MORE than 3,000 Dundee fans braved the swirling wind and bitter cold to encourage their team in what was supposed to be a demonstration of their league-leading credentials.
Instead they were subjected to a flat display from a side who looked like they never wanted to leave the warmth of their beds.
Dundee had won seven of their last ten, Cowdenbeath had lost their last four, and yet goals from Kane Hemmings and Jordan Morton, either side of a Jim McAlister strike, gave the visitors their first win under new boss Jimmy Nicholl. Cowdenbeath were organised, resilient and refused to lose faith even when they missed a first-half penalty, and then again when they conceded after going in front. Quite simply, if you’ll pardon the cliché, they wanted it more.
“The writing was on the wall when we conceded the penalty,” said Dundee boss John Brown. “We were really poor today. The goals we conceded, I mean, that was schoolboy stuff. I’ve never seen defending like it. We don’t deserve to be top of the league if that’s the standard.”
On the evidence of the 90 minutes, Cowdenbeath don’t deserve to be in the bottom two. Nicholl tried out a 3-5-2 system that created a barrier between Dundee’s attacking possession and the goalmouth. The shifting central midfield three continually blocked the home side’s route to goal and a couple of crosses from the left were the only chances of note for the pre-game favourites in the first half.
At the other end, the strike pairing of Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings always looked dangerous with their mix of pace and close control, and it was the latter who helped win the penalty he would ultimately miss. The former Rangers striker rolled it back for Jon Robertson and his shot from 20 yards struck the outstretched arm of Gary Irvine. Hemmings went for power over accuracy from the spot-kick and saw his effort denied by Kyle Letheren.
He would make amends seven minutes into the second half. When the ball bounced free in the six-yard box following Letheren’s save from a Brett shot, Iain Davidson, inexplicably, waited for the ball to come to him before clearing. Hemmings, alert to the situation, nipped in front of the defender and drove the ball over the line, notching his 13th goal of the season.
Briefly, Dundee came to life and, after a tactical shift from the visitors, took advantage of the transition to level the scores. Presumably protecting against a threat from the wing, Nicholl introduced Morton and moved his team into a 5-4-1. This exposed the centre of the park as Nicky Riley darted into the area before laying off for McAlister. The midfielder advanced unchallenged to the edge of the box where he drove a low shot into the far corner.
Refusing to hold on for a point, Nicholl changed the shape once more and got his reward five minutes later. Once again it was a terrible defensive showing by Dundee. Gary Irvine tried, and failed, to control a high ball, allowing substitute Morton to steal it from him and fire a shot beyond the advancing Letheren.
Having conceded three late goals last weekend, Cowdenbeath were understandably nervous in the closing stages as the hosts bombarded their box with cross balls, but they kept their concentration for a valuable three points.
“We’ve come away from home and beaten the league leaders,” said a beaming Nicholl afterwards. “Where else can we now go in this division and not be confident? We’ve got that belief now. I’m trying to get the message across, getting in their faces and telling them what’s required to stay in this division.”