DUNDEE heaped more frustration on banned Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels as they dominated at Dens Park but failed to grab a crucial winner.
Dundee failed to make tangible inroads into the gap to the teams above them in the SPL as the league’s bottom club drew 0-0 in an uninspiring encounter with Kilmarnock.
Barry Smith’s men are now nine points behind St Mirren as they continue to fight for survival, while Kilmarnock’s point moved them three points clear of Hearts in eighth place.
Dundee’s next chance to erode the worrying gap at the foot of table comes at Tynecastle, a stadium where they triumphed earlier in the year. That test, however, will be complicated by Hearts’ feelgood factor following their League Cup semi-final success over Inverness.
The home side just about shaded yesterday’s match in terms of chances created and manager Smith was left miffed by referee John Beaton’s refusal to award a penalty midway through the first half.
That talking point came on 35 minutes, when Kilmarnock full-back Ross Barbour appeared to tug John Baird’s shirt in the box. Beaton deemed the clash accidental and waved away appeals but Smith believes Dundee should have been given a spot-kick.
He said: “I think it is a definite penalty. Baird’s been held back in the area. Anywhere else on the park, it’s a foul. So why not in the box?”
Kilmarnock cannot have played as meekly all season and their manager Kenny Shiels, who was banned from touchline duties and still faces another three games in the stand after he was punished for comments made about fourth official Andrew Dallas, did not enjoy the experience one bit.
Dundee had the better chances. Jim McAlister netted with a fine strike from outside the box early on, but saw it chalked off after Baird deflected it past Killie keeper Cammy Bell while standing in an offside position, and Baird went close as well when he sent a volley from an acute angle crashing against the woodwork.
As a result of those opportunities, Smith felt his side merited the three points. “I thought we did enough to win,” he claimed. “We hit the post, had another cleared off the line.
“We’re happy with the performance, but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
Perhaps the presence of Gary Harkins, who joined Dundee from Kilmarnock on Friday, would have made a telling difference for the Dark Blues, but the buying club graciously honoured a request not to put him straight into their line-up. Of his new signing, Smith added: “Gary has got good ability. Hopefully he will create more and bring others into the game for us.”
A scrappy opening eight minutes looked like it had been enlivened by a spectacularly clean strike from McAlister, but his 25-yard beauty on the half-volley was disallowed after Baird was flagged for offside.
Killie’s Paul Heffernan was denied by home keeper Rab Douglas’ smart stop at the other end on 13 minutes, but notable events were at a premium in a first half-hour lacking quality of any kind.
Kilmarnock came close to the opener as Rory McKenzie met Garry Hay’s centre from the right with a sidefoot shot but pushed it a fraction wide of Douglas’ right-hand post.
A lovely chested down pass from Baird teed up another chance for the hosts on the stroke of half-time as Mark Stewart hit a low drive, but Jeroen Tesselaar’s block took the sting out of it and Killie goalkeeper Cammy Bell saved.
James Fowler also had time to squeeze a shot in from distance just before the whistle blew for the break and tried again 15 minutes into the second half, but on both occasions Douglas was alert with competent saves.
With the run of play again uninspiring, Baird almost came up with something special for the home side with 25 minutes left.
Substitute Nicky Reilly picked him out in the box with a lofted pass and the former Raith frontman hit a first-time volley over his own shoulder which shook the far post before bouncing clear.
Dundee were giving it a go and another shot from distance from McAlister forced Bell to parry back into the danger zone, but Colin Nish put the rebound into the Bob Shankley Stand when he should have at least asked a second question of the Scotland international.
Barbour stung the hands of Douglas with five minutes left but it was Killie who were left to cling on as full-back Brian Easton met winger Ryan Conroy’s corner with a firm header, only for Hay to hack it clear from his own goal-line and preserve the visitors’ clean sheet.
Kilmarnock assistant boss Jimmy Nicholl, who was left in command in the dugout as Shiels sat up in the stand, insisted that the players must continue to play to the standard set by the boss.
He said: “It wasn’t bad – it wasn’t great either – but then a clean sheet and a point away from home is something to build on.
“The manager’s standards are so high when it comes to passing. He wants us to get the Spanish lad Borja Perez on the ball for us to create things for Paul Heffernan. He wants that happening all the time but it can be a fine line. It doesn’t happen all the time.
“They have always got to try and reach those standards.
“We’re not asking them to do anything they can’t do. They are capable of producing this standard of football, but the opposition are out there trying to stop you from doing it, so you have to give them credit as well.”