ROSS County manager Jim McIntyre was bursting with pride after watching his spirited side overcome the odds to earn a precious point and breathe new life into their fight for survival.
Scorers: Dundee - McAlister 52; Ross County - Curran 65
A debut equaliser from recent signing Craig Curran was enough to prevent off-form Dundee from notching their first league win since 1 November after County’s Terry Dunfield had been red-carded in the seventh minute, leaving his team-mates facing a formidable task.
Their predicament looked even more forlorn when they fell behind to Jim McAlister’s 51st-minute goal, but the Dingwall side showed they have the stomach for a fight when new boy Curran equalised midway through the second half. County remain bottom of the table, a point adrift of St Mirren, but McIntytre said: “I’ve nothing but pride with the way the boys battled.
“You know when you go down to ten men that early that it’s going to take a monumental effort. The players stuck together and we tried to keep two strikers up for most of the game.
“The sending-off was a big thing and [referee] Craig Thomson said he left the ground with both feet so if that’s what’s happened then it’s a red card by the letter of the law.
“I didn’t think Dundee had too many real openings but in the main I though we defended well and had that wee bit of luck as well. I thought Curran had a great debut and he took his goal really well. He will give us something different. He set a real tone here with his desire to close people down.”
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Dundee recalled goalkeeper Scott Bain ahead of schedule from a shoulder injury, with German Arvid Schenk dropping to the bench in the wake of losing six goals on his debut in the
Dundee derby on New Year’s Day. The hosts also handed a debut to on-loan Hibs winger Alex Harris, who had signed just 24 hours earlier.
With just seven minutes on the clock, the hosts looked odds-on to savour a long-awaited win after County were reduced to ten men. Dunfield went over the ball on Paul McGowan and was shown a straight red card by referee Thomson for what was an act of folly so early on.
Dundee wasted no time trying to make the extra man count and in 14 minutes David Clarkson set up strike partner Greg Stewart whose deft lob went just over the bar. The hosts were doing most of the pressing and almost took the lead in 18 minutes.
Kevin Thomson’s weighted pass cut open the visiting defence and defender Gary Irvine timed his run brilliantly to beat the offside trap, only to lash his low shot into the side-netting with the goal at his mercy. However, there was an even bigger miss in 29 minutes when Stewart laid the ball on a plate for Clarkson, who was in acres of space. With only keeper Antonio Reguero to beat from point-blank range, the former Motherwell forward somehow fired wide on his left foot.
The breakthrough eventually came for the hosts in the 51st minute. Irvine burst clear down the left and looked up before crossing for McAlister, who swept an unstoppable left-footed shot from 20 yards out beyond the reach of Reguero and into the far corner.
That strike helped ease the tension among the home support and Dundee duly went in search of another to try and make sure of the points. Luka Tankulic replaced Clarkson soon after and the German came within inches of making an instant impact. He released Harris down the right and the
debutant’s cross caused havoc in the box before Tankulic latched on to the loose ball and smacked a shot against the post.
There was still life in the Highlanders, however, and they levelled in 64 minutes when Jackson Irvine’s deep cross eluded the entire Dundee defence, allowing Curran to stretch out his leg and stab a shot past Bain to stun the hosts.
Dundee piled on the pressure from then on with McAlister spurning a golden chance to win it in 86 minutes when he shot straight at Reguero from 12 yards out after Stewart had nodded the ball down to him.
No matter how hard they tried, though, the Taysiders couldn’t force a winner as County left Dens with a precious point. Paul Hartley’s men have now gone eight league games without a win, and the dejected manager felt his side should have been out of sight on chances created.
“It’s definitely two points dropped for us,” said Hartley. “We had the majority of the play and chances to win but it’s just one of these runs we’re going through that if we make a mistake we’re getting punished for it.
“We were sloppy at the goal which was their only real attack of the second-half. We’ve said that to the players, who are bitterly disappointed as it was a good chance to get a win. We’ve just got to keeping pulling together and working hard to get through this.”
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