Dundee dropped out of the Scottish Cup at Kilmarnock after a fine performance in an entertaining Scottish Cup 4th round replay.
Killie move through to play Hibs in the next round after taking a 2-0 half time lead through Paul Heffernan and Dean Shiels. Gavin Rae pulled a goal back midway through the second half, but Killie held on to take a narrow win.
Dundee were unchanged from Saturday, but the really eye-catching team news was the unexpected appearance of Gary Harkins in the home line-up. The sight of Harkins in the Kilmarnock team must have sent a shudder of nervous anticipation through the Dundee support, and indeed Gary made a vital contribution with assists for both Killie goals.
Dundee settled more quickly than Kilmarnock who frustrated their fans with a succession of careless mistakes and poor passes. The Dee were more composed, but they failed to turn neat possession into clear chances.
Ominously Harkins started to take a more prominent role for Killie as the first half wore on. First he had a good run in from the left, but Douglas had little trouble with the shot. He then rose at the far post to head narrowly wide.
Fortunately for Dundee Harkins' team mates were failing to respond to his prompting as they wasted possession repeatedly. After Killie's passing game had failed to spark into life they took the lead with a move that was route one, but perfectly executed, just after the half hour. Harkins' headed flick opened up the Dundee defence for HEFFERNAN to score with a fine shot across Douglas from 16 yards.
Kilmarnock took confidence from the goal and they stepped up a gear. Ten minutes later the night got even worse. Gavin Rae was tackled as he attempted a pass and the ball went straight to Harkins, who slipped a perfect pass through for SHIELS to run into the penalty area and crash the ball into the roof of the net from 15 yards. Rae was left appealing. He had a good point, but that doesn't detract from the quality of the goal.
Dundee meanwhile were playing well, having their fair share of possession and pressure, but they couldn't pose any real problems for Cammy Bell in the Killie goal.
The second half quickly saw an improvement from the Dee who looked sharper and were able to move the ball quicker to players in space in the final third. Gavin Rae released Jamie McCluskey down the right with a superb pass, but the winger's cross shot flew wide.
The pitch was cutting up badly and proving a real problem for both sides as they tried to play football. Ironically the dodgy pitch played a hand in helping Dundee pull a goal back with a lovely move.
Jamie McCluskey was about to pass the ball from right midfield when it bobbled. He changed his mind, which gave Gary Irvine time to make a strong overlapping run. McCluskey played a beautiful pass inside full back McKeown for Irvine to run to the line and send over a perfect cross for Gavin RAE to power a header past Bell from eight yards.
Kilmarnock found it difficult to snap out of their careless ways and were unable to close the game down. Dundee played some fine football as they chased an equaliser, but none of it amounted to Bell having to make a difficult save. Rae did send Milne through on the right with a clear sight of goal, but the defenders were able to cover quickly enough to force the Dundee striker to shoot from too far out to trouble Bell.
Killie might have snatched a third goal if they'd shown more composure and concentration when Dundee were pushing forward, but Dundee were usually able to handle their attempted breaks upfield before Rab Douglas was called into action.
Dundee reverted to 4-4-2 for the last 10 minutes when Graham Bayne replaced Ross Chisholm. Sadly time ran out and when the final whistle went the noisy Dark Blue support rose to applaud the players who'd given a fine second half performance.
Dundee could reasonably argue that they were the better side over the two matches, but there's nothing to complain about tonight. Killie took their chances expertly on the only two occasions they really opened up the Dundee defence, and so they go through to the next round with the best wishes of everyone at Dens – at least for their popular number 11, Mr Harkins.
Defeat is always disappointing, but Dundee gave a good account of themselves all through the team. No-one was booked. No-one appeared to be injured. And so it is back to the league at Firhill on Saturday.
Kilmarnock FC 4-3-1-2
Fowler, Sissoko, Kroca, McKeown
Kelly, Pascali, Hay (Racchi 82)
Unused subs; Letheron (gk), Silva, Dayton, Kennedy
Goals; Heffernan (33), Shiels (43)
Bookings; Sissoko (dissent), McKeown (foul on McCluskey)
Dundee FC 4-4-1-1
Irvine, McGregor, McKeown, Lockwood
McCluskey, Chisholm (Bayne 82), O'Donnell, Conroy
Unused subs; Gibson (gk), Weston, Benedictus, Hyde
Goal; Rae (62)
Attendance; 4,618 (814 Dundee fans)
Referee; Stephen O'Reilly
Report; James Christie