GARY Harkins believes Dundee are now suitably equipped to hold their own back in the Scottish Premiership.
SCORERS: Dundee - Ferry 22, Stewart 45, MacDonald 78, Tankulic 82
Paul Hartley’s side continued their preparations for this weekend’s opening-day league fixture with Kilmarnock by progressing to the second round of the League Cup courtesy of a slick display against Peterhead.
Since celebrating winning promotion to the Premiership in May, Hartley has spent his summer bringing in no fewer than 12 new faces in moves which he hopes will successfully steel them for the rigours of life back among the big boys.
It wasn’t so straight-forward in the summer of 2012 when Dundee were granted promotion to the SPL just a matter of days before the season started due to Rangers’ demotion to the old Third Division. It left former manager Barry Smith facing a formidable task of signing adequate reinforcements while battling against the clock.
Midfielder Harkins, relishing his third stint at the Tayside club, believes the Premiership’s new boys are far more at ease with themselves than they were the last time they went up for fairly obvious reasons.
“The whole place is in a lot better condition this time round,” said Harkins after running the show against part-time Peterhead. “The club has had a lot more time to get prepared compared to two years ago and that’s been a good thing.
“Everyone is pushing to go the right way and you can feel that around about the club. Last time everything was rushed and it was last-minute stuff. It was tough for the gaffer then, Barry Smith, to get players in. But we’ve done a lot of our business early this time which will hopefully pay off.”
Dundee, as anticipated, had way too much guile and firepower for their recently-promoted League One opponents, Peterhead, and from the moment former Celtic and Portsmouth midfielder Simon Ferry gave them a 20th minute lead there was no stopping them. Another recent revival, Greg Stewart, added a fine second on the stroke of half-time.
A late 78th minute header from substitute Peter MacDonald and a textbook volley shortly after from German striker Luka Tankulic sent the Dens Park fans away with genuine cause for optimism as they now count down the days until Killie visit the City of Discovery this weekend for their Championship flag.
Kilmarnock may provide a tougher test than Dundee were given on Saturday, but, regardless of the opposition, the Tayside outfit are determined to maintain the easy-on-the-eye style of football they produced at the weekend. “That is the way we have been playing all pre-season,” added Harkins. “I was glad we could take that into this game. We have good footballers so you should be able to put them together and play well.
“We showed we could do that. I’m feeling all right. I’m feeling quite fit and enjoying my football. I have been working hard and am looking forward to our next game.”
Blue Toon manager Jim McInally admitted his former club were unplayable in spells and he tipped them for a top-six place in the season ahead. McInally, who had successful spells as a player with both Dundee and city rivals Dundee United, was left drooling over some of their impressive outfield play, with Harkins and fellow former St Mirren team-mate Paul McGowan at the heart of everything to be admired about their play. Harkins hopes they can hit the ground running this season.
“That’s nice to hear,” said the 29-year-old of McInally’s praise. “What we will be doing is going into every game to try to get as many points as we can and if that takes puts us up there then great. We have a good dressing-room with a lot of real characters so hopefully we can do well this season. I like playing with good footballers and it’s nice when passes find you in pockets so I am enjoying it so far.
“We knocked the ball about and played some good, attacking football. That’s the aim here and we are glad it got us the win we wanted. It gives us a little bit of confidence to see that we can score goals. We had a few chances and could have scored a couple more out there.”
Hartley poured praise on his players for their efforts and reiterated their intention of playing in as style which will please their supporters. He said: “It was really encouraging. I don’t agree with people who say that McGowan and Harkins can’t play in the same team. I think they showed here that they can and they’re both very skillful players.”
Meanwhile, Balmoor manger McInally admits it was always a tall order for his side ahead of their League One opener at home to Stirling Albion this weekend. “Dundee were different class and there’s a feel-good factor round their club just now,” he said. “We won’t face that sort of quality every week.”