Dundee United 1 - 1 Dundee, match report
TEN-MAN Dundee came agonisingly close to ending their lengthy hoodoo in this derby fixture with the most dogged of displays, until their city rivals struck at the death through substitute Michael Gardyne and, in so doing, denied them a memorable victory.
Dundee: Conroy 67′
Dundee United: Gardyne 89′
John Brown, the Dark Blues’ interim manager, watched his SPL strugglers rally in style after the first-half dismissal of captain Gary Irvine as Ryan Conroy’s sweet second-half strike seemed certain to upset the odds, only for Gardyne to force home a last-minute equaliser to snatch from the visitors what would have been their first derby win since way back in November 2004.
As painful as the late share of the spoils proved for Brown’s battlers, Dundee at least gained some more ground on relegation rivals St Mirren by cutting the gap at the foot of the SPL to 13 points, and proved there’s enough fight within their camp with seven games remaining for nobody to contemplate throwing in the proverbial towel in terms of their brave quest for survival.
For United, their home Achilles heel came back to haunt them, as admitted afterwards by manager, Jackie McNamara, whose recently-inherited side have won just three times in front of their home fans this season and, in truth, didn’t really do enough to earn the three points, having had the luxury of an extra man for fully 70 minutes of this televised affair.
Brown said: “I felt for our players at the end. We played for 70 minutes with just ten men so I couldn’t ask for much more from them. We will keep going until somebody tells us we’re down and we have plenty of fight left us in yet.”
McNamara was philosophical about getting a point. “It’s a mixture of emotions. We didn’t play all that well but we battled until the end for a deserved point.”
There was a pre-derby storm on Friday when Brown was alleged to have been involved in an bust-up with goalkeeper Rab Douglas, which added some extra spice to the lunchtime kick-off – as well as the fact the visitors were striving to avoid a potential whitewash having lost the three previous encounters between the sides this season.
Brown insisted he had no option but to bring in former England under-21 international Steve Simonsen as Douglas continued to be plagued by a thigh injury which he picked up recently and his bold decision was more than justified over the piece with a display of fine goalkeeping from the experienced 33-year-old.
Simonsen was thrown in between the sticks for his first taste of the derby which Dundee were desperate to win to add further fuel to their hopes of top-flight survival.
There was barely half a minute on the clock when skipper Irvine went thundering in on United winger Gary Mackay-Steven, as clear a sign as any that the Dark Blues were going all out to minimise potential damage by denying their opponents time and space on the ball.
United began brightly amid snowy overhead conditions and captain Jon Daly came close in three minutes with a cute flick at the front post from Barry Douglas’ cross, which fizzed just wide of Simonsen’s right-hand post. Then, in seven minutes, Mackay-Steven posed another threat as he tore down the left and delivered a tempting cross in the direction of Rory Boulding.
The former Kilmarnock forward, who was signed on a short-term deal recently to ease the Tangerines’ striking woes, took it first time only to see his left-foot effort go inches wide.
Mackay-Steven was coming in for some hefty treatment from the Dark Blues players, so it was no surprise when Jim McAlister became the first player to be booked after 18 minutes as he went in late on the Tannadice talisman.
In 20 minutes the game exploded when Irvine was shown a straight red-card for leading with an elbow in his aerial challenge with Richie Ryan.
Referee Bobby Madden was right up with play and wasted no time in sending off full-back Irvine, who ran to the tunnel with a chorus of jeers ringing in his ears from the baying home support on the same day he celebrated his 28th birthday.
Brown was prompted into a tactical rethink, so withdrew winger Nicky Riley and put in his place Kyle Benedictus, who slotted in at right-back.
United were beginning to move their opponents around with the extra man and, in 31 minutes, Mackay-Steven’s
header from Douglas’ pin-point cross came crashing back off the crossbar with Simonsen beaten.
Dundee were managing to weather the storm but had Simonsen to thank for keeping them on level terms in 36 minutes as the former Everton and Stoke star came rushing out to close the angle before getting his body in front of Mackay-Steven’s shot at the expense of a corner.
In was virtually all United in terms of trying to break the deadlock although in 39 minutes Gary Harkins gave the
SPL’s bottom club some hope when he almost conjured up a bit of magic outside the penalty area. The former Kilmarnock man, who has been handed a free role by Brown, picked up possession 20 yards from goal and, on his weaker left foot, got away a swerving shot which just cleared Radoslaw Cierzniak’s far post.
The second-half began with a familiar pattern, with the hosts doing most of the pressing and, within minutes of the
restart, Brian McLean rose to meet Douglas’ free-kick but his header sailed over the bar.
But Brian Easton’s precise pass picked out Conroy in 67 minutes and, with one deft touch, he killed the ball before firing an unstoppable left-foot strike high into the roof of Cierzniak’s net.
Dundee defended for their life but, in 90 minutes, United’s Gardyne struck at the far post with no little composure after Daly had headed down Stuart Armstrong’s cross.
That goal sent the home fans wild, while leaving the shell-shocked visitors to contemplate what might have been on another turbulent day on Tayside.
Dundee Utd: Cierzniak, Watson, McLean, Dillon, Douglas, Armstrong, Millar, Ryan, Mackay-Steven, Daly, Boulding. Subs: Banks, Gardyne, Tornstrand, Dow, Thomson, Gauld, Souttar.
Dundee: Simonsen, Irvine, Toshney, Grassi, Easton, Riley, Davidson, McAlister, Conroy, Harkins, John Baird. Subs: Alex Baird, McBride, Finnigan, Benedictus, Gallagher, Nish, Cowan. Referee: Bobby Madden (Scotland) 171140 MAR 13
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