Derby hero Craig Wighton ready for repeat in Hearts v Hibs clash

Craig Wighton scored the goal for Dundee which relegated rivals United. Now he hopes to sink Hibs' derby hopes at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS.
Craig Wighton scored the goal for Dundee which relegated rivals United. Now he hopes to sink Hibs' derby hopes at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS.
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It was over two years ago but still Craig Wighton has people wanting to talk to him about that goal, the one he scored for his former club Dundee in May 2016, that late side-footed effort that not only secured the Dens Park side victory in the Tayside derby but also helped relegate rivals United.

Having been through a night like that, the 21-year-old Hearts attacker fully understands the importance of city rivalries and the need to win the bragging rights, which is why he is braced for a call-up tonight when they Tynecastle side host Hibs.

Wighton was cup-tied at the weekend as Hearts succumbed to Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi final, and the frustration of watching from the sidelines grew when Steven Naismith became the third Hearts captain to be crocked this term, leaving the fray early on.

It would have been the ideal opportunity for the young forward to make an impact but, instead, it was Danny Amankwaa who was charged with helping Steven MacLean lead the line.

Wighton, who signed from Dundee in August, is back in contention, though, and is hoping he can use tonight’s first Edinburgh erby of the season to convince manager Craig Levein that he is the man to hold the fort while Naismith deals with the troublesome cartilage problem which could keep him out until the turn of the year.

“The game at the weekend was big but if you ask most fans then they would say the derby is the one they want to win,” said Wighton, who has been restricted to one start and three substitute appearances for Hearts. “It is a great occasion for everyone and I know what it means to everyone close to this club; the fans especially. We’ll go out looking to put on a performance and fight for everything.

“That Dundee derby goal was probably the most memorable moment of my career so far. Growing up as a Dundee fan, it meant a lot to me and my family and it still gets mentioned to me a lot, which is a nice thing and I hope that I can do the same on Wednesday.

“It was an important experience for me, too. There was a lot riding on that game, with United’s situation, and it was a big-pressure game. I feel like I am used to these games now and I’m raring to be involved in another. Just with the build-up and excitement, I can’t wait for the game now.”

Despite the injury setbacks Levein claims he is also looking forward to the high octane encounter, saying it is the perfect fixture to lift players and fans after the weekend cup disappointment.

“It will be rocking as usual,” he said of the sell-out match. “I don’t think we’ll have one player who isn’t energised and focused on what they have to do.

“Sometimes in these games you have to rein people in rather than encourage them to play with more energy. But I just love the whole thing about this fixture, it gets me energised as well. I’m looking forward to it.”

Levein, pictured, is unbeaten in the fixture at Tynecastle since returning to the dugout last season and is looking to build on that record. But he acknowledges it will not be an easy task for his men, against Neil Lennon’s Hibs side who are looking to reduced the eight-point deficit on their Gorgie foes.

“Neil has done a fantastic job replacing for me arguably his two best players last season, in John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch. He has done remarkably well to keep the momentum. But he’s a good manager, that’s why. There’s no secret to it, he’s just good at what he does.

“I think they are slightly different this season, but I’m not going to talk about that, that will be part of our gameplan. But they are slightly different.

“They were better than us last season and there’s no point in saying anything else and one of the motivations in 
the summer was to get ourselves back ahead in these matches.

“The aim was to finish as high up the table and try to get European football and if we do that then as a consequence we should be in front of Hibs.

“We’ve had some big fixtures already. The Aberdeen game last weekend was quite like a derby game. It was very competitive and that has given those involved a bit of a taste of what this will be like.”

Levein stressed that even the new signings have been left in no doubt how vital it is to come out on top in these tussles.

“Having a connection and an understanding of what this fixture is about is one of the things I feel is crucial for coming in,” he said.

“Our supporters put such great store in winning these games and it’s important the players know that and we’ve got a group of hungry players and that’s one of the things the recruitment brought us in the summer – people who are desperate to improve.”