IT WAS supposed to be the grudge match between two clubs whose Scottish Premier League board members were at either extreme of the polarised, and torpedoed, reconstruction vote.
Scorers: St Mirren: Thompson (52); Dundee: McAlister (40) Finnigan (81)
It was supposed to be the afternoon Dundee succumbed to the inevitable and were officially relegated.
It was supposed to be a significant occasion more for what might happen when St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour met Dundee chief executive Scot Gardiner after the mudslinging between the pair in the wake of Gilmour’s scuppering the proposals for a 12-12-18 reconstruction package.
Instead, yesterday was another Bomber bonanza in the vindication-fest being enjoyed by John Brown as Dundee interim manager.
Brown limped on to the track at kick-off in a surgical boot required after a toe operation this week. He could have sprinted back down the tunnel at full-time so energised he must have been after a performance of true valour from his team to delay their demotion, at least for a week.
The victory from the Tayside men over opponents who are now only ten points above them with four games to play means his league record in charge now reads three wins, two draws and a defeat.
As an applicant for a post we all mocked Dundee for giving him the chance in, he is surely a compelling one in the week the club said they will advertise the position. Brown was asked how it felt to hear the 436 away fans in the 4,002 crowd chant his name. “It makes a change from ‘Brown must go’,” he said, having stated he “absolutely” wanted the chance to manage “a big club” he had a “great career” with in his early playing days.
Brown could also bask in being proved right, as he sees it, over Charles Green been unsuitable to control his old club Rangers owing to his links with Craig Whyte. But his chief focus was on his players having proved they are not out of their depth in the top flight they stepped up to because of the Ibrox club’s financial collapse.
Brown’s sure touch right now extended to bringing on Carl Finnigan after 58 minutes and being rewarded with a winner from the forward eight minutes from time as he attacked a Gary Harkins cross and scored with a header that struck the underside of the bar and bounced just behind the line.
It wasn’t clear-cut, but the officials, referee Craig Thomson and assistant Derek Rose, were convinced and seemed right to be so.
“These guys have been criticised all season,” Brown said. “They have been labelled First Division players. In the games that I have been in charge they have proven that they are a match for anybody. We have got to win our next game and see what develops. I have come in here to do the best I can and it is another victory, another game of us being hard to beat. It is building the club, [proving] Dundee aren’t a laughing stock and the players aren’t easy to walk over – we proved that again.”
St Mirren counterpart Danny Lennon admitted Brown’s team had given his men a lesson in survival instincts. His captain Jim Goodwin demonstrated a line in suicidal instincts by being red-carded for a horrible tackle on Finnigan in 65 minutes, having been booked for a silly lunge on Jim McAlister.
“Jim’s experienced but he put himself and the team in a difficult position. [The referee] lost patience with him,” said Lennon, who acknowledged his team were below ordinary. They were, however, drawing when Goodwin walked, a Steven Thompson header from an inswinging corner just after interval having cancelled out a superb strike from McAlister, who turned Marc McAusland and lashed an effort into the net just before the interval.
Lennon understandably believes his club remain comfortable, with only two points required to ensure Dundee’s late rally counts for nothing. But Brown has at least made certain the Dens Park side are going down with a fight.