Twelve goals from open play in Dundee's entire league season to date will tell you where our issues lie.
Yes, we concede too many soft goals and no, we don't seem to know how to close a game out but surely the antidote to those ills also comes from the ability to score more goals? I remember The Cobra and The Mongoose, but will anyone ever remember The Moose?
Throughout my years following Dundee FC, the mighty Dark Blues have had all manner of animals ply their trade up front for the club.
The Cobra and the Mongoose will have anyone who experienced the 80s purring about a dynamic duo who could reduce the top flight’s defences to quivering wrecks with the merest Keith Wright knock down and Tommy Coyne rifling shot.
The Mongoose’s next partner started off as everyone’s favourite diminutive Dumbo impressionist, but in the club’s darkest days ‘luggy’ turned out to be something of a snake. Whereas the absolute beast that is Christian Nade lumbered and thundered his way into Dee hearts with gutsy displays and a flicked header that calmed nerves on a Championship winning day crammed with drama, conspiracies and one of the best saves seen at Dens for many a year.
The same season, the rather portly and overly bearded Craig Beattie did his best loveable bear impression, as he belied a lack of fitness to snatch a few vital goals. However it’s a certain Moose that has had possibly the most divisive period in a Dundee shirt of any prospective big goal hunter, the undoubtedly big hearted Tunisian loved by some, yet derided by the many.
As 2016-17 came to a close, the toothless tiger of Marcus Haber was already rumoured to be on his way out of his Dens Park pen after the loveable but lazy Rory Loy had been the latest fox in the box to look like he had been tired out by those hounding him from the stands (and deservedly so). Therefore surely top of Neil McCann’s big ticket items to draw in the crowds was a hungry poacher who would turn from hunted beast into a ravenous goal snatching animal.
Arriving just as the Dundee team headed towards the lion rampant badged home of Raith Rovers, the snipers were already taking aim, the bearded Tunisian’s Wiki stats an early reason for consternation (even if I did read once that Mido had spent a couple of years by the Tay on that ever reliable source of information), but a 21 minute cameo resulted in a debut goal only 13 minutes into Moussa’s Dundee career and instant love from the dark blue travelling support. A dangerous tap dance routine celebration that almost resulted in this new hero landing head first into the second row of away stand seats led to cries of “Moooooooooooooooooooooussssssssssssa!” being heard long into the night – even if a certain Jack Hendry (who? Never heard of him!) actually dug out the League Cup win with a last gasp cheek buster.
The Moose’s second goal in as many games came against the plucky minnows of Buckie Thistle, but if his first two thirds of a season for Dundee will be remembered for one thing, it will be the overhead kick that was part of a glorious hat-trick against lowly Cowdenbeath – the part timers however proving to be one of the worst ‘professional’ outfits this Dundee supporter has ever seen.
Even then as Central Park emptied and talk of Moussa’s fifth goal in three games began to spread fear across Scottish football, those in attendance were already whispering concerns that much though the goals were flowing, this lad wasn’t really a player. Being kept quiet by a Dundee United defence that was as effective at holding itself together as a three week old baby’s nappy, the signs were there, but so too was the dichotomy of The Moose.
Utterly ineffective throughout the ninety minutes, when the ball was placed on the spot for a farcical penalty shoot-out loss that somehow gained us home advantage, Moussa looked calm and assured as he picked his spot. And from there only strikes from twelve yards have been forthcoming (when A-Jay Leitch-Smith wasn’t stealing the ball and missing, of course). Headers have been skewed wide, shots sclaffed at the keeper, fresh air swipes and what look like goal line clearances for the opposition being acted out when it often seemed easier to score - and let’s not even mention the goal gifting halfway-line pass back against Hearts.
Don’t get me wrong, his suspiciously offside looking piece of skill by his unsuspecting backside counts as a ‘real’ goal and even those not provided with dark blue shades will admit that Moussa has been robbed of perfectly good ‘goals’ against both Motherwell and Hamilton through the sheer ineptitude of the officials. But is that just bad luck or occurrences symptomatic of a player who simply finds the dark art of scoring goals from open play beyond him?
An initially productive looking partnership with AJ-LS seems to have fizzled out into nothing and an on-off chop and change between the equally baffling Haber and The Moose certainly hasn’t helped, but in the end it’s hard to argue with those saying that Moussa simply isn’t good enough. If it wasn’t for the fact we look even worse when he isn’t playing. Without a focal point the rest of Dundee’s attack flounders, runs into each other and barely gets a touch of the ball, and yet when Moussa plays it’s actually him undoing all of his own good work by missing the chances, whether they be half, glaring, or stick ons.
He certainly is not a ‘wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie’, but this is one Moose that needs to start being more bullish in an around the box. Here’s hoping come season’s end we’re forgetting all about past beasts of old and are instead talking of the sweet taste of M&M’s, Moussa and a new fox in the box in the shape of Simon Murray. If not, there’s a possibility that it won’t be only a Moose getting put down come the last day.