Having shared six goals in the same fixture earlier in the campaign it was only fitting that Dundee and Ross County played out another thrilling encounter for the Dens Park crowd.
The difference on this occasion, aside from the additional strike, was that a victor was crowned at the conclusion of the contest.
Dundee netted five times and created numerous other chances throughout the match. However, a propensity for allowing County back into the game through the conceding of soft goals kept this one competitive until the closing exchanges. Home fans would have been forgiven for thinking they had the ending to this blockbuster sussed when young Craig Wighton side-footed home from close range in the 86th minute.
Greg Stewart then put the cherry on top with a terrific individual goal before leaving the field to a thoroughly deserved standing ovation. He’d just played a pivotal role in moving Dundee ahead of their visitors into the top six with only one full round of fixtures remaining.
“He’s such a composed finisher and when he’s on his game he’s a real joy to watch,” said his manager Paul Hartley.”We just give him the freedom to go play and express himself. The front three all have that freedom and when we’re on our game we’ve as good an attack as any in the league.”
It took only three minutes for Dundee to bare their teeth as Cammy Kerr headed over after being found by Nick Ross at the back post. The young full-back then turned provider with a low cross for Rory Loy that the striker scuffed into the keeper’s arms. Down the other end, David Mitchell repelled Alex Schalk’s effort before Darren O’Dea knocked Michael Gardyne’s rebound off the line.
It’s often said you’re more likely to concede on the counter from a corner as you are to score, and that was certainly the case for County. Kane Hemmings collected a long clearance before releasing Stewart through the centre. The County defence was short-manned, though that was little excuse for allowing Stewart to switch on to his stronger left foot as he took aim and shot beyond Gary Woods from 18 yards.
Two minutes later the hosts doubled the advantage. Gary Holt headed into the path of Hemmings who tucked his finish into the bottom corner. But Andrew Davies headed a goal back after running unmarked on to a Martin Woods corner. Woods was then guilty of wasting a gilt-edged chance to tie the game up two minutes later.
The visitors would rue that miss when Loy restored the two-goal advantage. The forward went into the match having failed to find the back of the net since November. This barren spell was in sharp contrast to his strike-partner Hemmings, who took his tally to 23 for the season. Thankfully for Loy, Hemmings was able to help out his team-mate, shooting from the edge of the area and seeing the effort deflected off Loy’s forehead, wrong-footing Woods.
Loy tried to return the favour two minutes later, though this time the keeper was equal to Hemmings’ effort. From almost killing the game off, Dundee once again found themselves holding a meagre advantage as Schalk raced away from Julen Extabeguren, cut inside and went for goal. Deputy stopper David Mitchell appeared to have saved the effort, only for it to drop into the net at the far post.
Dundee sat a little deeper in the second half as they looked to shore up the leaky defence, though Hemmings twice went close from set-pieces before substitute Wighton finished the game as a contest. .
Stewart then capped off his performance by leading Davies and Ian McShane on a merry dance with three feints before shooting into the bottom corner.
Stewart 7, 90; Hemmings 9; Loy 38; Wighton 86
Ross County 2
Davies 15; Schalk 45