Kilmarnock 0-0 Dundee: No goals in Dundee’s return to top flight
A MAGNIFICENT one-handed full-length diving save by Rab Douglas from Kilmarnock substitute Rory McKenzie in the final seconds of this match gave SPL returnees Dundee a deserved share of the points at Rugby Park yesterday.
Douglas had performed similar heroics at the start of a game which had everything except a goal. He will need all his wiles to help keep Dundee in the SPL, but on this showing at least the former Celtic and Scotland goalkeeper is deservedly back in the top rank.
He’s glad to be there even if the quality isn’t the same: “My last SPL game was seven years ago, with [Henrik] Larsson, [Chris] Sutton, and [John] Hartson. I am not being disrespectful, even to the internationals at Celtic, but you don’t see any players of that quality nowadays.”
It was lost on no one at Rugby Park that had Craig Whyte never happened, Rangers would have been the visitors yesterday. Having twice been in administration and had their own flirtation with an errant fantasist in the past decade, it fell to Dundee to be the substitutes for the collapsed Ibrox club in the SPL.
On this performance, Barry Smith’s men could make a fist of their return to the top flight, and the sizeable contingent of 2,700-plus Dundee fans not only boosted the attendance but greatly added to the atmosphere with their backing for their heroes.
“Our crowd was fantastic,” said Smith, “and to those who say we don’t deserve our place just look at the support we brought today.”
Both sides showed changes in personnel from last season, as you would expect, and Kilmarnock had undoubtedly sustained much the bigger losses with eight players gone. Even their manager Kenny Shiels’ son Dean had gone off to Rangers.
“We didn’t have Dean or [the injured] Paul Heffernan,” said Kilmarnock assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl, “and that’s 30 goals and assists a season.”
Nicholl confirmed Kilmarnock fans’ worst fears that new signings will not be forthcoming: “I don’t think so, squad wise and financially. I would like to think the manager could be in a position maybe to do so soon but I don’t think it’s on the cards.”
Shiels senior heeded all those recent calls to give youth a chance by fielding 17-year-old Matthew Kennedy – the youngster did well, too. Jeroen Tesselaar made his league debut but Garry Hay was out injured, as was Alex Pursehouse, while Manuel Pascali survived his first competitive match after his leg break.
For Dundee, new signing Mark Stewart, formerly of Falkirk and Bradford, made his debut as did Jim McAlister, but another new signing, Italian defender Davide Grassi, was unable to play as his international clearance had not come through on time.
Though monsoon conditions were threatened in Ayrshire, the match started in bright sunshine and the play was constantly interesting if not always entertaining, featuring two sides attempting to play passing football on a decent surface.
The main trouble with the match, however, was that with both defences dominating their opponents, neither side looked to contain a serious goal threat, or the imagination to create one, and while Kilmarnock had slightly more chances, they found Douglas in imperious form.
After just six minutes, Kyle Benedictus was counting his blessings when he sclaffed an attempted clearance off a low Kennedy cross straight to Jamie Fowler. The testimonialist’s shot was precise to the bottom right corner but Douglas dived low to fingertip the ball round the post.
The next two clear chances fell to Dundee. McAlister was set free on the right and he made his way into the home box before cutting back to Gary Irvine whose shot was blocked by Tesselaar.
In the 14th minute, John Baird robbed Liam Kelly of the ball in dubious manner, but Kelly forgot the old maxim of playing to the whistle, especially one which doesn’t sound, allowing Baird a clear chance at goal which he fluffed, his shot curling over Cammie Bell’s bar.
Douglas again came to Dundee’s rescue, blocking Kennedy’s close-range shot, with the rebound volleyed wide by Gary Harkins. And Douglas was again the master late in the half when he foiled James Dayton’s shot at the back post.
The second half began with the accompaniment of distant rumbles of thunder and the play certainly sparked up even as lightning was glimpsed far away and the rain came down.
Kevin McBride shot over before Kennedy miscued at the other end and while Kilmarnock went on to enjoy much of the possession they failed to carve out chances even after Rory Boulding and Danny Racchie replaced Dayton and Lee Johnson. Douglas then won a race to clear from Harkins’ boot, the ball ending in row T of the stand.
Mark Stewart had looked lively but failed with his best chance before substitute McKenzie broke through in the third minute of injury time only to find “old man” Douglas certainly is of SPL standard.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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