This is fast becoming a happy hunting ground for Motherwell. Having won here just a fortnight earlier in the Scottish Cup, they returned to Dens Park for Premiership business and duly piled yet more misery on their hosts.
The latest victory was their third win at their favoured Tayside venue which has brought them much joy during the course of this season and where they had also secured a narrow midweek league win back in October.
Even this less than inspirational afternoon couldn’t take away from the overall sense of satisfaction as Craig Tanner’s decisive 33rd-minute strike means the Lanarkshire club can approach a challenging week with genuine optimism as they gear up to face Aberdeen on Wednesday, before taking on Hearts in the Scottish Cup quarter-final next Sunday.
“If I were a Motherwell fan going back down the road having seen those players throwing themselves to the ground and putting their bodies on the line to win I’d be very happy,” said manager Stephen Robinson afterwards.
The visitors were, however, wary of facing a Dundee side buoyed by their 2-1 victory away to Partick Thistle the previous weekend.
Indeed, the hosts threatened first when a long throw-in by Josh Meekings was met by Steven Caulker, the former Liverpool and England defender, whose header from close range was comfortably held by keeper Trevor Carson.
Motherwell weren’t quite free-flowing but did capitalise expertly on the solitary shot they had on goal all afternoon.
It came in the most simple fashion in 33 minutes when they took the lead against a static back-four. Chris Cadden supplied Curtis Main whose low cross was perfect for Tanner who breezed in at the back post to calmly tap home from just a few yards, making it four goals for the striker in as many games this season against yesterday’s opponents.
With hopes of still reaching the top six, Dundee began brightly after the break with winger Roarie Deacon probing constantly. Within five minutes of the restart, Dundee’s Sofien Moussa knocked down Glen Kamara’s cross, but centre-back Genseric Kusunga showed all the hallmarks of a defender as he succeeded only in thrashing his effort high over the bar.
Neil McCann’s side continued to pose a threat and captain Cammy Kerr and Kamara both had shots blocked as the Motherwell defence displayed the sort of guts they’ve earned a reputation for under Robinson.
But they survived an almighty fright in injury-time. Substitute AJ Leitch-Smith’s shot appeared to clearly strike the hand of Motherwell defender Cedric Kipre, but referee Alan Muir waved away their appeals.
“It was a stonewall penalty,” claimed Dundee manager McCann whose side slipped down to ninth in the table.