Dundee succeeded in putting a slight dent in Celtic’s championship hopes while at the same time helping their own top-six ambitions. For the second successive time between teams so willing to attack, there were no goals to report.
But there were plenty of goalmouth incidents. Quite how neither side scored is a mystery, but a no less enjoyable one for that. Since scoring six times without replay in an embarrassingly one-sided contest at Parkhead in September, Celtic have failed to strike so much as once in 180 minutes against Dundee.
The stalemate might not have serious consequences for Celtic’s title bid – they are now five points ahead of second placed Aberdeen with six games left – but it was of huge potential importance to Dundee, who had to avoid defeat to stay above Partick Thistle, victors over Dundee United.
But the Dens side will perhaps rue failing to take the opportunity to secure a first home win over Celtic since 1988. Indeed, both teams lamented being unable to gain all three points, although neither can have too many complaints about the scoreline.
Much hinged on the rescheduled fixture, which perhaps explained the cagey opening half. However, this did not explain a second-half that switched thrillingly from end to end, with Dundee hitting a post through Rory Loy. Celtic, for their part, were frustrated by Nick Ross, who did the job of a post when preventing Mikael Lustig’s header from crossing the line.
Leigh Griffiths cut a particularly unhappy figure at the end having now gone three league games, plus an hour for Scotland, without a goal. He missed a glorious opening after 12 minutes having latched on to a through ball that Dundee defender Julen Etxabeguren allowed to slip through. However, the striker was foiled by returning Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain.
Patrick Roberts, a pivotal performer in Celtic’s weekend victory over Hearts, also blasted over from a good position while Stefan Johansen saw a shot on the turn deflected on to a post shortly before half-time.
But it was not all Celtic and Dundee had their own glimpses of goal. A Ross shot from 12 yards was beaten away by Craig Gordon, with no Dundee player able to capitalise on the rebound. If any player – or fan - felt slightly discombobulated, then they had probably read the match programme, where Dundee manager Paul Hartley was merrily hoping everyone was going to going to have a happy Hogmanay.
But this was the consequence of Dundee cheekily selling the same programme from when the fixture was originally scheduled to be played in late December.
Dundee could also draw succour from a recent goalless draw at Parkhead, when several of Dundee’s main players were rested from the starting XI. This allowed 18 year-old Craig Wighton a chance to play and the striker came on again at half-time to replace Kane Hemmings, Dundee’s top goalscorer.
The striker had carried a knock into the game and his departure was a blow to the hosts. But Wighton so very nearly made a quick impression. Gordon was quick off his line to snuff out the danger after Wighton latched on to a pass into the box after good work on the edge of the penalty area by Dundee.
Roberts, another young player with plenty of potential, was a menace at the other end, with one of his wriggling runs brilliantly stopped by a Paul McGowan tackle. After Celtic’s dominance in the first half, it was now more end-to-end. Dundee cursed their luck when McGowan’s volley was saved by Gordon. Again they could not capitalise on the rebound. Loy was only able to hit the post with the rebound.
Celtic came even closer at the other end when a succession of corners put Dundee under tremendous pressure, with Ross using his midriff to block Lustig’s header on the line. Gary Harkins had just replaced Loy and was relieved to avoid being seen as bringing his team ill-fortune. Celtic too made a change, Colin Kazim Richards replacing Lustig.
It was clear Celtic were changing tack slightly in their bid to score the all-important goal but still Dundee held out. Indeed, they continued to threaten, with Wighton so nearly put clean through by McGowan’s through ball.
No-one will convince Kazim Richards he wasn’t held in the box by Darren O’Dea at the end as Celtic upped the ante. But it seemed a fair result.
Referee: K Clancy
DUNDEE: Bain; Kerr, Konrad, O’Dea, Etxabeguren; Holt; Ross, McGowan; Stewart, Loy (Harkins 60), Hemmings (Wighton 45). Subs not used: Meggatt, Mitchell, Arturo, Curran, Waddell.
CELTIC: Gordon, Lustig (Kazim Richards 61), Boyata, Sviatchenko (Mulgrew 59), Tierney; Mackay-Steven (Armstrong 89), Brown, Bitton, Johansen; Roberts, Griffiths. Subs not used: Commons, Fasan,