): MacDonald (Ridgers 46); Hamill, McKay, McGowan, McHattie (Naysmith 78); Robinson (A King 68), Tapping, Holt (Walker 46); Smith (Nicholson 89), Carrick (B King 68), Stevenson. Subs: Hamilton, McGhee, Oliver.
Referee: John Beaton.