Cathedral of dreams the Cheaper Insurance Direct stadium most certainly is not, particularly with blustery rain drifting almost continually across the bleak scene. But when Dumbarton won their first – and last – corner in the 88th minute there remained the possibility they might spring a major shock. Having bravely earned a fifth-round Scottish Cup replay against Premiership Dundee, they might still do.
From having almost total control Dundee flirted dangerously with becoming the weekend’s greatest cup casualty in these closing stages, as Dumbarton sought to create the one clear-cut chance that might have given them victory. Dundee would only have had themselves to blame.
With the cards expressing sympathy to Dumbarton officials following the recent death of chief executive Gilbert Lawrie still on display in the reception area at the stadium, it felt appropriate that a club still in mourning should seal one of their most impressive results for some time.
Dumbarton’s hero was not goalkeeper Jamie Ewings, steady though he was while keeping a clean-sheet against a usually goal-hungry Dundee forward line. Rather, it was a left-back, Mark Docherty. The prolific Kane Hemmings came as close as anyone to breaking the deadlock when he latched on to Rory Loy’s through ball in the first-half and dinked the ball over Ewings.
The ball was held up slightly in the mud and Docherty took full advantage of the chance this afforded him to save the day for his side by sliding in to hook the ball off the line.
As if he had scored a winning goal deep in injury time, Docherty deservedly took the acclaim, high-fiving his teammates after picking himself up from a muddy heap on the floor.
It was an exceptional piece of defending by the full-back and was why Dumbarton, having been starved of the ball for long periods, were holding Dundee at half-time.
Better still for Steven Aitken’s redoubtable side, this remained the situation at the end. With Christian Nade making his debut for Dumbarton against his former team, many Dundee fans feared he might have a major say in the outcome.
His withdrawal after 75 minutes extinguished the chance of this happening but it did not end the possibility Dumbarton might cause a very real upset, although Dundee manager Paul Hartley later sounded fairly untroubled.
“We maybe didn’t have that killer instinct,” he said. “But we were never under threat. We are still in the cup, that’s the main thing.”
Aitken, meanwhile, was understandably delighted. “It is a good result against a very good Dundee side, and we competed well,” he said. “To compete against a top-six Premiership side, I have to give the boys a lot of credit.”
Incessant rain prior to kick-off placed the game in some doubt and provided further reason to ponder whether Dumbarton might spring a shock. Dundee are a team who like to play football. The ground conditions were more applicable to the name of Dumbarton’s former ground, Boghead.
Indeed, the longer the game went on, the more Dundee began to get bogged down as they tried to stay true to their passing principles in conditions where route one might have been more advisable.
To their credit, the Premiership side still sought to play their normal game and in terms of possession, were streets ahead of the home side. But, after a promising opening spell when they hit the post through Nick Ross before Loy made a hash of the rebound, where they were clearly deficient was making the opposition goalkeeper work.
Gary Harkins saw one effort drift just wide. But Dundee’s superiority was reflected mostly in considered, often well-worked build-up play that delighted then began to frustrate their travelling supporters.
The second-half was much the same story – lots of Dundee possession, but a scarcity of actual clear-cut opportunities. Paul McGowan tried to take matters into his own hands but his effort was stopped by Ewings, who had little to do in the way of making actual saves.
He did make another one from Arturo, as Dundee briefly played with four strikers. The Spaniard replaced Ross and for several minutes before Loy was replaced by Nick Low, Dundee looked to have decided to simply throw strikers at the problem. It didn’t work and apart from Kevin Holt’s drive just wide in the dying moments, Dumbarton held out without too much drama.