I am the match reporter for Dundee FC’s website. It’s just an unpaid hobby and it’s hugely enjoyable. The club implemented a new website for the start of the 2016/17 season, which meant that the old reports on the former website were lost. I was chatting about this to Kenny Ross, club historian and chairman of the Dundee FC Supporters Association. I suggested that it would be a good idea to publish some of the old match reports on my blog. Where better to start than the final derby of last season when Dundee beat their city rivals United to consign them to relegation? Kenny agreed enthusiastically, so here is the report, exactly as it appeared on Dundee FC’s website on the night of May 2nd 2016.
Dundee defeated local rivals Dundee United 2-1 in the final derby of the season, and for at least a year, at Dens tonight. On a night of emotion, drama, elation and tears Edward Ofere put United ahead early in the second half only for the Dark Blues to peg them back with Kosta Gadzhalov’s first goal for the Dee. A draw would still have sent United down to the Championship, but local lad Craig Wighton hammered the final nail into their coffin, and lifted the Dee back to 7th place in the table, with a winner three minutes into injury time.
The Dark Blues were unchanged following their win at Partick Thistle last week. United made three changes; Blair Spittal, Simon Murray and Edward Ofere replaced Guy Demel, Ryan Dow and Billy McKay.
United kicked off in a fever pitched atmosphere with both sets of fans turning the volume up to 11. Paul Dixon’s early bad foul on Greg Stewart left the Dee forward dumped on the touchline requiring treatment, a sight that only cranked up the noise.
The Dee made all the early running against a nervous United defence that always looked accident prone. Kane Hemmings had the first shot on target, from a Nick Ross cutback, but it lacked the power to trouble Kawashima.
Dundee’s dreadful luck with injuries in this season’s derbies continued when Paul McGowan took a heavy tackle and was forced out of the game after 15 minutes. Julen Etxabeguren replaced him and moved straight into midfield to leave the formation unchanged.
Dundee were keen to feed the ball as much as possible to Stewart on the right where United looked vulnerable. When Stewart moved inside Paul McGinn was always keen to exploit the vacant space on the wing. A good run and cross by the full back had United’s defence all at sea, but Dixon just managed to turn the cross out of danger.
Five minutes from the break the Dark Blues passed up their best chance of the first half. Dixon lost the ball to Stewart, who quickly moved it on for Nick Ross to send Hemmings clear. With only Kawashima to beat the Dee’s top scorer lashed his shot over the bar from 15 yards.
At half time neither set of fans could be entirely happy with the first half. United had done little to suggest that they would secure the win they needed to avoid relegation on the night. Dundee, on the other hand, hadn’t created as much danger in the away penalty area as they should have done after dominating the first 45 minutes against an unhappy United defence.
Dundee looked like maintaining their dominance in the first few minutes after the break, but it was United who took the lead after 53 minutes. Simon Murray broke down the left and found John Rankin whose low cross was stabbed past Bain by Edward OFERE from eight yards out.
The goal transformed the game. A nervous and diffident United team were given a huge injection of confidence and energy. The Dark Blues were rattled and struggled to get back into the game. Dundee managed the odd attack, but for the next 20 minutes United looked fully capable of killing the game with a second goal.
United attacked aggressively, but Dundee’s defence prevented them creating clear chances, though there was no shortage of nervous moments for the home fans when the ball was in the Dee’s penalty area. Mark Durnan got his head to a corner, but his effort was too gentle giving Ross ample time to clear it off the line.
With 15 minutes to Scott Bain made the save that turned the game and allowed the Dee to seal their neighbours’ fate. Kyle Knoyle’s through pass sent Ofere clear, but Bain spread himself to block. Dundee might have been two goals down, but within a minute they were level.
Gary Harkins won a corner, which he floated into the goalmouth, where Kosta GADZHALOV’s downward header found its way through a ruck of players and into the net, with Hemmings getting involved to distract the defenders.
United have often been accused of lacking spirit and reacting badly to adversity this season, but there was nothing wrong with their determined response to the goal.
The Dee were forcred on the back foot for a few minutes. First, Scott Bain pulled off a superb save to touch Erskine’s blistering shot over the bar. Then Dundee had to survive a frantic couple of minutes as a series of United corners had the home defence under furious pressure.
Dundee soon got to grips with the game and looked increasingly dangerous as United opened up pushing for the winner they desperately needed. It was Kawashima’s turn to pull out a great save, denying Hemmings whose header from Stewart’s cross seemed destined for the top corner. The Japanese keeper saved again from Etxbeguren’s header from a corner as the tension mounted.
The pressure affected the players in the last few minutes as the game became increasingly bad tempered, with a series of bad fouls, bookings and angry exchanges.
In injury time Hemmings broke clear on the right, but couldn’t find Harkins with his pass inside. In the Dee’s next attack Hemmings tried to go outside Sean Dillon but was fouled just outside the right side of the penalty area. With the defence expecting a shot or a cross into the goalmouth, Greg Stewart caught everyone out by rolling the ball across for Craig WIGHTON to score with a crisp low drive across goal and inside the far post from 16 yards.
With 93 minutes on the clock the goal triggered utter jubilation in the home stands. There was no time for United to fight back, and next season the Dee will be playing in a higher division than their great local rivals for the first time since 1960.
Dundee were some way short of their best, but they showed great character to dig out a win that keeps them at the top of the bottom six and means they have matched their highest points total in the top division since the inception of the 38 game season with a split back in 2000.
Paul McGowan’s injury was a big blow and certainly affected Dundee’s play tonight. His partnership with Nick Ross in central midfield has been vital. When that pair play well the whole team plays well. Julen Etxabeguren did well as a makshift holding midfielder, but he lacked McGowan’s ability to set up attacks.
This was a tough and emotional night, and ultimately it was the Dundee players who held their nerves to earn the win. For the fourth derby this season the team that scored first failed to win. Dundee have come from behind to win both derbies at Dens. That is always special, but tonight such a spirited fightback was particularly prized by the Dark Blues’ noisy and gleeful support.
Dundee FC 4-2-3-1
McGinn, Gadzhalov, O’Dea, Holt
McGowan (Etxabeguren 15), Ross
Stewart, Harkins (c), Wighton
Unused subs: Mitchell (gk), Konrad, Meggatt, Arturo, Colquhoun, Curran.
Goals: Gadzhalov (76), Wighton (90+3)
Booked: Bain (dissent), Stewart (foul on Dixon), O’Dea (confronting Paton).
Dundee United FC 4-4-2
Knoyle, Dillon, Durnan, Dixon
Fraser (Dow 61), Paton, Rankin, Spittal (McKay 85)
Murray (Erskine 72), Ofere
Unused subs: Zwick (gk), Morris, Anier Donaldson.
Goal: Ofere (53).
Booked: Dixon (foul on Stewart), Paton (foul on Wighton), Kawashima (confronting Stewart) Dillon (foul on Hemmings).
Referee: Willie Collum. Assistants: Frank Connor, Dougie Potter. Fourth official: John McKendrick.
Attendance: 10,088 (1,940 away fans)
Report: James Christie