10-man Dundee held on to take a point against Steve Clarke's Kilmarnock after a 0-0 draw at Dens Park in the SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership. Darren O'Dea was sent off for two yellow cards, while Eamonn Brophy came closest to scoring as he hit the bar in injury time.
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Saturdays goalless draw may have been a drab affair for the punters that paid to get in but it did end Dundee’s recent run of defeats against an Ayrshire side who have recently turned the corner since the arrival of new manager Steve Clarke.
He said: “I felt on Saturday, against a real good side in terms of their organisation to go away from home and get big results with Jones and Boyd up front, we contained them for a lot of the game.
“We’re pleased with the point, I’m really happy for them because they’ve been working hard to keep a clean sheet.
“Now we need to start building and scoring goals that get us three points rather than one.”
Meanwhile, skipper Darren O’Dea is set to serve a two-match suspension after being given a red card near the end of Saturdays match with McCann confessing he had no complaints about his captain getting an early bath.
So far this season in the league, O’Dea has picked up eight yellow and two red cards.
Dundee made two changes from the team that won at Motherwell. Cammy Kerr and Faissal El Bakhtaoui came in for Nick Ross and Craig Wighton. Killie were unchanged after winning at Hamilton.
The Dark Blues started confidently, dominating the midfield and moving the ball around inventively in the Killie half. The first goal threat came from a slick exchange down the right by Tom Hateley and Mark O’Hara, whose low cross was hacked clear from the goalmouth.
Kilmarnock were careless in defence, bringing unnecessary pressure onto themselves by some poor distribution and loss of concentration. The Dark Blues ought to have taken the lead after 18 minutes when Faissal El Bakhtaoui’s crossfield pass found Mark O’Hara running into the box totally unmarked. He squared the ball to Marcus Haber, who had a better angle. Freddie Woodman should have been left with no chance, but pulled out an oustanding save from Haber’s shot from 10 yards.
Kevin Gomis did send the ball into the net with a glancing header from Kevin Holt’s free kick. However, the assistant referee’s flag was up very quickly for what must have been a tight offside decision.
Haber missed another great chance after superb play by El Bakhtaoui, who danced through the Killie defence before hitting a tempting cross to the near post where Haber smashed his header narrowly wide.
The Dee camped out in the Kilmarnock half for the latter stages of the first half pressing and probing for the opening goal. Tom Hateley brought a good save from Woodman with a 30 yard free kick. Another fine move ended with Paul McGowan sending Cammy Kerr to the byline, but Killie scrambled the low cross away.
In the first half Kilmarnock were largely reduced to long balls aimed at the experienced stiking pair of Kris Boyd and Connor Sammon. Dundee coped comfortably with that tactic and the only threat from a disjointed home side was the occasional long range pot shot that failed to trouble Scott Bain.
Dundee took up in the second half as they had finished the first, sending in a wave of attacks at the goal in front of the travelling Dees. Cammy Kerr’s long distance run down the right was taking him into the penalty area till he was brought down by Greg Taylor.
After offering no threat in front of goal Killie almost scored a freakish opener when Bain battered a backpass into the face of substitute Greg Kiltie and the ball rebounded across goal and to safety.
Dundee were soon back on the attack and had a penalty claim when Darren O’Dea seemed to be held by Kristoffer Ajer as he tried to get on the end of a free kick. With the pressure mounting an El Bakhtaoui shot was deflected for a corner before, finally, after 54 minutes, the Dark Blues scored the goal their play merited.
Kevin Holt played the ball down the left to Paul McGowan, whose diagonal run had taken him into space. A clever turn and perfect cross set up Marcus HABER to score with a powerful header from six yards, triggering huge celebrations in the away stand.
Within a minute Killie centre back Gary Dicker went close with a glancing header from a free kick. The goal sparked Kilmarnock into life and they now looked far more dangerous opponents. The Dee had an escape when Kris Boyd’s misdirected header bounced up onto Kevin Gomis’s hand. Referee Mr Thomson decided the contact was purely accidental and waved play on.
There was another scare when Kerr lost the ball to Jordan Jones, who wastefully sent his cross straight out of play instead of picking out a teammate.
After riding that brief storm the Dark Blues settled into a long spell of pressure with Kilmarnock struggling to get out of their own half. The home side were losing shape and concentration as Dee players repeatedly found space with good passing and movement. It might have looked as if Dundee were being gifted easy possession, but this was a matter of hard work and discipline, not good luck.
Mark O’Hara went close with a diving header from Tom Hateley’s dinked cross. He then saw a shot blocked, as did Kevin Holt, with the Dee turning the screw looking for a killer second goal. At the end of a fast break Haber could’t quite reach O’Hara’s cross to the far post.
Killie had been hanging on by their finger tips, but came back strongly in the last 15 minutes. After 78 minutes Scott Bain pulled off the first of two unbelievable saves. Boyd headed the ball on for Kiltie whose header from six yards looked an absolutely certain goal. Astonishingly, Bain managed to react and touch the ball over the crossbar.
Remarkably there will be some debate about whether that was the save of the day. Six minutes later Boyd’s low shot from 16 yards again seemed sure to find the net. It was heading just inside the post but Bain stretched out to tip the ball wide when he looked to have no chance of reaching it.
Craig Wighton came on for El Bakhtaoui for the last 15 minutes, and Nick Ross then replaced McGowan as the Dee switched to a 4-5-1 formation to see the game out.
With the very last touch of the ball Gary Dicker again headed wide from a corner. The referee immediately blew his whistle and the Dark Blues supporters rose to their feet and gave the players a massive and thoroughly deserved ovation.
It might have been a narrow victory that required two top class saves, but there can be no dispute that the Dee were much the better side today. Their movement, passing, pressing and commitment gave them a real edge over Killie for most of the match. The Dark Blues could have tied up the points in an excellent first half, and it was no surprise when they scored the sort of well crafted goal that won the game.
This win was a huge step away from the dreaded play-off spot and it was exactly the sort of committed team performance that Dundee supporters love to watch. The reaction of the fans at the end suggests that there will be a large and enthusiastic turnout next week for Neil McCann’s first match at Dens as manager.
Kilmarnock FC 4-3-3
Hendrie, Dicker, Ajer, Taylor
Wilson (Kiltie at half time), Smith, Longstaff
Jones (Roberts 76), Boyd, Sammon
Unused subs: MacDonald (gk), Graham, Hawkshaw, Osborne, Frizzell.
Booked: Taylor (foul on Kerr).
Dundee FC 4-4-1-1
Kerr, Gomis, O’Dea (c), Holt
O’Hara, Hateley, Vincent, El Bakhtaoui (Wighton 76)
McGowan (Ross 84)
Haber (Ojamaa 90+1)
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Williams, Gadzhalov, Higgins.
Booked: Gomis (foul on Jones).
Referee: Craig Thomson. Assistants: David McGeachie, Andrew McWilliam. Fourth official: Scott Millar.
Report: James Christie.
The Dark Blues made one change from the team that drew in Inverness last Saturday; Kosta Gadzhalov came in for Julen Etxabeguren. The visitors made two changes; striker Connor Sammon replaced midfielder Steven Smith as Killie switched from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2.
After a quiet start Killie took the lead with a goal that embarrassed the Dundee defence with its simplicity. A long ball evaded everyone in Dark Blue allowing Kris BOYD to run clear, round Scott Bain and score despite Kevin Gomis’s best efforts to get back and clear.
Kilmarnock’s youthful midfield was playing some neat passing football and providing effective support to their far more experienced strike force. Dundee endured some uncomfortable moments after the goal and the situation might have quickly got even worse. Boyd was left unmarked at a free kick but he mistimed his header and sent the ball backwards.
The Dark Blues gradually pulled themselves together and started to exert pressure on Killie’s defence. Mark O’Hara passed up a great opportunity to equalise when Marcus Haber’s clever turn and pass sent him through on goal, only for Freddie Woodman to save with his feet.
Dundee’s equaliser, like the Kilmarnock goal, came out of the blue. After 26 minutes Cammy Kerr picked up the ball from a throw in, not far inside the Killie half. He floated a long cross over the Kilmarnock defence, which had switched off and failed to notice Kevin HOLT racing in on the far side; the wing back scored with a marvellous, controlled, low volley from 15 yards.
Kilmarnock continued to rack up impressive possession statistics as they passed the ball around in midfield hoping to find an opening, but Dundee looked the more dangerous side with fast attacks when they had the ball. A low drive from 20 yards by Henrik Ojamaa was heading inside Woodman’s right hand post but the young keeper, on loan from Newcastle, pulled out a fine save to tip the ball wide. Another break ended with Paul McGowan shooting wide after Marcus Haber’s header had struck a defender.
The second half started with Kilmarnock finding the form that had unsettled Dundee early in the first half. Henrik Ojamaa went close with a shot from distance following a good run, but the serious goal threat came from Killie. A poor backpass by Darren O’Dea put Bain under pressure, and the Dee keeper had to drag the ball round the onrushing Boyd and clear. Kosta Gadzhalov then saved the Dark Blues twice in quick succession. Sean Longstaff seemed certain to score from Jones’ cutback but Gadzhalov flung himself into the path of the shot. Within a minute a deep cross gave Connor Sammon the chance to bundle the ball past Bain, but Gadzhalov cleared the half hit shot off the line.
As in the first half Dundee started to play their way into the match without ever being able to control the game a game that became increasingly open in the last 30 minutes. Killie started to move the ball forward more quickly, as Dundee continued to do, but neither team could find the composure to set up good chances.
Marcus Haber had three opportunities that could hardly be called half chances. He headed over from a Hateley cross, volleyed wide from an Ojamaa cross, and then couldn’t quite reach Kerr’s low ball across goal. Kilmarnock, for their part, also had openings that were barely real chances. Scott Bain had to grab a low cross from the dangerous Jordan Jones, who had burst clear on the left. Kris Boyd turned a low, deep corner over the bar, but it would have been a remarkable finish if he succeeded.
Apart from that, play fizzed from end to end with no-one able to find the right pass or cross to open up the defences. Dundee switched to 4-4-2 for the last 20 minutes. Kevin Gomis was withdrawn to let Craig Wighton come off the bench and he caused Kilmarnock problems with his skill and direct running down the left.
In the last few minutes Gadzhalov came closest to a winner when his far post header from a Klok cross was blocked by Woodman’s knees. Rory McKenzie forced Scott Bain to tip over a rising shot from 22 yards after a good run. Faissal El Bakhtaoui came on for the last few minutes and was quickly involved. He sent an angled drive narrowly wide and in injury time saw his effort from the edge of the penalty area easily taken by Woodman. Right at the end of injury time Marc Klok, who had replaced Tom Hateley midway through the second half, sent a curling shot over the cross bar following a good run on the left by Wighton.
At the end Dundee could have no complaints about the draw. They always looked capable of fashioning the chance that would have brought a winner, but Kilmarnock had spells at the start of each half during which they dominated and would have deserved more than the one goal. Both teams deserve credit for trying their hardest to win the game in freezing rain and sleet. It was hardly a classic; there were too many errors, and little composed, attacking football. But the players did enough to ensure the match was far from boring. So tight is the bottom six that the single point lifted Dundee three places to 7th place, but still only three points above Hamilton in the play-spot, 10th place.
Dundee FC 3-5-2
Gomis (Wighton 72), Gadzhalov, O’Dea (c)
Kerr, Hateley (Klok 66), O’Hara, McGowan, Holt
Ojamaa (El Bakhtaoui 85), Haber
Unused subs: Ferrie (gk), Vincent, Williams, Ross.
Goal: Holt (26)
Booked: McGowan (foul on Jones), Gadzhalov (blocking goalkeeper’s clearance), Holt (foul on 85).
Kilmarnock FC 4-4-2
Hendrie (Addison 31), Wilson, Ajer, Taylor
McKenzie, Dicker, Longstaff, Jones (Roberts 87)
Kris Boyd (c) (Tyson 87), Sammon
Unused subs: MacDonald (gk), Scott Boyd, Umerah, Martin Smith.
Goal: Boyd (8).
Booked: Longstaff (foul on O’Hara), Sammon (foul on Gomis), Tyson (foul on Haber).
Referee: Alan Muir. Assistants: Gavin Harris, Mark McLean. Fourth official: Craig Charleston.
Report: James Christie.