Dundee won their first league match in nearly four months, beating St Mirren 2-1 in Astonishing match at Dens Park. The scoreline might look unremarkable, but those who witnessed the first half would have been utterly gobsmacked at the possibility that Dundee might win.
St Mirren ripped the Dundee defence apart in the first 45 minutes. When the half time whistle sounded those home fans who weren't booing were breathing a huge sigh of relief that the Dark Blues were trailing by only a single goal, scored by Dougie Imrie. It took a marvellous performance from Robert Douglas to keep Dundee in touching distance.
Dundee re-organised at half time and grew stronger the longer the game went on. They totally dominated the last half hour and took all three points with goals from John Baird and Jim McAlister.
St Mirren set the tone for the first half when they got their first shot on target after 28 seconds. Paul McGowan burst through the middle and shot straight at Douglas. A minute later the same player sent his lob too high from 20 yards. Only a minute after that Douglas had to come to the edge of his area to block as Guy raced clear. Sam Parkin took the loose ball and seemed sure to score, but Jim McAlister's challenge rescued the Dark Blues. From the resulting corner Gary Irvine had to clear Parkin's header off the line.
Dundee then seemed to settle and played some nice football without ever giving the St Mirren defence the sort of problems that the home defence was having. However, it was no surprise when the Buddies scored after 19 minutes.
Newton hit a fine diagonal pass over the top of the Dundee defence. Guy chested the ball back into the path of IMRIE who controlled it and scored with a fierce shot across Douglas.
This was a bad start for the Dee, but the following 26 minutes shredded the nerves of the home support, some of whom doubtless fled for the comfort of nearby pubs as Dundee seemed to be facing a thrashing.
Every time St Mirren had the ball their pace and accurate passing into the space behind the Dundee defenders caused havoc. Dundee's narrow three man midfield forced the full backs to push forward, and St Mirren exploited the space behind them. In particular, they sent a stream of passes into the gap behind Gary Irvine.
Irvine and Grassi got into an appalling mix up on the right wing and allowed Lewis Guy to run clear, but Douglas saved his defenders' blushes. Graham Carey then burst down the left and Douglas again had to save well to keep out Parkin's header.
Deja vu was setting in for the home supporters as Carey and Imrie combined smartly down the Buddies' left to give Parkins another header, but Douglas saved yet again.
St Mirren were looking equally dangerous from corners. Iain Davidson cleared a McAuslan header off the line. Then Parkin missed the ball when he seemed to have a clear header and the ball fell to Lee Mair, who shot over.
Dundee put a few pretty, but ineffectual, moves together, none of which gave the St Mirren defence any real concern.
At half time it was clear that serious action was required. The lack of width was crippling the Dee attacks, and also leaving the full backs horribly exposed.
Nicky Riley and Ryan Conroy were sent on to replace Kevin McBride and Steven Milne. In fairness to the players who went off, the formation was all wrong; it wasn't that they were responsible.
The second half nearly got off to a bad start when Dundee defended another corner poorly. Parkin's header struck his teammate Lewis Guy and flew over the bar.
The Dundee defence then settled down to impose themselves much more confidently on Parkin and Guy. The better shape in midfield protected the defence and stopped St Mirren passing their way into the danger area.
The next 20 minutes was quiet; the Dee were much more secure, but they took a while to get their own game together with the changed formation.
Nicky Riley gave a hint of what was to follow with a fine mazy run that ended with a comfortable save by Samson.
Half way through the second half Dundee made the breakthrough that changed the game. John BAIRD controlled a bouncing ball 40 yards out, got the break of the ball when he went past a defender, then curled a lovely shot from 20 yards round Craig Samson.
St Mirren seemed startled that the game was starting to slip away from them. Grassi put in a great challenge to stop Lewis Guy, but the game was being played increasingly in the Buddies' half. The visitors' formation was perfect to expose Dundee's flaws in the first half, but when Dundee changed their shape St Mirren couldn't respond. It was now Dundee's turn to find huge areas of space as they poured forward.
Nicky Riley nearly managed to wriggle into space following a corner, but desperate defending staved off the danger to Samson's goal.
With 15 minutes to go Carl Finnigan came on, after a year out injured, to replace John Baird. Both players got a big round of applause as they swapped.
The winning goal arrived almost immediately, and it was pure dead brilliant GGH! Ryan Conroy had swapped wings, and found Harkins with a neat piece of skill. Right in front of the South Enclosure Harkins then toyed with the St Mirren defence, twisting and turning past one defender after another. Making space on the edge of the area he floated a lethally dangerous ball into the goalmouth.
Carl Finnigan seemed to be pushed as he went for the ball, but Nicky Riley picked it up beyond the far post. Instead of shooting he cut it back to Jim McALISTER, who swept it home ecstatically.
Brian Easton then made a great challenge to block Goncalves' shot, and St Mirren never came as close again. The Buddies had thrown on all three substitutes just before the winning goal, and couldn't change the flow of the game, which was now flooding Dundee's way.
The Dark Blues looked dangerous every time they got the ball, surging forward into space confidently, with Carl Finnigan obviously enjoying himself hugely. Gary Harkins was imperious in the last 15 minutes, playing with the confidence and panache that Dees adore.
The two minutes of injury time was spent in the in the St Mirren half as Dundee ran the clock down against a team that had been totally dominant in the first half, but now looked broken.
It's hard to remember a game which turned round in such a massive way, from a horrible first half, to a marvellous second half. That's what makes football such a wonderful sport, and that's what keeps us supporting the Dee! Great! I loved it tonight!
Dundee FC 4-3-1-2
Irvine, Grassi, Toshney, Easton
Davidson, McBride (Riley 45), McAlister
Mline (Conroy 45), John Baird (Finnigan 76)
Unused subs; Alex Baird (gk), Benedictus, Stewart, Morgan
Goals; Baird (67), McAlister (77)
Bookings; Irvine (foul on Imrie), Baird (handball), Harkins (foul on Mair)
St Mirren 4-1-2-2-1
Van Zanten, Mair (Dummett 76), McAusland, Carey
Guy (Thompson 76), Imrie
Parkin (Goncalves 76)
Unused subs; Adam (gk), McGinn, Robertson, Teale
Goal; Imrie (19)
Booking; Parkin (foul on Irvine)
Referee; Stephen Finnie
Report; James Christie