Dundee maintained their single point lead at the top of the Championship by beating Queen of the South 1-0 at Dens Park tonight. Iain Davidson scored the goal that mattered early in the second half. Again the Dark Blues recovered from a poor first half and played their best football of the night after they scored.
For the second match running Paul Hartley made four changes. Benedictus, Nadé and Conroy dropped onto the bench and McBride was out of the squad. Saturday's goalscorer Peter MacDonald started along with Gavin Rae and Martin Boyle who returned. Adam Cummins made his debut in central defence.
Dundee have started slowly in the past two matches. Tonight they were much more lively in the opening exchanges. Martin Boyle should have put the Dee in the lead after eight minutes. He played a neat interchange with MacDonald and raced clear. He aimed for the top corner from 12 yards, but Zander Clark pulled off a magnificent save to touch the ball over the bar.
Five minutes later another good move ended with MacDonald sending Boyle into the penalty area to shoot wide, but from a more difficult angle than the first chance.
The Dee's good start didn't last and Queens came back strongly. They had the better of the last 20 minutes in the first half when the Dee were giving the ball away too easily. Dundee were also conceding too many free kicks in midfield, allowing Mitchell to swing dangerous balls into the box.
Midway through the half Reilly took a long ball and forced Letheren to make a good save from his 18 yard shot. Dundee couldn't clear the ball and Paton's shot was blocked by Cummins for a corner. Again Dundee didn't clear the ball when it came over and Burn's shot from the edge of the box flew narrowly wide. Still Dundee didn't learn the lesson and only a minute later gave the ball away to let Lyle test Letheren from a tight angle.
Queens centre back Durnan had a couple of half chances from set pieces, but failed to get his headers on target.
Boyle and MacDonald linked up well on occasions, but Dundee couldn't give them good possession in dangerous areas often enough.
Dundee improved after half time and started to close Queens down more effectively and keep more of the play in the visitors' half. The Dark Blues also started to get players into space down the wings. First Riley and then Boyle broke clear on the right, but neither could pick out a Dundee player with their crosses.
The vital goal arrived after 57 minutes. McAlister's free kick from wide on the left found Iain DAVIDSON who rose to head powerfully into the top corner from 10 yards.
The goal llfted Dundee, who looked far more comfortable now they were in the lead. For the most part the defence dealt coolly and confidently with the Doonhamers' attempts to get back into the game.
MacDonald opened up the Queens' defence with a neat backheel, but Rae's shot from 16 yards flew wide as Dundee threatened to add to their lead.
Queens had been offering little in attack after their bright first half, but a mistake by Gallagher triggered an awkward couple of minutes in which the visitors looked dangerous. The centre back tried to knock the ball out for a throw, but played it against Lyle, allowing the the ex-Dee to run into the penalty area and shoot from a difficult angle. Letheren beat the ball away, but Dundee couldn't clear. Burns found himself in space beyond the far post, but scooped the chance high and wide.
Christian Nadé replaced Riley after 72 minutes and his ability to hold up the ball proved valuable. Boyle moved to the right wing where he unsettled the Queens' defence with his blistering pace. The final change was Ryan Conroy replacing Peter MacDonald on 80 minutes.
Dundee had another nervous couple of minutes during which Queens were able to exert some worrying pressure. Again the Dark Blues rallied and should have made the points safe in injury time.
The Doonhamers won a free kick on the left, but Dundee cleared the ball comfortably and Boyle raced clear on the right. Instead of picking out the unmarked McAlister in front of goal he shot and Clark saved.
The four minutes of injury time felt twice as long, but Dundee held out without further scares to win three more precious points. Yet again it wasn't pretty. It was another tense ordeal for the fans, few of whom can have many fingernails left. The crowd did their bit tonight and got behind the team much more than in last week's draw against Raith.
Kyle Letheren won the sponsor's man of the match award. He didn't make any spectacular saves but dealt competently with everything that came his way. Newcomer Adam Cummins looked very much at home and the change didn't unsettle the defence, which was as stingy as ever, recording their fifth consecutive clean sheet.
Tonight was yet another example of the importance of a solid defence; stop the opposition scoring and you need to take only the once chance to win. It would be nice to score goals by the barrowload, but it is reassuring that this team have a defence that has conceded fewer goals than anyone in Scotland apart from Celtic and Rangers, who are running away with their divisions.
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Irvine, Gallagher, Cummins, Dyer
Riley (Nadé 72), Davidson, Rae, McAlister
Boyle, MacDonald (Conroy 80)
Unused subs: Twardzik (gk), Lockwood, Beattie, Doris, Reid
Goal: Davidson (57)
Queen of the South 4-4-2
Mitchell, Durnan, Dowie, Higgins
Burns, Kerr, McShane (Carmichael 73), Paton (Russell 73)
Reilly (McHugh 79), Lyle
Unused subs: Atkinson (gk), McKenna, Kidd, Holt
Booked: Higgins (foul on Riley), Mitchell (foul on McAlister)
Referee: Euan Anderson
Report: James Christie