AS FIRST games in a new job go Dundee’s new manager, Paul Hartley, had a cracker, as his side defeated promotion rivals Hamilton Accies 1-0 to move back to the top of the Championship table.
A crowd of more than 5,200 had pitched up at Dens Park to see what impact the former Alloa manager would have just three days after coming in to replace John Brown, and it did not take long for them to find out.
After just six minutes, Willie Dyer sent the ball forward and Peter MacDonald helped it on to livewire striker Martin Boyle and he skipped around visiting goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert before netting.
Boyle, who Hartley remembers well from tormenting his Alloa side when he played at Montrose, went close a further twice before half-time. However, no addition was made to the scoreline.
Early in the second half, Boyle was barged over by Hamilton substitute Stephen Hendrie and he picked up his second yellow card and trooped off with the ten men becoming nine on 62 minutes when Ziggy Gordon was also dismissed for a foul on Boyle.
This third setback actually revitalised Hamilton and they started to come into the game, and Ali Crawford had a free-kick turned away by Kyle Letheren, but Hartley’s Dark Blues saw the game out.
The cheers at the end of the contest grew louder when it was learned that title rivals Falkirk had lost 2-0 to Queen of the South and that, within one game, the new manager had seen his side move three points clear at the summit.
Hartley said: “It was a terrific first afternoon and I have to thank the players as they have been terrific since I came in. I asked them to get the game off to a fast start and they did that with the early goal.
“I also want to thank the fans as having more than 5,000 here was terrific. The size of the Dundee fan-base was one of the attractions to this job and it was great to see them in good numbers backing the team so well.”
As well as three points being won in front of a good crowd, Hartley’s greatest achievement may be unlocking the potential he saw in Boyle when they were together in Scotland’s bottom tier.
Hartley admitted to giving the 20-year-old, who had not scored for Dundee since joining them in the summer of 2012, some words of advice. “I tried to get Martin down at Alloa last season on loan,” he explained.
“I knew what a good player he was from his time at Montrose, but it was not happening for him here.
“I couldn’t get him a year ago because he had played for both Montrose and Dundee in the one campaign, but, based on what I saw against Hamilton, I am pleased to be working with him now.”
Hamilton player/manager Alex Neil said: “The first half was a disappointment and we only went about our business when we had nine men. Falkirk lost as well so things are still really wide open.”
The Bairns lost at Palmerston Park to a Quuens side that have stealthily moved into fourth place and have now opened up a three-point gap on the other teams looking to secure a play-off berth. The goals that ended Falkirk’s 11-game unbeaten run came late and they were both scored by substitute Gavin Reilly, who joined the action midway through the second half for Bob McHugh.
With ten minutes left, Derek Lyle got to the byline and picked out Reilly to head past Michael McGovern, and five minutes later the duo combined again. This time Lyle back-heeled the ball into the path of his team-mate, who shot home with a well-struck left foot shot.