PAUL Hartley’s debut in the managerial dugout at Dens Park packed in a fair number of ingredients – hope, frustration and bafflement among them.
SCORER: Dundee - Hamilton 6
But ultimately it was all smiles as his new charges navigated their way past a Hamilton Accies side reduced to nine men after two second-half orderings off. It was enough to put Dundee on top of the pile again in the Championship as fellow title contenders Falkirk slipped up in Dumfries – dead easy, this management game, eh?
To be fair, the positive impact of Hartley’s arrival was readily discernible, especially in an opening 45 minutes when Dundee were utterly dominant and should have put the game out of sight even before a procession of yellow and red cards were flashed at their opponents. One of the new manager’s first impressions of his charges was that he felt they needed to play a higher tempo. In terms of an instant response, the collective efforts of the home side – and of Martin Boyle in particular – could hardly have been bettered.
Without a goal all season, the little forward scored just six minutes into Hartley’s reign as he nipped in to take advantage of some dithering at the edge of the visitors’ box to drill the ball into the net.
In truth, he could have had a first-half hat-trick, but aside from that he tormented an Accies defence whose indiscretions were entirely down to their inability to deal with his pace.
“I’ve only worked with them a couple of days, but the training has been great”, reflected a delighted Hartley. “We said to them get at Hamilton, be dynamic, and they took on board everything I asked of them.”
“I had Boyle in my office this morning and asked him how many goals had he scored this year”, he continued. “I told him he would score today. He’s had a bit of a difficult spell here, but he’s a player. In terms of his pace and quality he was absolutely outstanding today”.
There were openings galore not only for Boyle in a zestful opening 45 minutes from Hartley’s men, and Jim McAllister was another who passed up a glorious chance to add to their early lead after the ball got caught between his feet in the six-yard box. By contrast, a Darian MacKinnon effort that missed Kyle Letheren’s goal by the finest of margins was about the only signal that Hamilton actually had an interest in the game at this stage.
It seemed destined to go from bad to worse for the visitors early in the second half as first Stephen Hendrie, and then Ziggy Gordon picked up second yellow cards and the consequential red in their efforts to literally get to grips with that man Boyle.
If there was to be a disappointing facet to an otherwise fine afternoon for Hartley it was surely in Dundee’s reaction to this benevolent turn of events. In what is a seemingly growing fad in the Scottish game, a two-man numerical advantage appears to have become a form of psychological handicap as the hosts proceeded to huff and puff to the point that Hamilton were actually the side creating the better chances. Indeed, the visitors came awfully close to doing an “Inverness” as MacKinnon struck a vicious shot that was only just carried clear of the crossbar by a deflection.
“For whatever reason, it takes us two men being sent off before we started going about our business the right way,” lamented Accies manager, Alex Neil. “For the last 40 minutes of the game I thought we were excellent.”