IT IS a measure of Paul Hartley’s progress since becoming Dundee manager that he was disappointed only to get a draw with Celtic yesterday. While the home team rode their luck at Dens Park, so too did the champions, as the match ended in a flurry of chances at both ends. It finished 1-1, however, ensuring that Dundee go into the international break still undefeated on their return to the top division.
“I thought we created the better chances and had good situations,” Hartley said. “Specially in the second half when the boy [Martin Doyle] is through on goal a couple of times. He had an easy pass for a tap-in but he’s got a split-second decision to make.
“But, overall, I was pleased with how we played today. I thought it was a great game of football.
“I think we’ve come a long way. We’ve only had the players for ten to 12 weeks, it’s a brand new group, and they’re buying in to how we want to play and the philosophy that we’ve got.
“I thought we were excellent. We remain unbeaten in the league. We’re disappointed not to win today.
“They’re growing in confidence game by game,” he added, speaking of his players. “They know they can handle coming up against the best teams in the league, so we’ve not got a lot to fear in this league, I think.” The former Scotland international expressed some sympathy for opposite number Ronny Deila, who has now had two draws and two defeats in his last four games, a run of results which included elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Maribor. “It’s early in the season, there’s been a lot of personnel changes and they’re still trying to get a system that they’re comfortable with. You have to look at Celtic in terms of their finances. They’re bigger than everybody else.
“There’s no doubt that they will win the league. It just takes time. He’s a new manager like me and he also has to build a team.”
Dundee’s James McPake, who scored an early opener before Leigh Griffiths equalised in the second half, said he had been well aware of the danger posed by the Celtic striker, with whom he played at Livingston and Hibs. “We knew when he came on he would cause us problems and he would shoot on sight,” he said. “That’s what he did.
“I knew he would score when he came on. When he came on he gave them a bit more threat than they had. Maybe if he hadn’t have come on we would be sitting here with the three points.”
Celtic goalkeeper Craig Gordon admitted his back four were significantly weaker without Virgil van Dijk, who was left out of the squad but has been told he cannot leave Parkhead at present. “You just need to look at Virgil’s performance in the Champions League game – he was one of our best players and nearly got a goal for us right at the end. From a Celtic point of view and a players’ point of view, I’ll be delighted if he’s in front of me for the rest of the season. Virgil is a massive player for us – it’s not just defensively, because he scores goals and his distribution from the back is excellent as well.”
“We’ve had injuries, so haven’t been able to put out a settled back four. Once that calms down we’ll get more continuity. The manager is trying to implement a different style of play and that’s what we’ve been working on. His plans have been very good. It’s us as players who have to go out and carry them out. I don’t think we’ve quite been able to do exactly what the manager is looking for yet.”