KANE Hemmings celebrated in the way only he knows after being named Ladbrokes Premiership player of the month earlier this week. Two goals by Scotland’s in-form striker secured a deserved win over St Johnstone for Dundee, who leapfrogged their Tayside rivals in the process.
It sums up the lack of consistency shown by many of the sides below third place when a team can win for only the third time in 14 league outings and climb to joint fourth place on points in the Premiership.
This is how Dundee celebrated their Friday night against a St Johnstone team finding consistency only in their inability to win. Tommy Wright’s struggling side have not tasted victory since the start of December, nine games ago.
“What a load of rubbish!” the visiting fans chorused midway through the second half, with their side trailing by two goals from a striker now out-scoring Leigh Griffiths. Last night’s brace made it 12 goals in the last nine outings for Hemmings. Griffiths, by contrast, has “only” scored 11 in the same number of games.
Hemmings, who has now scored 18 times in total this season, didn’t take long to make his mark, firing Dundee ahead after only 20 minutes. He then extended their lead shortly after half-time as the conditions steadily worsened. Dundee also hit the bar through Greg Stewart.
It was end-to-end in the initial stages with one passage of play summing up the see-saw nature of the contest. After Kevin Holt lost possession at the edge of the St Johnstone box following a Dundee corner Darnell Fisher ran fully 70 yards up the pitch before firing wildly over Scott Bain’s bar.
At a time when synthetic pitches are the topic du jour, and given Dundee’s desire to play attractive football, their players must lament the unusually poor surface at Dens. It has suffered from the recently wet weather and both teams struggled to play the ball on the ground, try as they might.
Dundee were making a better fist of it as they sought to break St Johnstone down, and were often guilty of trying to walk the ball into the net. Their opening goal came from one such extended period of possession in which they looked to have over-complicated things. But the ball eventually found its way to Stewart, whose angled shot was only parried by Alan Mannus.
On a day when the goalkeeper was being watched by Northern Ireland assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl, he perhaps did himself few favours by failing to hold the ball, especially when someone as prolific as Hemmings is lingering near. The Dundee striker leaped on the rebound to give his side the lead.
Hemmings had another opportunity to strike after he latched on to Bain’s long clearance. Mannus dealt better with his effort on this occasion. St Johnstone offered little in response save for a David Wotherspoon effort that cleared the bar after Holt’s misdirected pass.
The second goal Dundee craved arrived seven minutes after half-time. Hemmings was at his lethal best, although Danny Swanson’s sloppiness had a significant part to play in the goal. The midfielder was guilty of losing possession to Gary Harkins, who threaded a ball through to Hemmings. The striker still had much to do, steadying himself before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Mannus from 12 yards.
Stewart, placed in the shade slightly by Hemmings, almost put Dundee into firm control with a third, but his effort from just inside the box, after he danced through several challenges, rebounded off the bar.
The visitors conjured up an admirable last stand after the double substitution of their strikers, with Chris Kane and John Sutton replacing Graham Cummins and Steven MacLean. It was Liam Craig, another of their substitutes, who came closest to pulling a goal back, but Bain tipped the ball wide.