WHENEVER the home keeper is named man of the match, it invariably tells its own story and so it was proved in this goalless draw at Dens Park, fought out between two teams more than likely to be vying for the Championship title come the end of the season.
Kyle Letheren, the Dundee keeper, produced one of those inspired displays between the sticks which automatically earn a No.1 the plaudits as he single-handedly foiled league leaders Hamilton in some style.
The Welshman did his best to keep Accies at bay with a string of superb saves which in the end halted Hamilton’s 100 per cent record and ensured Dundee remained within five points of the pacesetters even this early in the campaign.
Letheren duly collected the man of the match champagne but admitted afterwards he would much rather see someone else grab the limelight if it meant his side are digging out results on home soil in their quest for a return to the top-flight next season.
“It’s nice to get man of the match but to be honest I hope it’s the last time I’m picking up the champagne,” said Letheren.
“I would rather have nothing to do and the lads were doing the business at the other end of the field. Seriously, though, we all know we need to play better. We won’t win anything playing like that, especially at home.”
Dundee handed a debut to former Celtic and Scotland striker Craig Beattie who’d signed earlier in the week, but it was all Accies early on as the visitors took their fine form of recent weeks to Tayside in search of a quick-fire breakthrough.
Darian MacKinnnon was first up in eight minutes with a 20-yard snap-shot which looked destined for the top corner until Letheren somehow defied him with a superb reflex save.
Then, a minute later, the league leaders threatened again as Ziggy Gordon’s inch-perfect cross picked out James Keatings who glanced a header towards goal, only for Letheren to dive full length and push it on to the bar.
Hamilton remained on top after the break and came close again within minutes of the restart, with former Dundee striker Mickael Antoine-Curier, who was lurking inside the box, latching on to a loose ball, but from 12 yards he couldn’t find a way past Letheren.
However, in 67 minutes Dundee missed a golden opportunity to take the lead.
Substitute Nicky Riley started the move with a slick pass to Peter MacDonald who, in turn, rolled the ball perfectly into the path of Gary Irvine.
Irvine had time to take a touch as he ran on to the ball but instead chose to hit it first time and his wayward effort sailed high over the bar.
Accies manager Alex Neil couldn’t find fault with his side in the slightest. He said: “It says a lot that their keeper was man of the match. We totally dominated the first-half when we had enough chances to win the game.
“But you will never control things altogether against a team of Dundee’s quality and they rallied after the break.
“Our players are made of stern stuff though and I would expect them to be hard to beat this season.”
Dundee assistant manager Ray Farningham praised his keeper for coming to their rescue on more than one occasion.
“Kyle kept us in the game with a few cracking saves and we know we can do much better than that,” he said.
“We have to pass the ball better and that’s something we’ll be working hard on in the week which lies ahead.”