HE SCORES when he wants, said the public announcer, which isn’t so very far from the truth. David Clarkson’s record since joining Dundee in September now stands at eight goals in his first eight games, although few have been quite so valuable as this.
SCORERS: Dundee - Konrad 4, Clarkson 90; Aberdeen - Konrad 17
It was Clarkson’s only chance of the match. It was Dundee’s only one of the second half. We were into stoppage time when the striker flicked the ball on to James McPake who, in turn, headed it back. From there, Clarkson carried it into the box and slipped it under the goalkeeper, Scott Brown.
Not only did Clarkson secure his team a scarcely deserved place in tomorrow’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round draw, he moved to within one of the nine consecutive matches in which Johnny Bell scored for Dundee in the 1920s. Not bad for a player who was without a club at the start of this season.
Now, with Gordon Strachan among the spectators here, they are talking about a Scotland call-up. Paul Hartley, the Dundee manager, later admitted that, even when he signed him, he had no idea that the 29-year-old striker would be so prolific. “I thought he would score goals for us, but the run he is on is just incredible,” said Hartley. “Everything he touches seems to go in. He is at that age now where he should be at his peak. He just needs to get his fitness with us, and he’s certainly doing that.”
It was hard on Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, who had released Clarkson when he was at Bristol City. After a frantic opening spell in which Thomas Konrad, the Dundee defender, had scored for both sides, the visitors produced the better, more incisive football.
Even had it ended in a draw, Aberdeen would have been disappointed. After Clarkson’s late goal, they were denied by Scott Bain, who miraculously tipped Niall McGinn’s crashing volley on to the underside of the crossbar. The shot had been struck with such power that, after bouncing on the line, the ball also hit the bar on its way up.
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The Dundee goalkeeper was every bit as vital to the victory as Clarkson. “He can go right to the top, and I mean that,” said Hartley. “I’ve worked with him over the last three years, and he just keeps producing it. He’s very level-headed, very calm. He just keeps making save after save.”
Despite the lunchtime kick-off, there was an old-fashioned feel to this one. Sir Alex Ferguson was here, enjoying a chance to roll back the years, a healthy throng of Aberdeen fans filled the away stand and there was a whiff of nostalgia in the way the teams set about each other on a damp, drizzly day at Dens.
Within seconds of the first whistle, Niall McGinn was sliding across the dew-covered turf, failing narrowly to connect with Adam Rooney’s cross. Then Dundee were charging to the other end, where they took an early lead. When Gary Harkins, standing on the spot where a free-kick had been awarded, was thrown the ball, he quickly slung it across the box before Aberdeen’s defence had settled. Konrad rose to meet it, Brown got down to block, but the ball squirmed in under the goalkeeper.
Aberdeen’s reply arrived only 13 minutes later. Mark Reynolds appeared to foul Clarkson in midfield, but the referee saw nothing amiss, allowing Jonny Hayes to advance. The winger fed McGinn, whose low cross was at an angle awkward enough to go in off Konrad.
Aberdeen had the better of an open, fiercely contested first half. McGinn, David Goodwillie and Adam Rooney all had chances, but it was Rooney’s header, seven minutes from the interval, that should have put them ahead. He directed Goodwillie’s cross towards the bottom corner, but Bain saved.
Dundee missed Paul McGowan, who has had troubles to address off the pitch. They were also without the kind of backing that a bigger and noisier support offered their opponents. Shooting towards them in the second half, Aberdeen carved out most of the chances. Ryan Jack’s shot was saved, as was McGinn’s header, after Taylor had returned Hayes’ corner into the danger area.
The Aberdeen fans thought a deserved winner had arrived when Hayes jinked to the byline and cut the ball back. Rooney nicked in ahead of his man, but was able only to find the sidenet. A few moments later, an angled shot by Goodwillie met with the same fate.
The second half lacked the quality of the first, but Aberdeen had by far the best of it. When Hayes’ free-kick threatened to sneak in, Bain turned it round the post. Then, from the resulting corner, Goodwillie backheeled over the bar.
No wonder McInnes was devastated by the sucker punch that followed. “Credit to Dundee, they hung in, but they were outplayed for the majority of that game,” he said. “We controlled it. We got a standing ovation from our support in recognition of the performance. I’m scratching my head as to how we lost.”
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