It wasn’t quite as emphatic as the last time, but Dundee United again inflicted defeat upon Dundee with something left to spare in last night’s Dens Park derby.
Robbie Neilson’s side surged nine points clear of their city rivals courtesy of Nicky Clark’s second-half penalty allied to Lawrence Shankland’s 63rd-minute strike, ensuring back-to-back successes in both derbies already this season.
Back in late August, United gorged themselves on a 6-2 rout of James McPake’s side as they ran riot at Tannadice and here they were worthy winners once more without running up such a staggering scoreline.
Dundee knew victory would take them to within three points of the leaders and they went into this televised fixture in fine fettle, with three consecutive Championship victories under their belt.
United, for their part, had won impressively in Inverness the previous week so the scene was set for something intriguing for the sold-out crowd.
It was a frenetic start which befits this Tayside occasion, Calum Butcher becoming the first player to be booked for a hefty early foul on Shaun Byrne.
Dundee did threaten midway through the first half when Declan McDaid shot into the ground and wide after Graham Dorrans’ corner hadn’t been properly cleared.
Shortly after, Shankland was right through and poised to add to his 17-goal tally already this season. The striker let fly with a left-foot shot but Dorrans got there just in time to deflect his effort, before Conor Hazard, the on-loan Celtic keeper, dived to smother the danger.
Dundee’s response came in 32 minutes. Dorrans shovelled a pass out wide to Sean Mackie whose flighted cross was headed wide by Paul McGowan, while Paul McMullan’s 25-yard shot on the stroke of half-time was saved by Hazard.
Clark was clean through in 52 minutes but Jordan McGhee aimed a perfectly-timed sliding challenge, although Neilson was adamant it was a penalty as he screamed for one from the sidelines.
However, a mere two minutes later, United took the lead from the spot. McDaid’s foul on McMullan was in full view of referee Steven McLean, and up stepped Clark to deposit a textbook penalty.
Shankland then killed the contest on 63 minutes. The Scotland striker picked up possession and, instead of being confronted, the Dundee defence stood off him. Needing no extra incentive, he continued driving forward unchallenged before slotting a left-foot shot beyond Hazard, into the opposite corner.
From then onwards United were in complete command and unfortunate not to enhance their lead further.
With ten minutes remaining, Butcher’s cutback found McMullan and his first-time effort was brilliantly saved by Hazard. Shankland then struck a post in the closing stages.