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Hearts 1-0 Dundee 8/4/17
All joking aside, what a turnaround it has been for Dundee. I was resigned to being in a play-off spot under Paul Hartley and had genuine concerns that we would eventually end up bottom.
A new manager comes in, wins his first two games in charge which were both away from home and the world seems a happy place again.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround at Dens Park and we now see ourselves potentially one more win away from Neil McCann achieving the goal he was brought in to deliver. Keeping this team up.
We can’t go getting ahead of ourselves yet though. As easy as it was to see the team pull back a two-point gap against tenth and ninth place to sit four points above them, it will be just as easy for us to hurtle backdown the league.
Do I believe this will happen though? Not really, but we should all still have our wits about us. The next eight days sees us play twice at home to both Highland teams, Ross County and Inverness.
County are the first to travel down south to the City of Discovery and will do so in fine form. No defeats in five with three wins means that they will possibly be most people’s favourites coming into this match.
Though not mathematically safe yet, the Highlanders will have no great concerns of going down this year while we know that a win for ourselves will more or less guarantee league safety. With Motherwell and Hamilton both playing each another and the form we have shown over the last two weeks, it’s the ideal time to put an end to any relegation fears we may have.
Historically, both sides are pretty even when it comes to our head to head record. They also will be starting this match on a good run of form so predicting the outcome of the match will be hard. In fact, the smart money would be on a score draw.
It’s been a hard season watching Dundee but since the appointment of McCann, it’s been like watching a different team. He’s done a fantastic job since taking over three weeks ago and the fact we went to Fir Park and Rugby Park to claim six points under his stewardship is nothing short of remarkable in my eyes.
If we can pull off the win, it will only cement Neil’s legendary status within the Dark Blue ranks. It will also shorten the odds of him being appointed the manager on a permanent basis. It’s been reported in the press recently that he wants to extend his stay past the summer and if he manages three wins on the bounce, who can blame him for not wanting the gig.
Hopefully, when I am writing my article next week, we are toasting a Highland double or at least safe from relegation. That’s the number one goal first and foremost.
MON THE DEE!
Some 1,259 punters headed for Fir Park to see their team end a seven- game losing streak with a 3-2 win over Motherwell.
That number is around double the Dark Blues would expect to take to Lanarkshire.
It wasn’t just the quantity that impressed the gaffer — he was delighted with the quality of support as well.
In last week’s Tele, he called for a rekindling of the spirit of the ‘Deefiant’ season back in 2011.
He got it.
“I was here in that ‘Deefiant’” season when the fans got behind us and it was a real siege mentality,” he said
“I asked for it again and my god I wasn’t disappointed.
“The fans were great.”
Neil also had plenty of praise for his players as they chalked up a vital win that moved them out of the top flight’s relegation play-off spot and up two places. He saw the result as reward for the hard work the squad have put in since he succeeded Paul Hartley just a fortnight ago.
“I know it’s not easy when a change happens,” he added.
“They gave me a full week of everything they had, they worked really hard in training and we worked on shape when we’ve not got the ball.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am for them. They gave me everything but sometimes when you give everything you don’t get the rewards. They got them.”
With the majority of possession and having seen a Ben Heneghan header in the second clearly cross the line, but no goal given, the ‘Well camp were left feeling aggrieved by the outcome.
Neil, though, believed his team were worth their long overdue win.
“I know at times we came under pressure but I trusted them.
“I know it was backs to the wall at times but I knew exactly how Motherwell were playing and we were just a wee bit deep but that’s natural, we’ve lost seven games in a row.”
Now it’s on to Kilmarnock this Saturday and another vital game as the battle to avoid relegation continues.
The squad for that one will be boosted by the return of full-back Cammy Kerr from a one-game suspension.
After a back and forth opening, Rangers took the lead after nine minutes. Fraser Kemp’s under hit pass back to Calum Ferrie was pounced upon by Ross Lyon, who curled the ball past the oncoming keeper from a tight angle.
Things got worse for the Dees as they fell further behind four minutes later. Lyon’s low corner was met by an unmarked Andy Dallas, who swept the ball home from close range.
Rangers added a third in controversial circumstances after 16 minutes. Liam Burt looked to go down inside the area with little contact from Ferrie, but the referee pointed to the spot, and Jamie Barjonas sent his penalty into the bottom right corner of the net, leaving Rangers 3-0 ahead.
Dundee’s best chance of the half came after 26 minutes, when Mark Smith pounced on a loose ball in the Rangers defence, but his shot was saved by Robby McCrorie.
Rangers added a fourth seven minutes after the restart. Serge Atakayi managed to create space inside the Dundee penalty area, before drilling a fierce shot past Ferrie into the bottom corner of the net.
Ferrie had to be at his best to deny Rangers a fifth on the hour mark. The Dundee stopper making a fine save to keep out Dallas’ curling effort from the top of the box. Burt was the next Rangers player to be denied, as Ferrie smothered his effort from a Rangers counter attack.
With 71 minutes gone, Rangers did add a fifth. Kyle Bradley got on the end of Josh Jeffries corner and managed to squeeze his header past Josh Mulligan and the diving Ferrie.
Despite the score line there are still positives for the Dees to take from this match. Kosta Gadzhalov and Henrik Ojamaa both got some much-needed game time on their returns from injury, and in midfield, 14-year-old Finlay Robertson put in an excellent performance, while his fellow 14-year-olds Josh Mulligan and Lyall Cameron also coped well with a physically powerful Rangers side.
Dundee (4-2-3-1): Ferrie, Dryden, Gadzhalov, Smyth, Quigley, Ross, Robertson, Kemp (Mulligan 45), Ojamaa (Cameron 56), M. Smith (Anderson 45), I.Smith
Subs Unused: C. Allan
Rangers (4-2-3-1): Robby McCrorie, Bradley, Lyon, Ashmore, Ross McCrorie (Adamson 60), Wilson (Krones 45), Atakayi, Barjonas, Dallas, Jeffries, Burt (Abaradan 73)
Subs Unused: Gibson, Wright
Goals: Lyon 9’, Dallas 13’, Barjonas 16’ (p), Atakayi 52’, Bradley 71’
Report: Andrew Creegan
Paul Hartley referred to Dundee’s home defeat to Hamilton as a “body blow” in his post-match interview but would have been better placed to admit that his side lie flat on the canvas with the count edging ever nearer to ten.
Hamilton’s second goal characterised the defensive frailties that have been a key protagonist in Dundee’s haunting chapter of seven consecutive defeats. Mikey Devlin stooped to meet Daniel Redmond’s corner in the six yard box with no real objection from Darren O’Dea or Scott Bain, while the jeers reverberated around the ground.
Having conceded 16 goals in their last six games and managing just two in return, Dundee have dropped into the play-off spot and are the worst form team in the Scottish Premiership. Rewind to the month of February and they had picked up eight points from a possible 12, put five past Motherwell at Fir Park and beaten Rangers at Dens Park for the first time since 1992. What’s more, Paul Hartley collected the manager of the month award.
To those on the outside looking in, his managerial career at Dundee has been relatively successful. Promotion to the Premiership was followed immediately by a top six finish, a shrewd recruitment policy has seen him bring in the likes of Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings and of course, last season he oversaw a 2-1 victory that relegated bitter rivals Dundee United to the Championship.
Some might suggest that his achievements with the Dark Blues have earned him a reprieve, the time and opportunity to turn things around. Others believe recent results are just a manifestation of problems that have simmered beneath the surface for some time and that the club must act before it’s too late. There’s also the lack of quality recruitment beyond the aforementioned star duo.
The relationship between the manager and support is strained, the team is lacking in cohesion and organisation, and certain individual players emanate what can only be described as a distinct level of apathy. So the question remains, what now for Paul Hartley and Dundee?
If any solace can be found in the City of Discovery, it’s the emergence of a handful of diamonds in the rough. Cammy Kerr, Craig Wighton and Daniel Higgins have shown the potential of becoming players capable of performing at the right end the Premiership. However, they have found themselves taking on added responsibility in a team bereft of confidence and lacking in tactical guidance from their manager.
Against Hamilton, Kerr found himself playing out of position. Widely thought to be one of the most promising right-backs in the league, he was on the left of what seemed to be a 3-5-2/5-3-2 hybrid. His uncertainty in the position was evident when a loose pass ultimately resulted in Rakish Bingham spurning a good opportunity.
While Hartley has shown a willingness to give young players a chance, he does not seem to show the same desire to protect them. Wighton, a 19-year-old, was singled out for missing a good chance against Hearts. The manager said the player had ‘choked’, a comment that cannot come without negative repercussions for a young striker’s mentality.
While there are occasional rays of hope shown on the pitch from the direct running of Faissal El Bakhtaoui or the neat hold-up play of Marcus Haber, the dip in form of players like Scott Bain pose serious questions on how the team is being coached.
When he first arrived at Dundee, Bain’s shotstopping ability combined with a desire to collect crosses had some touting him as a Scotland goalkeeper of the future. But nowadays the goalkeeper is consistently rooted to his line, meaning that if his defenders fail to clear their lines, opposition players can score from close range. This was particularly evident during the team’s 7-0 home thrashing to Aberdeen, when time after time the away side’s crosses were met unchallenged within the six yard area.
Hartley’s midfield have also failed to impose themselves in recent fixtures. Tom Hately and James Vincent, looking unsure of their own system, failed to cope with a Hamilton team playing purposeful attacking football. Hartley’s tinkering is not producing so much as a hint of change and as a result, the club risks an ignominious departure from the league.
There is a real possibility that Dundee will find themselves needing to manoeuvre a play-off tie in order to preserve their Premiership status. In which case, they could face either Morton, Falkirk or Dundee United. While a number of things have yet to pan out, there would be an intense irony if their fate relied upon beating their city neighbours. Whether this current side have the nous or the bottle to do so is a different matter altogether.
Entry for the Bob Shankly Stand for this fixture is priced at just £10 for an adult and under 16 ticket. While 2 adults and up to 6 children will be able to gain access for just £20. Entry will be via ticket only.
The doors for the Shankly Stand will open at 1.30pm and we will have a number of pre match activities in the concourse and in the stand in the build up to the match for our young supporters.
The Junior Dees, DFC Direct and DFC in the Community will all be represented and we have also partnered up with Hornes Carnival.
In addition, Deewok has called in some friends with OCH Bear from the Old Course and Dennis the Menace making an appearance. As well as heading round the stand to have their photos taken you can also look out for these three taking part in mascot race at half time
We will also have face painting in the stand and the chance to have your photo taken with Oor Bobby as well as a number of giveaways throughout.
Supporters who have season tickets will be able to exchange their usual seats for tickets in the Shankly in the ticket office.
For full details on buying or exchanging tickets, please contact the Ticket Office directly on 01382 767039 or visit the desk inside Dundee Direct.
Tickets are available to purchase online now – click here
It’s in the blood – Dark Blue, coursing through.