MAN of the match awards haven’t exactly been piling up on Christian Nade’s sideboard during his time in the Scottish game.
Scorers: Nade 13, MacDonald 86
Yesterday, though, he was entitled to all the accolades coming his way as he set Dundee on the road to victory with a first-half goal and impressive all round contribution.
A further strike from Peter MacDonald in the closing minutes confirmed the three points for Paul Hartley’s side on a day where further slip-ups like in their previous fixture against Cowdenbeath could have proved costly, with Hamilton and Falkirk maintaining the pressure at the top of the Championship table.
The muscular Nade has been a figure of fun for opposition supporters over suggestions of poor fitness levels and an underwhelming scoring record, with his arrival at Dundee following a fruitless sojourn in Thailand.
The player, who appears to be fitter and slimmer, cast that aside by being pretty instrumental in sewing together most of Dundee’s better moments going forward, holding the ball up and bringing his colleagues into the game.
He also should probably have had at least one more goal and, just to prove he hasn’t shed all of his old habits, he did manage to send one ambitious overheard kick closer to the corner flag than the goal.
Hartley was happy to add his praise to Nade’s contribution. “He’s not played a lot of football, but I thought he took the ball in well, was a threat and took his goal well. His overall play was excellent. He’s playing for his future like everybody else, that’s a big thing for us. We kept a clean sheet and created a lot of chances, so I’m very pleased.”
The former Hearts striker looked a rejuvenated figure right from the off as Dundee enjoyed a productive opening to the game. The visitors, staring relegation in the face, continue to be plagued by defensive uncertainties and there was a glut of chances for the men in dark blue, who didn’t have to work too hard to get their noses in front. Nade was denied only by a desperate goal-line clearance by Stuart Finlay as he drove in a well-angled shot. However the respite was fleeting as Martin Boyle delivered a cross into the heart of the Morton box and the Frenchman met it with a powerful header into the corner of the net.
Such was Nade’s omnipresence at this point he could have had a second within a couple of minutes as another glancing header, this time with Jim McAlister the provider, nearly crept in at Derek Gaston’s far post and also just eluded the lurking Boyle. With all this activity around him, the Morton goalkeeper must have been relieved when the hosts eased off as the half progressed.
Further up the field his colleagues offered only a sporadic threat, with shots from Garry O’Connor and Rowan Vine lacking power to trouble Kyle Letheren, and a David O’Brien effort carrying venom but not the necessary accuracy.
Given the emphasis that Hartley places on his players’ fitness and conditioning it was no surprise to see his players undertaking exercises on the side of the pitch during the interval and then return to action with another energetic burst of attacking play on the restart. Twice within the space of three minutes Gaston had to demonstrate excellent reflexes to fend off efforts from the lively Boyle and McAlister. There was then another piece of surprisingly delicate footwork from Nade as he created space for himself in the Morton six-yard box but, having done the hard part, he screwed his shot wide of the post.
It was not to be the most engrossing 45 minutes, however, as the sound of George Salmond’s whistle followed by groans from the Dens Park stands became a recurring theme. A mixture of offside calls, niggly infringements and yellow cards dissolved the rhythm of the game. Morton tried rather unconvincingly to retrieve the deficit and had a decent shout for a penalty ignored when substitute Archie Campbell tumbled in the box, but it was settled in the hosts’ favour when Gaston’s parry from Boyle fell benignly for MacDonald, who had the simple job of tapping in number two.