THEY say goalkeeper is the loneliest position in football. Rarely has this been illustrated in such stark fashion as here. Dundee goalkeeper Arvid Schenk’s name will live long in derby history.
Scorers: Dundee United - Armstrong 1, Mackay-Steven 27, 42, Erskine 31, Fojut 64, Telfer 83; Dundee - Stewart 24, Tankulic 90
Sadly for him, it isn’t for the right reasons. The German will have to deal with the infamy of losing six goals on his Dundee debut at the home of their fiercest rivals. He becomes the first Dundee goalkeeper to do so in a Dundee derby with United creating history by scoring half-a-dozen times against their beleaguered opponents. The unfortunate Schenk left the field in a daze at the end.
The day began with Dundee seeking to address a poor derby record stretching back to 6 November, 2004 – the date of their last victory over United. Long before the end of this painful 90 minutes for their fans, Dundee had been set a new target: avoiding a record derby defeat.
They managed this meagre feat, just. But it was close. The United supporters willed their heroes on, sensing history unfolding in front of their eyes.
For the uninitiated, Luka Tankulic’s first league goal was nothing more than a consolation goal at the end of a trying afternoon for Dundee. In actual fact, it mattered a great deal in terms of historical context since it stopped United equalling their record margin of victory against Dundee – a 5-0 win at Dens Park in September 1965.
Not that this failure overly concerned the home fans, who revelled in this New Year’s Day massacre in any case. Nor did it provide much cheer to the Dundee fans, who have become gravely worried by a slump in form that means Paul Hartley’s side have reason to look fretfully at the situation below them in the league.
Dundee were powerless to prevent United securing the three points in a torrid first-half. Schenk began 2015 like he had ended the previous year, by conceding goals. In retrospect, there were few reasons for optimism over the 25-year-old’s late inclusion after Kyle Letheren injured a thigh during the warm-up. Schenk’s previous two outings for the Under 20s, against Dunfermline and Hibs, saw him lose five and seven goals respectively.
He clearly wasn’t ready for this, a high-octane debut in front of a capacity crowd and live television cameras. Hartley must accept some culpability. It is asking for trouble having someone on the bench so raw, particularly given Letheren’s injury troubles. The goalkeeper has only recently returned after a knee problem sustained in another pre-match warm-up, against Motherwell in October. Few can match football fans for their capacity for cruelty, especially in a fiercely-contested derby setting. But there were times when it felt as if even the United supporters felt pity for the tall debutant in the bright pink outfit. Schenk finally made his first save in the 60th minute, from Chris Erskine.
He hadn’t even had the opportunity to feel his way into the game, conceding after just 31 seconds. Dundee took the kick-off and sought to attack straightaway when perhaps they might have been better advised to give their new goalkeeper an early touch of the ball.
So flowing were United at times, one wonders whether Letheren’s presence would have made too much difference. Their first goal was, admittedly, fortuitous in that Erskine’s shot evaded Schenk after bouncing off Armstrong’s back. However, the goalkeeper seemed rooted to his line when the initial cross from Nadir Ciftci was sent across the six-yard box.
Schenk looked far from assured for the second goal from Gary Mackay-Steven, although the United player deserves credit for asking questions of the keeper with a cross-cum-shot from a position that called to mind Kevin Gallacher’s famous strike against Barcelona in 1987. This was a particular blow for Dundee because they had worked hard to get back into the game after the early setback of conceding almost straight from kick-off. Greg Stewart’s free-kick leveller from 20 yards after 23 minutes was possibly the goal of the afternoon.
But following Mackay-Steven’s strike four minutes later, the home side didn’t look back. Erskine made it three when United cut through the heart of Dundee’s defence again before Mackay-Steven secured the points three minutes before half-time with a sweet strike following a through ball from Armstrong. Again, Schenk seemed slow to get down to the shot. Dundee sourced an opportunity to reduce the deficit early in the second half but Radoslaw Cierzniak proved how helpful it is to have a goalkeeper on form; first he saved a raking long-range effort from James McPake, and then he got up to save two rebound efforts from David Clarkson and Stewart.
Jaroslow Fojut re-ignited thoughts of a record-breaking victory with United’s fifth when rising unchallenged in the box at a corner. With the home crowd querying why the Dundee fans were still here – and, admirably, a great number remained until the end – United struck for a sixth time through substitute Charlie Telfer, who shot into the corner from the edge of the box.
Then came Tankulic’s strike for Dundee, and gallows-humour chants of “we want three” from the visiting supporters.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Watson, Fojut, Dillon, Townsend, Butcher (Telfer 74), Rankin, Erskine (Dow 61), Armstrong, Mackay-Steven, Ciftci (Connolly 80). Subs not used: Wilson, Spittal, Szromnik, Spark.
Dundee: Schenk, Irvine, McPake, Konrad (Tankulic 63), Dyer, McAlister, McGowan, Harkins (Boyle 46), Stewart, Davidson, Clarkson (Carreiro 71). Subs not used: MacDonald, Roberts, Black.