Dundee ended their run of five draws by beating Livingston 3-2 at Almondvale this afternoon. The Dark Blues made heavy, heavy work of the win in an entertaining match that had plenty of twists before Jamie McCluskey's 88th minute winner.
Dundee were so much on top in the first half that this should have been a relatively straightforward three points. After Jamie McCluskey's opening goal they horrified the fans by shipping two awful goals, but Dundee fought back strongly and took all the points with an equaliser from Carl Finnigan and an 88th minute winner by McCluskey.
Dundee's only change was the return of top scorer Steven Milne, in place of the injured Jake Hyde.
Dundee's pressing game caused Livingston endless problems throughout the first half. The hosts couldn't work the ball forward, and were reduced to hitting long passes that didn't suit their neat passing style.
After a long spell in which Livingston had been pressed back in their own half Dundee took a well deserved lead after 25 minutes. Conroy's pass in from the left was flicked on by Finnigan to send McCLUSKEY clear to score with a fine left foot finish across the keeper.
The Dee nearly grabbed a quick second. Weston's header from a corner flew across goal and inches past the post when it seemed sure to find the net.
Steven Milne had to leave the game just after the half hour, with Graham Bayne coming on to replace him.
Dundee were in full control at this stage and looked likely to extend their lead. Surprisingly Livingston equalised with a goal totally against the run of play.
Keighan Jacob's simple pass to the edge of the penalty area allowed McNULTY to get on the wrong side of Rhys Weston and shoot past Douglas from 12 yards. It would have been a dreadful goal to concede at any time, and was particularly disappointing when Dundee were so much on top.
The Dundee players kept their heads and continued to press and dominate Livi. McBride did well to win the ball deep in Livingston's half and give Conroy the chance to cross, but Finnigan's volley was saved by McNeil.
The Dark Blue supporters may have been disappointed and frustrated that Dundee weren't holding a comfortable lead at half time but that was nothing to their horrified dismay when Dundee found themselves trailing only a minute into the second half.
Bobby Barr was given far too much time and space on the right to choose his pass into the box. His low ball was allowed to travel all the way to the far post where Neil McGREGOR lunged at it to stop McNulty reaching it, but only succeeded in nudging the ball past Douglas. The first goal may have been dreadful, but this was worse; it was an embarrassingly poor goal to concede, and McGregor was far from being the main culprit.
Happily Dundee's response was excellent, and they went straight back onto the attack. Livi were forced into deep defence and couldn't keep the ball away from their penalty area.
Scougall attempted to break quickly, but 10 yards inside his own half he was stopped by a crunching block tackle from Weston that sent the ball flying back over the Livi defence for FINNIGAN to turn, run in and rifle his shot across McNeil for an opportunist equaliser.
This sparked Livingston into their best spell of the match. At last they were getting their passes away before the Dundee midfield nailed them. Their movement up front and runs into space behind the defenders gave Dundee a nervous time.
McNulty ran clear onto a Scougall pass, but Douglas saved well with his feet. Again McNulty found space, but Douglas saved his shot from a tight angle.
Dundee weathered Livi's purple patch and gradually started to turn the screw again. Watson's slip allowed Finnigan through on the right, but McNeil managed to scoop his shot round the post for a corner.
A smart O'Donnell pass then sent Finnigan through in a similar position, but he was foiled by a fine save from O'Neil.
Dundee's determination not to settle for a point eventually brought its reward after 88 minutes. O'Donnell's corner from the left was headed down by Finnigan and McCLUSKEY poked the ball into the net from point blank range.
The Dee still had to endure a nervous three minutes of injury time. Neil McGregor was booked for bringing McNulty down just outside the penalty area, but Scougall's free kick was driven straight into the defensive wall.
This should really have been a comfortable three points against a skillful, but inexperienced and lightweight, Livingston team. Yet again defensive errors put Dundee onto the back foot and handed their opponents a huge boost. The players deserve plenty of credit for the way they responded to the setback and ground out the win they wanted so badly.
Dundee's best players were mostly in midfield and attack. Only Irvine and Douglas in defence could really have been happy with their performances. Kevin McBride and Stephen O'Donnell dominated the central midfield in the first half. Livingston had the better of the midfield exchanges for a spell in the middle of the second half, but the Dundee central midfielders took charge again to provide the base for the Dee's late push for a winner.
Up front Carl Finnigan showed good movement, linked well with his striker partners, and also with the lively McCluskey, and was well worth his goal.
When Dundee were carrying the ball towards the Livingston goal they looked as good as they've done for some time. However, the defensive performance was nowhere near good enough today, and that will have to improve. Soft goals have cost Dundee too many points recently, and it was very nearly the same old story today.
Livingston FC 4-3-2-1
Cummings (Fordyce 89), Watson, Craig Barr, Docherty
Kyle Jacobs, Fox (Russell 70), Scougall
Barr, Keaghan Jacobs
Unused subs; Jamieson (gk), Boulding, Downie
Goals; McNulty (38), McGregor og (46)
Booking; Keighan Jacobs (foul on Irvine)
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Irvine, Weston (McKeown 66), McGregor, Lockwood
McCluskey, O'Donnell, McBride, Conroy
Milne (Bayne 32), Finnigan
Unused subs; Gibson (gk), Chisholm, Benedictus
Goals; McCluskey (25, 88), Finnigan 55
Bookings; Irvine (foul on Bobby Barr), McBride (foul on Scougall), McGregor (foul on McNulty), McKeown (foul on Russell)
Referee; Bobby Madden
Report; James Christie