Dundee 0-1 Ross County: Disputed penalty extends Staggies’ unbeaten run
ON AND on it goes. Ross County have been adding to their unbeaten run for so long now it’s easy to miss some of the important milestones along the way. This was game number 38 since they last tasted defeat but, far more significantly than that, it was the Dingwall side’s first-ever win in the SPL.
It had all the familiar ingredients too – impressive teamwork, tactical nous and calm professionalism. With games against Motherwell, Aberdeen and Celtic under their belts and six points already in the bag there is no reason for County supporters to be anything other than positive about what the campaign ahead may yet bring for them.
Yet although Derek Adam’s side left Dundee trailing in their wake in the First Division promotion race last season, this was a win that was just about as narrow as the scoreline suggests and even at that it took a disputed penalty – emphatically driven into the net by Richard Brittain – to separate them. The circumstances of the award, with Mark Corcoran stumbling in the Dundee box under the attentions of home defender Neil McGregor, riled the hosts greatly but as you would expect there was a contrasting interpretation being offered by the County camp. “It was a clear penalty,” asserted Adams. “Corcoran’s got across one of their defenders and you don’t dive in like that. Overall it was a really strong performance from us and we probably should have taken more of our chances early on. But given the teams we’ve played this season to have six points on the board is a good start”.
Notwithstanding the sense of being hard done by with what was perhaps a harsh judgment by referee Steve McLean when it came to the penalty, there were at least some positives for Dundee and their supporters to take from this game. For a start there was a genuine cohesion and compactness to their play, stretching from the back where they battled tenaciously to keep the visitors at bay right up to the forward line where new loan signing Colin Nish helped knit together some promising incursions into the visitors’ territory.
Initially it looked as though it could be a long afternoon for the Dens Park men as they endured some early County pressure and they enjoyed a moment of good fortune in the opening minutes when Ross Tokely powered in a header from a corner that was flicked on by his team-mate Scott Boyd and came clattering off the crossbar. They survived, however, and the determined running of Jim McAlister down the left flank was a important ingredient of Dundee’s growing confidence, with his willingness to take his opponents on something of an unusual sight these days. He was responsible for piecing together their best opening of the afternoon as he picked out Nish in the box and, with a single touch, Gary Irvine was sent scurrying goalwards. The midfielder was highly unfortunate to see his shot from an acute angle crash against Michael Fraser’s near post.
County are nothing if not obdurate opponents, though, and they almost seem to relish the fact that the stakes had been raised as they emerged after the interval. Fraser found himself with little to deal with as the likes of Tokely, Boyd and Grant Munro simply pulled down the shutters.
There wasn’t an awful lot of activity from the Highlanders down at the other end of the park, but as has become the case since their unbeaten run started last August they plugged away patiently and made the most of the big opportunity when it came. Brittain may have sent a free kick rather tamely into Rab Douglas’s arms a few minutes beforehand but when the penalty was awarded for McGregor’s collision with Corcoran the midfielder absolutely belted it past the Dundee goalkeeper.
“You write what you think, I’m not getting involved” was Barry Smith’s terse verdict afterwards, though he was adamant that his side were worthy of a at least a point from the game.
If there was a sense of that sinking feeling among the Dundee management and players, up in the stands irritation levels were soaring. The home supporters were irked by what they saw as a soft penalty and their mood was not helped as McLean repeatedly blew his whistle for petty infringements. The real frustration for them however was that, for all their good endeavours, their side never looked like salvaging anything once Brittain had found the back of the net.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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