Dundee moved to within one point of leaders Hamilton by winning their fourth consecutive match, beating Queen of the South 2-1 at Dens Park this afternoon. All the goals came in the last 15 minutes of a game that seemed to be heading for a draw that the Doonhamers would have deserved. Former Dee Derek Lyle equalised for Queens two minutes after Peter MacDonald had put Dundee ahead. Substitute Craig Beattie grabbed the winner on 88 minutes to give the Dark Blues all the points on a day when the other results again went in their favour.
Dundee's only change from last week was that injury doubt Craig Beattie had to take a place on the bench, which allowed 16 year old Craig Wighton to come in for his first start.
The pitch might have looked beautiful, but as soon as the players started warming up it was clear that it was absolutely sodden. The ball barely bounced, and the players sent spray splashing as they ran.
Not surrisingly both sides defences were cautious in the tricky conditions and preferred to clear early and safely rather than take chances. Queens settled quicker than Dundee and most of the opening 10 minutes was spent in Dundee's half.
Neither side was able to bring the ball down and play a good passing game on a pitch that was far too wet to allow the ball to run true. Players who tried to run with the ball at their feet were in danger of leaving it behind as the water held it up.
In a rare Dundee attack Gavin Rae's fierce 20 yard shot brought a fine save from Queens' young keeper, Zander Clark, on loan from St Johnstone.
Midway through the half Ryan Conroy's 35 yard free kick forced another good save from Clark. The youngster's best save came a few minutes later when Peter MacDonald's well struck 30 yard shot seemed to be dipping into the top corner till Clark stretched to turn it over.
The game leapt into life in the last few minutes of the half as both sides traded chances. Declan Gallagher lost the ball in an expedition upfield and Queens broke away for Reilly's shot to be saved by Letheren.
Craig Wighton turned Durnan beautifully and sent McAlister free on the left. He switched the ball to Nicky Riley, whose shot from 18 yards was deflected wide.
Queen of the South came closest to a first half goal when Reilly reached the byline and fired the ball across the face of goal. Letheren was beaten, but Gary Irvine hacked the ball clear before Russell could turn it into the net.
The Dark Blues have been slow starters all season. They have scored only three goals before half time in 15 competitive games. Yet again they reached the interval with a zero against their name.
There was more urgency from the Dark Blues after half time. The players were determined to force the pace of the game even if the conditions meant they couldn't play their normal game.
Wighton set up McAlister to run into the penalty area, but the ball held up on the pitch and McAlister over ran it. A spell of concerted pressure ended with Derek Young heading a Riley cross out for a corner from almost under the crossbar.
After an hour Dundee nearly fell behind to what would have been a freakish own goal. Russell took a fresh air swipe at Carmichael's hard, low cross and the ball pinged off the startled Gary Irvine, flew past Letheren and back off the crossbar. Gallagher cleared and the home support breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Craig Beattie came on to replace Craig Wighton after 65 minutes. The young striker had done well, but the difficult pitch meant that the strikers had seen little good service to their feet; the ball had been in the air too much, and the strikers had to battle to control high balls with their backs to goal.
As the game wore on the tension mounted and mistakes started to appear in defences that had been dealing well with the conditions. Matt Lockwood's misplaced header game Carmichael space to shoot from the edge of the penalty area, but he dragged his shot wide.
The breakthrough came at the other end, and sadly for young Zander Clark it was his mistake. The keeper had had an impressive debut for Queens, but after 76 minutes he spilled Beattie's 18 yard shot. Peter MACDONALD showed great poacher's instincts to reach the ball first and squeeze it into the net from a near impossible angle.
The Dark Blues defence had looked composed up till then, but lost concentration and allowed the Doonhamers to equalise within two minutes. The defence failed to clear and when Carmichael fired over a low cross Russell dummied over the ball allowing Derek LYLE to side foot home from 12 yards. It was a well worked goal, but completely avoidable.
The two goals opened the game up. Dundee were determined to take full points, and the rapid equaliser gave the visitors hope of winning themselves. However, both sides struggle to create clear chances as the pitch continued to frustate attempts to pass along the ground and run with the ball.
Martin Boyle replaced Nicky Riley with five minutes to go and his direct and pacey style unsettled the Queens' defence. Boyle won a throw deep in the visitors' half. Gary Irvine launched a long throw into the penalty area. MacDonald headed on and Craig BEATTIE lashed home the winner from 15 yards. The huge roar that greeted the goal reflected the massive relief that the home support felt.
This time the Dee's defence was in no mood to let Queens off the hook. Dundee saw the game out professionally. Deep into injury time Boyle broke free down the right and his well struck shot from 18 yards was turned round for a corner by Clark. Queens couldn't get out of their own half after that and the points were safe.
This was an extremely tough game for the Dark Blues and the final score was tough on the Doonhamers. The visitors' performance was far more assured and confident than their recent form suggested. They would have been worth a point, but this Dundee team is turning into an outfit that won't settle for a fair division of the points when there is any hope of taking the lot.
This was a real potential banana skin of a game. The Dee had to deal with difficult conditions and determined opponets who had rediscovered some of their lost form. However, the Dark Blues were able to lift themselves to secure a victory. It wasn't pretty, but it was a crucial win that was met with delight and relief by the supporters.
Dundee FC 4-4-2
Irvine, Gallagher, Davidson, Lockwood
Riley (Boykle 85), McAlister, Rae, Conroy
MacDonald (Doris 88), Wighton (Beattie 65)
Unused subs; Twardzik (gk), Kerr, Thomson, Reid
Goals; MacDonald (76), Beattie (88)
Queen of the South 4-3-2-1
Mitchell, Durnan, Higgins, Holt
McShane, Young, Dzierzawski
Paton (Carmichael 58), Russell
Reilly (Lyle 73)
Unused subs; Atkinson (gk), Dowie, Slattery, Smith, Orsi
Goal; Lyle (78)
Booked; Durnan (foul on Conroy)
Referee; Steve McLean
Report; James Christie