With its wide open surrounds and scenic views Dumbarton’s Bet Butler Stadium doesn’t exactly come over as a place of confinement, but should they go on to win the Championship flag, Dundee will certainly look back on this as a venue where they staged a dramatic jailbreak.
Paul Hartley’s men endured what could only be described as a torrid opening 45 minutes at the hands of the part-time hosts who put them under all sorts of pressure and were unfortunate to see a Chris Turner goal disallowed for an infringement.
Even though they subsequently came into things after the break, they still had to survive a late scare as Dumbarton substitute Bryan Prunty squandered a great chance of an equaliser from the penalty spot just minutes after Peter MacDonald had given the Dens Park side the lead.
Such are the fine margins by which games and honours can be won or lost and after enduring a rollercoaster 90 minutes Hartley was quick to acknowledge that it was a case of the result coming a long way ahead of the performance on this occasion. “It was a difficult game for us, but I’m just delighted with the three points. We rode our luck at times, especially in the first half, but sometimes when you’re going for championships you’ve just got to try to somehow and find a way of winning a game and we managed to do that.
“Credit to Dumbarton, I thought they were excellent.”
Certainly, there was no other way of describing the home side’s efforts in a first half which saw them play with a hunger and verve that had the league leaders left wracked with uncertainty and clinging on at times.
The game was barely a minute old when Kyle Letheren spilt Scott Linton’s testing ground shot and the livewire Chris Kane was just a fraction late from being able to slam home the loose ball for the hosts. However, the Dundee goalkeeper demonstrated more impressive handling in dealing with venomous efforts from Mitch Megginson and Jordan Kirkpatrick.
Letheren then showed his erratic side again as a weak header from Chris Turner somehow squirmed from his grasp and bobbled over the line.
The hosts’ celebrations were truncated as the far-side assistant referee held aloft his flag to signal an infringement, which frankly was not readily apparent to many inside the ground. There was to be no post-match consensus from the two managers. “It was a foul, simple as that”, insisted Hartley testily.
“I’m better not speaking about it or I’ll get into trouble, but it looked like a goal to me,” was Ian Murray’s take from a home perspective.
Much to the relief of their anxious support, Dundee eventually managed to douse the flames of the Sons’ offensive as the interval approached and the second half proved to be a much more evenly contested, if also subdued, affair.
The experienced options at Hartley’s disposal were also to have a telling impact with Peter MacDonald’s arrival from the bench signalling a palpable increase in the threat to the Dumbarton goal. The veteran striker demonstrated real composure along with no little skill in latching on to a miscued clearance from home goalkeeper Stephen Grindlay and guiding it into the net from an acute angle on 83 minutes.
If that was harsh on the hosts they ultimately had themselves to blame for not taking something from the game as within minutes they were awarded a spot kick as Kane was upended in the box. Prunty took the safety-first option of hitting it down the middle and credit was due to Letheren who ended the game on a high note by standing his ground and making a comfortable save.
“It’s disappointing”, reflected a disconsolate Murray. “I thought we had an excellent first half and it looked like two teams from a different league. On another day it could have been four or five at half time.”