DUNDEE, who have now won five out of their last six league matches on their travels, increased their lead at the top of the Championship from three to four points, but only after a titanic battle with a Queen of the South side desperate to surge into the title race.
The two clubs began the day separated by just eight points, after a five-game unbeaten run by Queens. Tensions were always going to be high, with the game played at a frenetic pace.
Delighted Dundee boss Paul Hartley said afterwards: “In terms of chances overall, I thought we deserved the victory. I thought the game should have been out of sight in terms of the clear-cut chances we had, but we’re delighted with the three points as we don’t have a great record down here.
“We are not looking at anyone else – as long as we keep winning, that’s the most important thing. I’ve been delighted with their effort and the way they have responded since I came in.”
Honours were even before kick-off in the two previous matches this season, with Queens winning by the odd goal in seven on the opening day back in August, then losing 2-1 at Dens the last time they clashed in October. But the crucial significance of their third meeting was not lost on anyone at Palmerston yesterday, with the top six all facing each other, on a day which could prove pivotal in the run-in.
Such was the importance of the outcome that both midfields threatened to negate each other, but in 27 minutes Dundee loosened the shackles briefly when Peter MacDonald set up Willie Dyer, who was bursting in from the right, but his first time shot flew across the face of the Queens goal.
The game turned in Dundee’s favour one minute from the break when Ryan Conroy flicked the ball through to Martin Boyle, who was sent sprawling by goalkeeper Jim Atkinson. Referee Barry Cook pointed to the spot and had little option but to flash a straight red card to the Queens goalkeeper. Striker Bob McHugh was sacrificed to bring on reserve goalkeeper Calum Antell, whose first action was to pick the ball out of the net from Conroy’s spot kick.
Hartley said: “It was a penalty and there wasn’t a lot between the sides in the first half, so it was the turning point in the game.”
MacDonald, who had netted in each of the two previous matches between the two clubs this season, turned Dundee provider again in 51 minutes, putting Boyle through on goal, but the young forward, who netted his first goal for Dundee last week, somehow slipped the ball just wide when he really should have scored. Queens substitute Derek Lyle, who had also scored in the two previous fixtures against Dundee this campaign, should have levelled on the hour mark when Michael Paton set him up perfectly, but visiting keeper Kyle Letheren touched the ball round. From Chris Mitchell’s corner, Iain Russell, who had come on minutes earlier for Ian McShane, hooked the ball against the bar from just four yards out.
The woodwork came to Queens aid in 74 minutes when Dundee substitute Christian Nade let rip from 30 yards with a curling right foot shot which crashed back off post.
Queens boss Jim McIntyre said: “I thought we were excellent in the second half in terms of commitment. I said to the players they would get a chance and it was important we took it. I was disappointed we didn’t get a point. It was a double kick in the teeth to concede a penalty and to go down to ten men. We had the league leaders worried.”